Kirk Cousins Has a Familiar Conundrum

Kirk Cousins Standing Tall for Vikings
Oct 24, 2019; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) looks to pass the ball in the fourth quarter against the Washington Redskins at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Berding-USA TODAY Sports.

The Minnesota Vikings didn’t extend quarterback Kirk Cousins’ contract this offseason, scheduling a tentative free agency for the soon-to-be 35-year-old next March.

And for Cousins, it’s a familiar conundrum.

Kirk Cousins Has a Familiar Conundrum

Per their words, the Vikings are amid a ‘competitive rebuild,’ and where Cousins fits in that realm beyond 2023 is firmly to be determined.

Here’s why 2023 should be eerily familiar to Cousins.

Flashback to the Washington Days

Cousins Has a Familiar
Dec 24, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) in action during the game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. The Redskins defeat the Bears 41-21. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports.

In back-to-back seasons, 2016 and 2017, the Washington Commanders refused to sign Cousins to a long-term contract. The passer was franchise-tagged — those make players grimace — in both seasons and was a part of the equation that enabled Cousins to join the Vikings in the spring of 2018.

To be frank, Washington didn’t want Cousins at his pricepoint, Rick Spielman’s Vikings did, and the rest is Vikings history.

For the first time since 2017, Cousins will play out a ‘contract year,’ essentially playing for his job, a rarity for an established Pro Bowl quarterback. Of course, Cousins has stacked fat towers of cash since arriving in Minnesota, but now he’s back to where it all started emotionally — he must perform in 2023 and “earn the right” to remain the Vikings quarterback in 2024.

He’s been here before.

“Next March”

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 2023 NFL Mandatory Minicamp.

On Wednesday, per Cousins’ words, the prospect of a summer extension died. He won’t be glued to the organization for longer than one season until Cousins and general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah revisit the topic next March.

Reporters asked Cousins at Vikings mandatory minicamp if extension talks were ongoing, and he replied, “I think we’ll probably talk about the contract next March. Until then, just focus on this season and the job to do right now.”

So, unless he didn’t understand the situation properly — unlikely — he knows contract extension talks are stalled, meaning 2023 appears to be the last hurrah on paper for Cousins in Minnesota.

And, yes, this is what happened in Washington heading into the 2017 campaign.

A Tunnel to San Francisco?

Feb 28, 2023; Indianapolis, IN, USA; San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch speaks to the press at the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports.

Remember when Cousins signed on the Vikings dotted line five years ago? He wanted to be a part of a team that wanted him — unlike the Commanders.

He found that in Minnesota, and perhaps the 49ers will offer the same coziness in nine months. 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan has gushed about Cousins’ skillset over the years and probably would’ve been front and center in the Cousins Sweepstakes of 2018 if the club hadn’t traded for Jimmy Garoppolo a few months earlier.

Should the Vikings give Cousins ‘the 2017 Commanders treatment,’ it wouldn’t be weird one iota for Cousins to stroll westerly with the 49ers and attempt to create a Super Bowl push with Shanahan.

For Cousins, this season might feel like 2017 all over again.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

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