Former Vikings LB Weighs in on Cousins Contract Chatter

Before each free agency period over the last few years, the Minnesota Vikings decide on Kirk Cousins’ contract, usually culminating in an extension.

This year is no different, as Cousins could be extended yet again, traded to a team of his choosing, or merely allowed to play out his contract. The deal expires at the end of 2023.

Former Vikings LB Weighs in on Cousins Contract Chatter

And left up to former Vikings linebacker Ben Leber, the choice is simple — extend Cousins.

Vikings LB Weighs
Aug 14, 2022; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Ben Leber on the sidelines during the game between the Las Vegas Raiders and the Minnesota Vikings at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

On Tuesday, at the NFL Combine, Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah took questions from the media and was predictably asked about Justin Jefferson’s contract extension. He replied, “I don’t want to be the Vikings GM without that guy on the roster.“

Strong words indeed for Adofo-Mensah, who prefers Jefferson connected to the Vikings roster for the next five to seven years. Once Leber saw that affirmation from Adofo-Mensah, he tweeted his recommendation for Jefferson and Cousins, “At the Combine, Kwesi mentioned signing Justin Jefferson is a ‘high priority.’ Jefferson most likely doesn’t sign unless he knows there will be stability at QB. Extend Kirk. Jefferson follows.”

Picks Another Fight
Nov 3, 2019; Kansas City, MO, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) drops back to pass against the Kansas City Chiefs during the first half at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports.

Cousins currently earns $35 million a season per average annual salary, the ninth-most in the NFL as of February 27th. Some prefer Cousins to contemplate a paycut this offseason, a theory that arises every February and March — and never materializes.

Realistically, Cousins will probably fetch between $35 and $40 million per season via his next contract, whether in Minnesota or elsewhere. He’s durable and productive, but some Vikings loyalists demand Cousins to play elite, a tier of quarterbacking he simply doesn’t inhabit. They erroneously equate $35 million per season as the “elite category” of pay, and it is not, at least not anymore. Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson can tell you all about it.

Nov 29, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) throws as he is hit by Carolina Panthers defensive tackle Bravvion Roy (93) during the fourth quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports.

Still, Adofo-Mensah must make the call on Cousins soon because free agency is two weeks away. Extending him could free up a bit more than $23 million in 2023 cap space, funds that can be used on new free agents. Otherwise, the Vikings can “do nothing” and let Cousins play out the final year of his deal, hitting free agency at this time next year.

Too, the plot thickened on Cousins’ situation over the weekend. In a video posted to the Vikings team website, Tom Pelissero explained, “I would not anticipate that there’s another one-year extension [for Cousins]. Either the Vikings and Kirk Cousins do a long-term extension that locks him up as their franchise quarterback, or potentially they keep their options open and let Cousins play out this existing deal.”

And this is new. Per Pelissero, Cousins’ contract ordeal is more “all or nothing” than in years past. If he is correct, it’s Cousins for one more year — or about four.

In that vein, Leber evidently believes the Vikings should choose some semblance of extension as it would theoretically increase the probability of Jefferson’s signing on the dotted line for an extension.

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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