How Far Down the Vikings Priority List Is Kirk Cousins?

Big 3 Offseason
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Remember the good old days when all we had to debate on social media was whether or not the Vikings should have kept Case Keenum or signed Kirk Cousins? They were simpler times, but it was the talker that just never seemed to go away — until all of a sudden, at some point over the offseason, it just sort of did.

How Far Down the Vikings Priority List Is Kirk Cousins?

Unless something dramatic occurs in the next few weeks, Kirk Cousins will start the season for the Minnesota Vikings, playing out the final year of his current contract. In five seasons with the Minnesota Vikings, Cousins has earned just north of $155 million. With an additional $30 million that he’s on the hook for in 2023, that’s a $185 million investment that has seemingly taken a back seat heading into the season.

Conversation from the pundits has shifted towards debating who will sign an extension first, wide receiver Justin Jefferson or tight end T.J. Hockenson. Nobody, and that’s not much of an exaggeration — nobody is talking about an extension for Kirk Cousins. So what does that mean?

How Far Down
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First, it means that the priority has shifted away from the quarterback to the #2 ranked player in the league Justin Jefferson. The Vikings have a fifth-year option on Jefferson’s rookie contract that could technically carry him through the 2024 season, but that’s not how it works for the top-flight rookie talent in the league.

Players like Jefferson usually had a new contract already in place as they headed into the beginning of their fourth season in the league (see Treyvon Diggs). If there was a physical list of priorities for Kwesi and Rob Brzezinski to consider, signing the single wide receiver with the most receiving yards through three seasons all-time is at the very tippy top.

Seemingly, below Jefferson on the top of the list, tight end T.J. Hockenson is also pulling some of the airtime in the Minneapolis market. Traded to the Vikings midseason last year, Hockenson is under team control through the 2023 season, which was his fifth-year option on the rookie deal. Splitting time between Minnesota and Detroit, Hockenson posted career numbers in both yards receiving (914) and receiving touchdowns (6), showcasing himself as the potential number two option on offense for the Minnesota Vikings.

Hockenson hasn’t been practicing this week, and the thought is that it might be a strategic leverage play to stay healthy amid current contract negotiations.

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Now let’s hit the old rewind button to add even more. The Vikings honed their attention in on defensive end Danielle Hunter leading into the season as Hunter began training camp with a “sit-in” looking for a new deal. Hunter Got his money. Bumping up from a base salary of $4.9 million to $17 million for 2023 with a max of $20 million available, Hunter got the raise and the freedom associated with a prove-it one-year contract.

That’s three players that were or are ahead of Kirk on the priority list. And still today, there’s really no banter surrounding Kirk and an extension beyond 2023?

Kirk has expressed his desire to stay in Minnesota for the remainder of his career. He’s also putting up stellar numbers that are more than worthy of continuing to be a starting quarterback in the NFL.

But is it enough?

Just this week, Vikings Owner Mark Wilf met the media and shared some thoughts that didn’t exactly showcase the franchise’s excitement surrounding long-term commitments with Kirk. Asked why the team didn’t extend Kirk this offseason, he said, “We’ll leave that to Kwesi and Coach to work through those discussions. There’s always conversations on that. But our real focus is 100% on 2023 and getting where we need to be and where I know we can be.”

That conversation continued supporting the mindset that good is not enough as the Vikings head into the future. This tone was picked up on by national writer Mike Florio who joined Paul Allen on KFAN Wednesday morning to assert, “I credit the Wilfs for finally shedding the idea that good enough is just good enough…and this seems to be part of the competitive rebuild, they want to position themselves to get a franchise quarterback.”

But where does that leave the Vikings, then? If their angle is to put themselves in the position to land a franchise quarterback, that usually means bottoming out and getting a high draft pick in the upcoming draft. That doesn’t appear to be in the cards for this Vikings team, but then again, we’re heading into what is said to be this potential all-time quarterback class entering the league in the 2024 NFL Draft.

So maybe even the 4th or 5th QB off the board could qualify as a franchise QB. But would they push all their chips in on a rookie QB to start in 2024, then? Even that seems like a bit of a stretch, given the old or new plan at the position.

Vikings Fans Have Majority
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The reality is the Vikings will probably get something like a two-year deal done with Kirk to keep him at the position to keep the team competitive and bridge the gap between this potential franchise quarterback option that is yet to be seen. It’s just lower on the priority list than in the past.

Could this be dangerous, playing with fire and potentially giving Kirk the option to walk away from the Vikings for a new opportunity? They seem to be playing the hunch that Kirk likes what he’s got here in Minnesota with his Tuesday off-days and suburban east side life so much that he won’t actively seek a new situation for himself and his young family.

We’ll have to see how it all plays out, but jot it down now, under cover of darkness — when we least expect it — something is probably going to happen to bring some finality to this situation at quarterback.