The Kirk Cousins Riddle Is Solved

The Nationals Folks Picking the Vikings over Bills
Kirk Cousins

Per the usual timeframe, the Minnesota Vikings and Kirk Cousins evidently will not reach a contract extension agreement, generally a mainstay of Minnesota’s free-agent process to clear cap space.

The Vikings were underwater via the salary cap by about $7.4 million after the first day of free agency, and the club must free up cap space by Wednesday at 3:00 pm CST to be compliant.

The Kirk Cousins Riddle Is Solved

And according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, cap-clearing is well underway and from a familiar source — Cousins.

Kirk Cousins Riddle
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

Rapoport tweeted Tuesday, “The Vikings are doing a cap conversion on QB Kirk Cousins’ contract, creating additional salary cap room, source said.”

The measure reportedly will save the Vikings $16 million in 2023 cap space, enough to pop the franchise under the cap before Wednesday’s deadline. The Star Tribune’s Ben Goessling detailed the maneuver, “Cousins has two void years left on his current deal; the Vikings’ bonus conversion will push money from this year’s cap into those void years. He had a $10 million base salary for this year and a $20 million roster bonus due on Friday.”

The transaction also signals an at-least-temporary pause to Cousins-related extension talks. Moreover, the oft-mentioned “trade Cousins” theories come to an end for about the fourth straight offseason.

Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Too, if Cousins is not a part of the 2024 Vikings roster, he will inflict a $28.5 million dead cap penalty against Minnesota’s books, no matter what. Various theories from the Vikings community in the last week have suggested that general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah is counting on 2023 as a ho-hum year amid his “competitive rebuild” strategy, with a keen eye on an alleged “free up as much cap space for 2024 and beyond” plan.

Pushing $28.5 million onto the 2024 salary cap is the opposite of freeing up money for life-after-Cousins. Allocating funds to future years affirms the Vikings in-it-to-win-it stakes for 2023 despite a sometimes undying request from fans to scorch the roster to the ground for a full rebuild.

Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and head coach Kevin O’Connell at a Minnesota Timberwolves game in 2022.

The long-term, pragmatic implication — not the mail it in for 2023 because 2024 is our year fictitious theory — is the Vikings now have flexibility, at a high cost, in 2024 and beyond. If Cousins performs tremendously at age 35 in 2023, Adofo-Mensah can re-sign him anytime — during the summer, inside the 2023 regular season, or leading up to 2024 free agency.

In the immediate future, Minnesota is banking on Cousins to lead the charge in 2023, building on an unforeseen 13-4 record in 2022. Owner Mark Wilf predicted Cousins’ spot on the Vikings roster earlier this week on Good Morning Football, “Kirk’s an outstanding quarterback. He’s done a great job for us. This past season with Kevin O’Connell he took our offense to the next level. So, we’re looking for great things in 2023. Kirk’s going to be the leader on our offense.”

Unsurprisingly, Wilf told the truth. Cousins is the team’s QB1 in 2023 — with a hefty dead cap hit thereafter. The Vikings are all-in for about the eighth straight season.


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,’ and The Doors (the band).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by OverTheCap.com.

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