Kirk Cousins Lands on Obvious List

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The Vikings and its decision makers will soon have to decide on the future of the quarterback Kirk Cousins. He joined the Vikings in 2018 as a free agent and has been the starter for five years. However, his age and not quite elite-level play are two reasons the Vikings could move on from him in March 2024.

Kirk Cousins Lands on Obvious List

Kirk Cousins Lands on Obvious List
Lucas Peltier-USA TODAY Sports

Cousins has been a fine quarterback for the Vikes, the best they have had since Brett Favre and the best they have had for more than a couple of seasons in two decades. He is quietly rising the franchise leaderboard in yards and touchdowns and can be titled franchise quarterback entering his sixth season.

However, his future is uncertain as that sixth season is also the final year he is under contract. Barring an extension until March, he will be a free agent and can sign with any team. That is why he made the list of Kristopher Knox from Bleacher Report of QBs most likely to change teams in 2024.

While it is debatable where he ranks among active quarterbacks, this is definitely a list he deserves to be on. Vikings GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah didn’t sign him to another extension after making it a priority in his first year in charge in 2022. Of course, that was a bad year to need a QB, as the talent in the draft was not high. The hope is that 2024 will be better. It is fair to say that the Vikings would’ve already signed a new contract with their QB if they had the intention to keep him beyond the 2023 campaign.

There’s plenty to like about Cousins as a quarterback. The 34-year-old has made four Pro Bowls, has a career 97.8 passer rating and just helped Minnesota win 13 games.

However, Cousins has also failed to lift the Vikings to the ranks of serious playoff contenders. He’s gone just 1-3 in the playoffs (1-2 with Minnesota) and hasn’t earned a playoff win since the 2019 season.

If Cousins can’t deliver postseason success this year, the Vikings may not be interested in re-signing him next March. The reality is that this is a rebuilding team, and the offseason releases of Adam Thielen and Dalvin Cook serve as proof.

However, general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah cannot afford to blow things up at quarterback just yet because of Cousins’ contract. His $20.3 million 2023 cap hit and the $48.8 million in dead money remaining on his contract are fully guaranteed.

While Minnesota will owe Cousins $28.5 million in dead money next year, it will owe that whether or not he’s on the team. Unless Cousins proves that he’s the quarterback who can end the Vikings’ lengthy Super Bowl drought—their last appearance was in 1976—they’ll likely move on to look for one who can.

Kristopher Knox, Bleacher Report
3 Takeaways from Vikings
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Cousins indeed couldn’t lift the team into Super Bowl contention, but it should be noted, and it should be undisputed, that the team around him has also drastically declined, and no quarterback in the league can win a Super Bowl if the team isn’t all-around good.

Patrick Mahomes needs less around him than Cousins to be successful, but that doesn’t mean he can do it with a flawed roster. A single player should never be blamed for the lack of team success in a team sport.

Still, if the team can’t get over the hump in six years and, quite frankly, can’t even get close to it, it is fair to ask if it will ever happen and if a re-start at the position could be a smart move. Getting a young quarterback with the theoretical upside to be great for cheap money is intriguing. On the flip side, that plan is risky because he could also be a bust.

Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Another point of Knox is that the Vikings are a rebuilding team. Neither Cook’s nor Thielen’s releases have been an indicator of a rebuilding team. The two players were cornerstones of the organization for years, but they have declined to a point where they were not good enough to warrant a huge salary. Releasing aging, mostly average players in recent years past their primes is different than moving on from excellent players to blow up the team and enter tank mode. These decisions are hard, but they must be made to be set up for the future, especially if they don’t hurt the current team. That is Adofo-Mensah’s job.

Nevertheless, the Vikings aren’t viewed as a contending team, so it is a long shot for them to have a deep playoff run. If the Vikings end up deciding to keep Cousins and give him a brand-new contract, it will be because of one of two things.

Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

The first one is that said deep postseason run, and they realize that a Cousins-led team can actually win even if the roster isn’t loaded like that of the Eagles or the 49ers. The second one is if the Vikings, for some reason, don’t expect to be within reach of a QB they like in the draft — Either because of the draft position (like in 2023) or because there is just nobody available (like in 2022). The 2022 scenario is not expected.

There are still all options on the table at this point, but most signs point towards a new Vikings passer in 2024. If that is the right or wrong move will be decided a few years down the road, and it depends on Cousins’ aging process and the performance of his successor.

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