Jared Allen Pushes Kirk Cousins’ Ouster, Vikings Reunion With Former Quarterback

Kirk Cousins, Kevin O'Connell, Minnesota Vikings

Getty Kirk Cousins #8 of the Minnesota Vikings.

The NFL playoffs begin this week without the Minnesota Vikings.

It’s the fourth time they have missed the playoffs in Kirk Cousins’ six-year tenure. And, at 7-10, it’s also the third time they have had a losing record in that span.

Facing a critical decision on Cousins, who is a free agent this offseason, former Vikings star Jared Allen is doubling down on his stance of moving on. This time, though, he also has a suggestion on which direction the Vikings should look to to address the issue.

“You already heard what I said. Again, it was nothing personal,” Allen said on the “Chasin’ It” podcast on January 9. “We have so many moving parts. … I don’t know how you can pay a veteran quarterback, pay [Justin] Jefferson – you got [Danielle] Hunter. You have a laundry list of guys that’re going to have to get taken care of.”

Allen bolstered his argument around the rest of the division trending upward.

Cousins’ next contract is projected to come in around $35-$40 million. The Vikings are projected to have around $39 million in cap space pending other moves, per Spotrac.

“I think there’s some options out there to where I don’t think you have to give up the farm for a 35-year-old,” Allen said. “You look at the kid in Cincinnati, who played his ass off this year. You could probably go get him at a relatively cheap price and go get a stud running back and run the ball 25-30 times a game.”

Jake Browning would be an interesting choice if for no other reason than his previous stint with the Vikings, which the Bengals passer acknowledged with a bit of shade after his new team’s win over his old one in Week 15.

Browning threw for 324 yards and two touchdowns in that contest.

An undrafted free agent out of Washington, Browning joined the Vikings in 2019 on a three-year, $1.8 million contract. The Vikings waived him twice, most recently in September of 2020, and he has been with the Bengals on and off ever since.

The 27-year-old passer completed 71.5% of his passes for 1,868 yards and 11 touchdowns to seven interceptions – a bugaboo for Vikings quarterbacks – in seven starts this season.

He also absorbed 21 sacks, another issue that Vikings’ passers outside of Cousins had in 2023.

“I know I sound like one of these retired players … armchair quarterbacking it,” Allen said. “But as a fan and someone who knows a little bit, I just think money could be better spent around the board and we can prepare for the future.”

Vikings Could Lose Pair of Aging Defensive Stars

Harrison Smith, Minnesota Vikings

GettyHarrison Smith #22 of the Minnesota Vikings.

Jefferson will earn $19.7 million next season under the fifth-year option of his rookie contract. He has spoken candidly about not stressing about his situation given how he has performed in his career.

Veteran defenders Hunter, 29, and Harrison Smith, 34, have spoken with a different undertone, though, and Allen believes they are critical.

“You’re losing safety Harrison Smith at some point,” Allen said. “I don’t know what his contract situation is. But I think this is Year 11 or 12. So you gotta think about how do you replace that presence, which has been absolutely dominant. Like I said, if Danielle Hunter’s not there, that’s a massive hole you’re gonna have to fix.”

Hunter and Smith ranked 35th and 54th, respectively, at their positions, per Pro Football Focus. The former logged the fourth most sacks in the NFL this past season, while the latter finished second on the team in snaps played.

Allen is a five-time Pro Bowler and four-time All-Pro as an edge defender, and a member of the Vikings Ring of Honor, though he was not just bringing back or replacing aging defensive stars.

Jared Allen on Vikings ‘Biggest Problems’

Dalton Risner, Nick Mullens, Minnesota Vikings

GettyDalton Risner #66 and Nick Mullens #12 of the Minnesota Vikings.

“If you spend all your money on receiver and quarterback, who’s protecting [the quarterback]? You still gotta bolster that offensive line,” Allen said. “That’s always been one of the biggest problems in Minnesota, is we’ve never fully committed to the offensive line.”

The Vikings offensive line finished as the second-best pass-blocking unit and the 10th-best in run-blocking. Four of the five starting linemen are already under contract for next season.

Left guard Dalton Risner is the fifth, though he could also return on a relatively cheap deal.

“Aside from drafting someone in April, the Vikings don’t have a clear option at guard besides Risner,” wrote Anthony Bettin of CBS New Minnesota on January 9. “That, coupled with the fact they’ll be signing him to be a starter, means he’ll be due for a pay raise, though probably not an egregious one considering the lack of league interest before the Vikings signed him.”

It all sets the stage for what could be an eventful offseason for the Vikings.