The Value of Extending Kirk Cousins

KIrk Cousins
Aug 21, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) celebrates a play during the first quarter against the Indianapolis Colts at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Having written about trading Kirk Cousins, here is the counter piece where I look at the value of extending the Vikings quarterback this offseason.

As I said previously, both options have merit. In the scenario where the new general manager and head coach decide to keep Kirk Cousins in town, it almost certainly means an extension to the quarterback’s contract. They could just see out the year and start 2023 with a clean slate.

Keeping Cousins at a $45 million cap hit would give the folks incoming very little room to improve the roster. Speaking to the media on Monday, Mark Wilf stated ownership expects the team to be competitive. A veteran quarterback makes that more likely, but it is not an impossible task with a rookie. It just doesn’t happen often.

Mac Jones is the first rookie starter to make the playoffs since Russell Wilson did it in 2012. There was a run of it happening at that time. Only 12 rookie quarterbacks have started 10+ games in their rookie season and made the playoffs. Seven of those came between 2008 and 2012, as well as Ben Roethlisberger in 2004.

So, to stay competitive from the get-go, extending Kirk Cousins is the sensible option. Kellen Mond is still in the building to be evaluated by the new staff as a possibility to be the future at the quarterback position. We have seen no evidence to suggest he will be ready for the new season. We’ve seen little of anything, really, which is why I’d like to see a new coach take a look at him. If Mond doesn’t impress, it will be time to look again in the 2023 draft. In this year’s draft, the job will be to find some pieces to add to the roster to make the team competitive with Kirk Cousins at the helm. Cornerback is a priority, but there is also a need to strengthen “in the trenches,” which is where the foundations of good teams are built from.

The next question is how long of an extension do you give to Cousins, and what does it look like?

Do you make it multi-year and keep paying him big money? That would undoubtedly make a section of the fanbase implode. I’m not sure a new regime will come in and make a huge commitment to Cousins straight off the bat. I think a shorter extension or one with an easy get-out after a year or two is how to extend Kirk Cousins at this time. Of course, that relies on the quarterback playing ball. He has a big wedge of guaranteed money for the coming season. The Vikings have to make the deal worthwhile to him.

If the deal gets done, the Vikings get a level of consistency at the quarterback position — a player who is comfortable and settled into the area and who just threw for 4221 yards and 33 touchdowns and has put those sorts of numbers up at a consistent level for several seasons now — those are the numbers you would be crying out for in search of a new quarterback. The issue with Cousins? His leadership has not translated to team success, and a lot of people have dumped the blame squarely at the quarterback’s feet.

One of the criticisms is that he needs everything around him to be “perfect” to win, which I feel is a little bit silly.

Yes, the whole team needs to be good if you want to win the Super Bowl. Since signing Cousins in 2018, Rick Spielman and Mike Zimmer never got the construction of the roster right — hence why they are now unemployed. A lot of that stems from a general manager and head coach not truly being in sync. If you pay big money for a quarterback, you have to set your team up around him to get the best out of him.

That was never really the case.

Notably, a consistently poor offensive line in pass protection often felt like an afterthought when compiling the roster, with run blocking ability prioritized in search of new linemen.

Kirk Cousins could work for a new head coach. The ultimate question is whether that’s what a new head coach wants. Since the NFL shifted to more of a passing league, people have become more and more quarterback obsessed. We see it when people talk about Kirk Cousins’ win/loss record in Minnesota as if the rest of the team is irrelevant. There is an expectation that any new general manager and head coach will want “their guy” in at quarterback.

The Wilfs are known to be patient owners, something not universally existent across the league. Despite wanting the team to be competitive straight away and ultimately win championships, the new regime should expect to get time to put their vision together – within reason.

There is a lot of sense to extending Kirk Cousins as a short-term solution to remaining competitive while they commence the search for the elusive franchise quarterback — the dream scenario of drafting a guy who will be the face of the franchise for the next 15 years. That is the goal for everybody.