Kirk Cousins Tabbed for Fateful ESPN List in 2023

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On paper, Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins enters the final season of his purple tenure.

The signal-caller in Minnesota since 2018, the Vikings brass opted not to extend Cousins this offseason, seeming to pave the way for an off-ramp next March if the 2023 season doesn’t go swimmingly.

Kirk Cousins Tabbed for Fateful ESPN List in 2023

Of course, Cousins could theoretically be extended at any minute, but even the quarterback personally said several weeks ago that those talks would likely resume next March.

Accordingly, Cousins is ‘under the gun’ in 2023, tasked with winning a playoff game — or two or three — after posting just one team playoff win on his watch in the last five seasons. And that ‘under the gun’ status fetched the attention of ESPN this week, particularly Bill Barnwell.

Fateful ESPN
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Barnwell outlined 20 NFL players, coaches, and executivesunder the most pressure‘ for 2023 this week, and Cousins made the cut.

He explained, “It’s easy to write the script. After a 13-4 season in which the Vikings were propped up by an impossibly great record in close games, Cousins & Co. decline in 2023. An offense that ran more drives than any other team a year ago doesn’t get as many opportunities as it did, causing Cousins’ numbers to take a step backward. Out of the playoff picture in December, the Vikings choose to see what they have in rookie fifth-round pick Jaren Hall and bench Cousins for the final two games before the veteran leaves in free agency after the season.”

On Hall, it is unclear if the Vikings peg the rookie as a potential QB1 of the future or just a QB2 type.

“Having pocketed more than $200 million across his career, Cousins doesn’t need the money. His numbers are fine, but he doesn’t have a realistic path to the Hall of Fame. The one thing left for the 34-year-old to accomplish before he retires is changing minds. The popular perception of him as a quarterback is that he’s just good enough to disappoint you by losing in the postseason. Cousins has this 2023 season in Minnesota and some indeterminate number of seasons in the future elsewhere to rewrite his legacy,” Barnwell continued.

Kirk Cousins Confirms
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Cousins gained the utmost attention in the past few weeks by appearing in Netflix’s Quarterback docuseries. He, Patrick Mahomes, and Marcus Mariota were showcased behind the scenes, on and off the field, for the entirety of the 2022 season. Many Cousins naysayers left the show with a newfound respect for the 34-year-old.

Barnwell concluded, “Where he ends up in 2024 might depend on how he performs in 2023. If Cousins plays well, there might be a path to a new deal with the Vikings. He could be in line for a move to a starting job on a more competitive team, with the oft-mooted reunion with Kyle Shanahan in San Francisco as one possibility. If he struggles, he would likely fall onto the path Andy Dalton and Joe Flacco traversed after leaving their longtime teams, either settling for bridge work or a low-upside starting opportunity somewhere in 2024, keeping him out of the Super Bowl picture.”

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Cousins has long been connected to the San Francisco 49ers rumor mill — often in the shadows by pundits unenthused about his presence on the Vikings depth chart — and the aforementioned Shanahan has mentioned his ardor for Cousins as a quarterback a few times. The two ‘came up together’ in Washington.

On the whole, Barnwell is correct. Cousins is under tremendous pressure, mainly because of the ‘contract year’ nature of his deal. His back is against the wall, and if the Vikings don’t win a playoff game, a lane has been financially cleared for Minnesota to explore Hall, a 2024 rookie quarterback, or a veteran like Kyler Murray (who could be on the chopping block if Arizona obtains next year’s 1st overall pick) next offseason.

Cousins turns 35 in about three weeks.

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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