The Consequential Aspect of Kirk Cousins and His Contract

Jan 15, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) warms up before a wild card game against the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Kirk Cousins is entering the final year of his contract. It will be his sixth and possibly last season as the Minnesota Vikings quarterback. His tenure in Minnesota didn’t give the organization the desired team success. While he hasn’t been flawless, the Vikings weren’t just that one piece away as many (probably even the Vikings) expected.

The Consequential Aspect of Kirk Cousins and His Contract

The Consequential Aspect of Kirk Cousins and His Contract
Nov 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) in action during the game against the New England Patriots at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

Years later, the franchise turned from a run-first team into a pass-first operation, and Cousins has quietly been the driving force of the offense, especially when he connects with superstar Justin Jefferson. The days of primarily running the ball to then complete a couple of play-action passes are long gone, which speaks to Cousins’ development over the years. Most would agree that he is a much better player now than when he first stepped foot into the facility.

Regardless, his contract is expiring, and the franchise’s leadership appears ready to move on from him sooner rather than later. An extension didn’t happen, which resulted in him entering his first contract year since 2017 when he was still in Washington.

That final year of his current contract was restructured for some cap relief, something that an extension would’ve done as well – another indicator of an exit in the near future. However, the Vikings could still opt to keep him and give him a new deal. Cousins said that he expects the next contract talks to be held in March of 2024, so after the season, right before he enters free agency.

5 Vikings Players Who
Jan 8, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) reacts after being short of yardage against Chicago Bears during the first half at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports.

The Vikings lost one bullet because of how they structured his contract. The verbiage is significant. While the Vikings didn’t include a no-tag clause, they can not use the franchise tag on the soon-to-be 35-year-old in 2024, as Mike Florio from Profootballtalk reported.

Cousins’s current contract doesn’t include a clause preventing the Vikings from tagging him. It doesn’t have to. Per a source with knowledge of the deal, the contract voids after the deadline for applying the franchise tag.

In other words, Cousins won’t be on track to be a free agent when the Vikings have the ability to tag him. Only after the window for using the tag closes will Cousins’s contract expire.

Mike Florio

That is significant for multiple reasons. The Vikings can now not use the franchise tag and lost some leverage, so why did they put it in the contract? It is unlikely that the GM of a team and its many lawyers and contract experts missed it and made a blunder of that importance.

Well, one option is because the Cousins side could have demanded it, and it was the only way to get a contract done. Another reason could be that the Vikes simply didn’t intend to use it anyway. The franchise tag is not a popular tool among players. They want to control the contract they sign instead of having a team forcing them to sign one that they can’t negotiate with just one season of security. Anthony Harris would’ve made more money had Rick Spielman not used the tag on him in 2020 after he had his best career season.

Kirk Cousins on Release of Dalvin Cook & What He Sees In New-Look Defense During Minicamp. Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins addressed the media from the TCO Performance Center during the 2023 NFL Mandatory Minicamp.

Even if the Vikes haven’t reached the ultimate goal with Cousins under center, he has still given everything he had for five seasons. There’s a good chance the Vikings don’t want to use the tag out of respect for their quarterback. After six seasons, he can be titled a franchise QB. Relationships are important in the NFL, and organizations want their players to be happy, even if the NFL is sometimes a cold business. It is relevant to be on good terms with the QB of the organization.

One more reason could be that Cousins’ franchise tag comes with a hefty price because he has already been tagged twice by Washington, and the costs increase every time. It would be north of $50 million.

Extension talks are on halt until next March, but the options are pretty straightforward. The two parties either sign an extension or they don’t. General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah probably wants to see how the upcoming season unfolds for various reasons. First, if the team has a fantastic year and therefore lacks the draft capital to select the next franchise quarterback, they might want to stick with Cousins instead of reaching for a second-tier quarterback or going with a bridge guy who isn’t very good.

Nov 13, 2022; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) and center Garrett Bradbury (56) take practice snaps before a game against the Buffalo Bills at Highmark Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

If the team is successful and Cousins is playing at an extremely high level, the team would also certainly be more open to adding some more years to the contract. That would, however, drive the price and Cousins’ demands. On the other hand, if Cousins shows signs of slowing down age-related, they would’ve dodged a bullet by not agreeing to a long-term contract.

The contract talks and which party is interested in what type of deal – both contract length and salary – will be a fascinating storyline to follow in the upcoming offseason.

Cousins has thrown for 153 touchdowns since he came to Minnesota, the fourth-most among QBs during that span. Only Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers, and Tom Brady had more. The 20,934 passing yards rank him fifth in the NFL.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt