The Kirk Cousins Debate Takes a Predictable Turn

March is mere days away, so Kirk Cousins’ contract extension season must be on the calendar.

The Minnesota Vikings have opted to grant Cousins smallish deals since arriving in the Twin Cities in 2018, which results in “what to do with Cousins?” conversations annually right around this time in the offseason. 2023 is no different.

The Kirk Cousins Debate Takes a Predictable Turn

And like clockwork, a familiar and predictable suggestion arises involving another man’s money — the notion that Cousins should electively take a paycut to remain with the Vikings.

The Kirk Cousins Debate
Dec 17, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) looks to hand the ball off during the third quarter against the Indianapolis Colts at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Every year, this talker bubbles to the surface — and every year, Cousins ends up not taking a voluntary paycut. Still, the idea is floated in the Vikings digital stratosphere, and when Cousins is extended for the going-market rate, some folks throw up their arms as they somehow talked themselves into believing Cousins would “play for cheap.”

It’s getting talked about this year, too, and when it’s all said and done, Cousins won’t accept reduced money. He never does. He doesn’t play football as a hobby; it is his livelihood, and he’s paid handsomely to play it like dozens of other quarterbacks.

SKOR North’s Phil Mackey tweeted Monday, “If Cousins cares about winning a Super Bowl, he should ask for less money so Vikings can fill roster holes. Defense. Center. RG. WR2. It’s football legacy time now.”

Reactions to Win No
Jan 8, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) warms up before the game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports.

This is a brilliant humanitarian suggestion, but football isn’t about humanitarianism. It’s about young men earning money for the rest of their lives while fans enjoy the entertainment and spectacle. Tom Brady took paycuts with the New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers — and he’s essentially the only quarterback who does [did] it. Nobody else as a QB1, especially those who toss 4,000+ passing yards and 30+ touchdowns each season, “ask for less money.” To do so would be idiocy.

The Vikings have three options with Cousins this offseason:

  1. Do nothing. Let his contract play out. It expires at the end of 2023.
  2. Extend Cousins, attaching him to the franchise for 2-4 more years.
  3. Trade him to a place of his choosing — he has a no-trade clause.

The Draft Network offered a suggestion last weekend, one supported by a faction of fans. TDN’s Justin Melo opined, “The Vikings are entering a massive campaign in 2023 after 2022 started so promising, but ended in such disappointment. The Vikings shouldn’t extend Kirk Cousins beyond this season. He should have to earn a long-term contract via on-field success.”

after week 16
Nov 13, 2022; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) runs with the ball against the Buffalo Bills during second half at Highmark Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports.

Melo’s “don’t extend Cousins” recommendation is markedly more reasonable than spitballing a whimsical Cousins pay reduction. Why? Because it’s realistic. The Vikings could very well let the QB1 waltz onto the final year of his deal and revisit his open free agency at this time next year.

Assuming Cousins would encourage a paycut is lunacy. He would’ve done it by now. In fact, Cousins and his agent are renowned for acting shrewdly amid contract negotiations — not for embracing warmhearted salary shrinkage.

For context, the theorized Cousins sum for a paycut is $25 million per season. He earns an average of $35 annually as-is.

Advocating a sliced pay rate for an athlete because one wants it to happen isn’t responsible. Non-football players — so, you know, you — wouldn’t ask their employer for a volitional reduction in pay. Expecting other people to “do it instead” is codswallop.

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).

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