There’s 1 Reason 2023 Is Scheduled as Kirk Cousins’ Final Season in MIN

Kirk Cousins
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For the first time as a Minnesota Viking, Kirk Cousins isn’t financially committed to the team for longer than one year heading into a regular season.

Cousins typically has at least two years on his contract as a Vikings at this time on the offseason calendar.

There’s 1 Reason 2023 Is Scheduled as Kirk Cousins’ Final Season in MIN

But general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah had different plans this offseason, tentatively scheduling an off-ramp for Cousins, who turns 35 in August, after the 2023 season. If nothing changes between now and Week 18, Cousins will hit open free agency in 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.

Reporters asked Cousins at Vikings mandatory minicamp last week 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.”

Indeed, Cousins will now play on a one-year prove-it deal, much like the conclusion of his tenure with the Washington Commanders in 2016 and 2017 when Washington used the franchise tag.

Scheduled as Kirk
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And why won’t the Vikings add more years to Cousins’ deal? After all, the man just tied an NFL record for game-winning drives in a single season last year. The answer is fairly clear when one follows the money.

Adofo-Mensah is also intermingled with contract extension talks involving reigning Offensive Player of the Year Justin Jefferson. Soon, Jefferson will set an NFL record for the largest contract by a non-quarterback, tipping the scales at $30-35 million per year.

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Increasingly in the NFL, general managers cannot solve the dilemma of paying the quarterback and All-Pro wide receiver otherworldly contracts. The Kansas City Chiefs couldn’t — or wouldn’t — do it with Patrick Mahomes and Tyreek Hill. They weren’t about to offload Mahomes, so Chiefs boss Brett Veach traded Hill to the Miami Dolphins, and Kansas City won a Super Bowl without Hill 11 months later.

Or — glance at the Vikings foremost rival. When dealings were still relatively decent with Aaron Rodgers, the Green Bay Packers couldn’t afford Rodgers and All-Pro wideout Davante Adams. Accordingly, as the budget was slender, Adams was dealt to the Las Vegas Raiders a little over a year ago. Rodgers stayed in 2022.

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In a nutshell, via future roster planning, the Vikings cannot afford $40-$45 million per year to Cousins — which should be his market value in 2024 — while handing Jefferson a $30+ million sack of cash. There’s not enough money to fill out a roster containing players like T.J. Hockenson, Chrisitan Darrisaw, Brian O’Neill, and Danielle Hutner, at least not for the long term.

Cousins is the ‘old guy’ in the equation and has generated just one playoff triumph in Minnesota over the last five years. If Adofo-Mensah finds ‘the next guy’ after Cousins, there’s a reasonable chance it will be the coveted ‘quarterback on a rookie deal.’ Thankfully for his sake, those men are cheap.

Pull out the Vikings future salary cap on any website, and realize that the unknown rookie quarterback’s contract will precisely align with the start of Jefferson’s megabucks. Then, Minnesota can allow Jefferson to rake in $30+ million per year while the new quarterback marinates on a team-friendly deal for 4-5 years. Jefferson will enter his career’s prime — think of how scary that will be — as the anonymous-for-now quarterback is coming into his own as a pro.

Allotting Cousins his $35-$45 million annually simply doesn’t jibe with simultaneously paying a wide receiver ‘quarterback money.‘ It’s one or the other, and the Vikings are poised to ‘pick Jefferson,’ which will disappoint nobody.

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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