The ESPN Recommendation on Kirk Cousins’ Future with the Vikings

Kirk Cousins Took
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

The 2022 Minnesota Vikings partnered quarterback Kirk Cousins with an offense-first skipper who was Cousins’ quarterback coach five years ago, won 13 games with the pairing, allowed Cousins to tie an NFL single-season record of eight game-winning drives, and won the NFC North for the first time since 2017.

On paper, that’s a resounding success, but the Vikings flopped in Round 1 of the postseason at home to the New York Giants. The season ended prematurely, and to a degree, the 13-4 record felt all for nil. As a result, and because Cousins infamously “threw short of the sticks” on Minnesota’s final offensive play of the season, a familiar debate is present — what do with Cousins?

The ESPN Recommendation on Kirk Cousins’ Future with the Vikings

The Vikings have three options for Cousins’ contract, which expires at the end of next year:

  1. Do nothing. Let the contract expire, with 2023 as Cousins’ final hurrah in Minnesota.
  2. Extend the man by 1-3 years.
  3. Trade Cousins to a team of his choosing (he has a no-trade clause).
The ESPN Recommendation
Lucas Peltier-USA TODAY Sports.

ESPN’s Kevin Seifert did a fabulous and thorough job examining the stakes for Cousins and the Vikings future this week, explaining all facets of the debate and items the franchise must consider. Although he did not offer a totally ringing endorsement of Cousins’ extension, Seifert ultimately surmised, “The safest decision would be to extend Cousins, even if it means committing to him for 2024, while jump-starting the process of finding the next starter.

Indeed, the Vikings exist in a unique spot, employing a durable-as-hell quarterback who tosses 4,000+ passing yards and 30+ touchdowns per season like the sun rises. He’ll be 35 when the 2023 regular season begins, and age is a new wildcard amid the annual “Cousins debate.” For the first time, Vikings fans must contemplate a possible Cousins regression like his peers Ben Roethlisberger or Drew Brees encountered not long ago.

Playoff Loss Still Stings
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports.

Cousins could perform fabulously for the next five years — or he could “hit a wall” as early as 2023. Those are the stakes. Before this offseason, Cousins was unlikely to hit a wall at age 34.

Meanwhile, the Vikings implemented a new leadership regime in 2022, and those men, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Kevin O’Connell, may not be married to the Cousins-or-else mindset that Rick Spielman seemed to embrace from 2018 to 2021. There’s a decent possibility that Adofo-Mensah “saw enough” during his first year on the job to plan the Cousins afterlife.

Problem Emerges for Vikings
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

And that’s why Seifert used the phrase “while jump-starting the process of finding the next starter.” Now can be the time when Adofo-Mensah drafts — or plans to draft — Cousins’ successor so the unnamed individual can learn and develop for a year or two. It’s what the Kansas City Chiefs did in 2017 with Alex Smith into Patrick Mahomes and how the Green Bay Packers handled Brett Favre into Aaron Rodgers from 2005 to 2007.

Of course, as mentioned by Seifert in his piece, possessing the 23rd overall pick and four total picks before the 2023 NFL Draft doesn’t scream quarterback. Yet, Adofo-Mensah has delivered an affinity to trade assets in Year One on the job, so it’s not inconceivable for him to find “his guy” at quarterback with a limited draft-capital piggybank.

The most telling aspect of Cousins’ future should be evident in the next five weeks. Watch for a one-year or two-year extension. If it doesn’t happen, the Cousins era has a shelf life of one more year — with a rookie quarterback perhaps on the way in April.

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