ESPN Formally Forecasts Kirk Cousins’ Future

A Move or Two Away
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

A complete regime change was the main subject in 2022, followed by the departures of some longtime veterans in 2023. In 2024, the top talker is the future of Kirk Cousins, the Vikings quarterback since 2018 when he signed as a free agent. For the first time since six years ago, the four-time Pro Bowler could actually leave the franchise.

ESPN Formally Forecasts Kirk Cousins’ Future

ESPN Formally Forecasts Kirk Cousins' Future
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At this point, nobody knows how the negotiations between Cousins and the organization will go. He has stated his desire to return and even wants to retire in purple, and Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Kevin O’Connell, the two guys in charge, have made it clear that they would love to have him lead the team in 2024.

But there will be tough negotiations. Cousins is 35 years old, and he is currently rehabbing a torn Achilles tendon, a brutal injury. At this stage in his career, it is far from guaranteed that he can continue to play at his Pro Bowl level. A decline is possible. That’s why the Vikings must make sure to limit the risk involved. Handing him a long-term contract with guaranteed money for many years would be malpractice. On the other hand, it is reasonable to expect Cousins to ask for exactly that.

Cousins to NFC
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If the two parties can find common ground and a compromise, the passer might return in 2024. If not, the Vikings will and should go in a different direction. ESPN’s Kevin Seifert envisions a continued employment for two more seasons.

Cousins’ deal doesn’t void until after the deadline for franchise tags, so this would be an extension. He has repeatedly said he wants to end his career in Minnesota, and as he departed the locker room for the offseason, Cousins left the clear impression that he hoped the Vikings’ offer would reflect a similar wish.

“It’s not about the dollars,” he said, “but it is about what the dollars represent.”

In other words, Cousins — who threw 18 touchdown passes in eight games this season — isn’t likely to be seeking a record-breaking deal in terms of average annual salary, but he does want the Vikings to back up whatever commitment they make with guaranteed money.

Drafting at No. 11, Minnesota isn’t likely to select one of the top-tier quarterbacks in the class, so it makes sense to bring back Cousins. So in this case, let’s re-sign him to a two-year, $85 million fully guaranteed extension. That gives the Vikings two years — until Cousins is 38 years old — to draft and develop his successor.

Betting Odds for Kirk
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Giving Cousins $42.5 million per season sounds like a hefty price tag, and it surely is. However, that would rank Cousins 10th in the NFL for average annual salary. Considering that he is undoubtedly the best option the Vikings have in 2024, that would be a reasonable deal.

However, the franchise must fill some other holes with Danielle Hunter entering free agency. The defensive line is a serious weakness, and the team doesn’t employ a left guard or a starting-caliber running back. The contract extension of top player Justin Jefferson will also hit the books at some point.

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To ensure a competitive roster, something both the Vikings and the QB should strive for, that is a lot of money. There is a decent chance some other team in the league, one that has had struggles at the position for years, could be willing to pay the veteran more money, while the purple team should set a limit and reset if they can’t agree to a deal.

Fans start to wonder about the roster Adofo-Mensah could build without an expensive quarterback but a QB with a rookie contract. Holding the 11th overall pick, Minnesota is out of reach of the top prospects, although trading up for one has been a rumored option. If they stay put, Michael Penix Jr, Bo Nix, and J.J. McCarthy could be successors.

Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy celebrates after the 34-13 win over Washington to win the national championship game at NRG Stadium in Houston on Monday, Jan. 8, 2024.

That’s Seifert’s scenario. He also envisions the Vikings getting one of those guys, in this case, McCarthy, in the second round to sit and learn behind him. McCarthy is 21 and could benefit from a pair of developmental years before seeing the field.

It is one scenario, perhaps even the most likely, to re-sign Cousins and let O’Connell work with his successor before the four-time Pro Bowler departs in a couple of years. But many other options are also on the table, and the subject remains the most fascinating and impactful one in the Vikings’ orbit.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt