Kirk Cousins to Broncos Is Close to an Annual Discussion

Kirk Cousins to Denver is Close to an Annual Discussion
Kirk Cousins and Case Keenum

Welcome to the Kirk Cousins Experience.

Annually, Kirk Cousins earns $33 million per season, ranking the Minnesota Vikings quarterback as the eighth highest-paid passer in the NFL. Two years ago in 2020, Cousins’ contract was extended, reducing his cap hit to $21 million in the first year (the COVID-reduced-cap season) and ballooning his cap hit to $45 million in 2022.

No matter what — Cousins will be paid the entirety of the $97 million from 2020, 2021, and 2022. Squabbling about $45 million for 2022 is all about how the numbers hit the ledger.

Because the $45 million is so astronomical — and remember, Cousins is already controversial, for starters — the Vikings could explore trading the man this offseason.

Kirk Cousins and Mike Zimmer

Like clockwork, the Denver Broncos are a logical destination. Alex Kay from Bleacher Report already laid out what a Cousins trade will look like, issuing Minnesota a 1st-Round and 7th-Round pick for the 33-year-old. Kay wrote:

“The pick, in conjunction with the club’s own first-rounder, would allow Minnesota to either select a potential franchise QB or at least give the Vikings enough capital to slide up the board and get their guy. It would also bring the Broncos their first high-end quarterback since Peyton Manning, giving the franchise real hope of contending again at a fair price.”

And this Cousins-to-Denver idea is clockwork because Denver is routinely on the agenda pertaining to Cousins. During Cousins’ first free-agency exploration in 2018, Denver was among the organizations pursuing the then-Washington Football Teamer. ESPN published a thorough article in 2018 called Destination Cousins on his potential landing spots. Denver was on the list.

Then, a little bit of a honeymoon set in as Cousins’ Vikings won a stunning playoff game as underdogs in 2019. Cousins flung a jump ball to tight end Kyle Rudolph to walk off the New Orleans Saints in the 2019 NFC Wildcard game. In the immediacy of that play, Cousins wasn’t going anywhere — he was extended, in fact.

But one year later — when Denver started to realize Drew Lock probably wasn’t the next big thing — Cousins was linked to the Broncos in January 2021. Carson Wentz was traded to the Indianapolis Colts — so far a failed, expensive experiment — and the rumor mill decided Cousins might end up in Colorado. He was not traded, remaining with the Vikings for an 8-9 season in which Cousins accounted for 34 total touchdowns and seven interceptions. The Vikings defense finished second-to-last in the NFL for yards allowed, ensuring head coach Mike Zimmer was fired on Black Monday.

Unsurprisingly, though, Vikings fans and NFL pundits are going to do it all over again. Soon, Minnesota will have a new general manager, and that man or woman might opt for a Cousins trade. The Broncos — in what should be no surprise to anybody — need a quarterback as Teddy Bridgewater and Drew Lock did not drag Denver to the playoffs. Plus, general manager George Paton, who has ties to Minnesota, likely wants “his” quarterback after the Bridgewater-Lock audition.

Insert Cousins.

Should Denver strike out on the theoretical Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, or Deshaun Watson sweepstakes, a new Broncos skipper could probably win with a man possessing Cousins’ ability to religiously produce 4,000-yard passing yard seasons and 30+ touchdowns. Most teams can.

But not the Vikings, evidently.

And that’s why the nearly annual custom of linking Cousins to Denver will vamp up in the next 12 weeks.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).