NFL Writer Warns Vikings of Kirk Cousins ‘Purgatory’ Ahead of 2022 Season

Minnesota Vikings, Kirk Cousins

Getty Kirk Cousins #8 of the Minnesota Vikings huddles with his team in the first half of the game against the Chicago Bears at U.S. Bank Stadium on January 09, 2022 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images)

What to do with Kirk Cousins is the $45 million question in Minnesota.

The Vikings quarterback will take up nearly 21.4% of the team’s cap space on the final year of his contract next season.

If he stays, there will be deficiencies the team cannot address with prime veteran free-agent signings. If he goes, Minnesota likely won’t have a quarterback of the same caliber for the 2022 season.

ESPN’s Courtney Cronin entertained the possibility of Cousins playing out the final year of his contract next season before the Vikings move on — a scenario that she likened to purgatory.

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Vikings Remain in ‘Purgatory’ With Cousins

Appearing on the Sportrac podcast, Cronin broke down what the Vikings’ 2022 season could look like if Cousins stays in Minnesota for the final year of his contract without agreeing to an extension this offseason.

That inaction by the Vikings would likely come at the cost of cutting or trading several key veteran players like Adam Thielen, Harrison Smith or Danielle Hunter to get under the salary cap — which Minnesota is projected to be over by nearly $14 million, per Sportrac. Minnesota would be left picking from the bargain bin of free agents to replace at least six starters on defense.

The Vikings would likely finish in the middle of the pack again next season with Cousins. That would leave them outside the top-five picks in the 2023 draft when they would ideally want to pick a future quarterback to build a future around.

“If you keep Kirk on the roster, it’s not like you’re going to be an awful team that’s going to draft in the top five. It’s purgatory in a sense,” Cronin said.

That timeline would be unfavorable for a new Minnesota regime trying to navigate the team out of the ghosts of its former tenants and toward a brighter future.

Cousins, 33, likely doesn’t fit in the team’s five-year plan but could provide solid quarterback play for the next few seasons. Cronin added that a short-term contract extension could make sense if Cousins is finally ready to take a team-friendly deal and offer the Vikings cap relief after raking in $150 million in guaranteed earnings in his five years under contract.

“He’s been here for four seasons, and he knows that the cap number and what he’s done has limited what this team is able to do as far as getting other free agents in,” Cronin said. “Is he willing to play ball a little bit more? I think you try to push the envelope with him 100% this offseason to see if he’s willing to do that.”

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Vikings Defense in Need of Rehaul

Minnesota’s biggest detriment that will need to be addressed is how to make the Vikings defense that finished the 2021 season ranked 31st in the league at the very least respectable.

Seven defensive starters will hit free agency in linebackers Anthony Barr and Nick Vigil, cornerbacks Patrick Peterson and Mackensie Alexander and safety Xavier Woods.

Defensive end Sheldon Richardson, who has started the past six games with Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter out for the season, is also set to reach free agency in March.

If Cousins plays out the final year of his deal without a contract extension, Hunter or Smith may also depart from Minnesota, leaving only three players left from the team’s starting lineup.

In that scenario, Minnesota wouldn’t have the cap space to find viable replacements in free agency, leaving the Vikings to fill those voids in the starting defensive lineup through the draft and developmental players, similar to their approach in the 2020 season.

While Vikings president Mark Wilf said the Vikings are not entering a rebuild, being successful in 2022 seems like a stretch — with or without Cousins.

But Cousins playing out the final year of his contract only forgoes the question of what the team’s future will look like at the quarterback position.

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