Don’t Let Kirk Leave Town, Says Analyst
The top storyline in Minnesota’s 2024 offseason is the fate of quarterback Kirk Cousins. He signed in 2018 and has been the organization’s leader ever since. After posting career numbers in 2023, a torn Achilles tendon cost him the season’s final nine games, his team the chance to make the playoffs, and a potential run toward the Super Bowl.
Don’t Let Kirk Leave Town, Says Analyst
Cousins has been a fantastic quarterback for the majority of his tenure, especially after overcoming the growing pains of the disappointing offense in 2018 under the guidance of John DeFilippo. Once now Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski took over, Cousins looked much more comfortable, and he slowly improved every year with wonderful statistical numbers from 2019 to 2021, followed by one-and-a-half years of having outstanding command over the offense and showing an extreme clutch factor.
He is certainly a much better passer now than in 2018 when Rick Spielman signed him as the missing piece. That didn’t work out, but he has been the one piece that kept the team from having some awful seasons.
General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah decided twice to keep Cousins around but has hesitated to extend his long-term contract. His free agency will impact the franchise in 2024 and beyond. Nick Shook from NFL.com placed Cousins in his tier of QB free agents whom the franchises shouldn’t let leave town:
In 2023, the Vikings experienced the harsh reality of what a future life without Cousins might look like, cycling through three different backups and finding zero solid answers following Cousins’ season-ending Achilles injury. Add that lesson to the fact that Cousins’ performance was arguably the only good thing to come out of the Vikings’ first eight weeks of 2023, and it’s pretty easy to see how Minnesota should proceed.
Re-sign Cousins to a one- or two-year deal, securing a passer who was enjoying one of his best seasons prior to his injury, and start seriously planning for a future without him, so you don’t get caught empty-handed again a year or two from now.
Indeed, life was hard with his backups under center as Nick Mullens was able to sling the ball and give his receivers a chance, but defenses also had the chance to make plays as his risk management seems a bit off. Joshua Dobbs, meanwhile, gave the Vikings a different threat with his running ability, but he failed in the passing game, ultimately making him the wrong guy for this specific offense, while rookie Jaren Hall wasn’t ready for the big stage.
But it should be mentioned that neither of the three would be a real successor as the Vikings would likely sign a different bridge quarterback, someone cheaper, and add someone in the draft. Nobody in the organization wants to replace Cousins with some career backups and late-round rookies.
However, it is far from guaranteed that the next guy is working out. One look at Atlanta, Pittsburgh, and New England shows how hard it is to replace a franchise quarterback. Desmond Ridder, Taylor Heinicke, Mac Jones, and Kenny Pickett failed. All those teams could be involved in the Cousins sweepstakes in March.
Cousins has always been the safe choice, the guy who always finds a way to throw for 4,000 yards and 25-30 touchdowns, a steady presence to lead an offense. The problem is that his future performance is not guaranteed, as he will be 36 at the season opener, and his rehab from a season-ending injury is another risk. He will hit the cliff at some point, which usually comes in the mid-30s or Cousins’ age.
Adofo-Mensah must protect the franchise from that and can’t hand out a long-term extension, especially not a fully guaranteed one, for a QB with those risks.
Cousins, meanwhile, has always made sure to get those fully guaranteed deals to protect himself. If there is a problem in the negotiations, it is likely to be because of the structure of the agreement rather than money. This is why it isn’t a no-brainer to re-sign the four-time Pro Bowler, as two parties with different interests will be at the negotiation tables.
Regardless of those issues, the Vikings and their passer have always claimed that they want to continue to see him in a purple jersey on Sundays, and fans have started to embrace him in recent years.
Potential alternatives are the selection of a rookie quarterback in April’s draft or adding a veteran in free agency. Cousins’ future will remain the main storyline in Minnesota until a decision arrives.
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