Dark Horse Team Could Land Kirk Cousins in Free Agency

2022 MVP Odds for Kirk Cousins
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NFL free agency begins in less than four weeks, and the Minnesota Vikings have decisions afoot on Kirk Cousins and Danielle Hunter, among 20+ others.

Dark Horse Team Could Land Kirk Cousins in Free Agency

But the whole offseason starts with the Cousins verdict, as the Vikings must determine a QB1 and chart a path accordingly. The club could extend Cousins for a year, two, or three to the tune of $35-$45 million per season or draft a quarterback of the future in April. In theory, Minnesota could also do both — re-sign Cousins and use high-round draft capital on a new quarterback.

Team Could Land Kirk
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If Cousins walks, though, which feels like a real possibility as of February 15th, the Pittsburgh Steelers are a dark horse contender for his services. The fit just makes sense. This week, Pro Football Talk‘s Mike Florio said on Pittsburgh’s 93.7 The Fan radio station, “I was talking to some people last week who seem to be intrigued at the possibility of the Steelers making a play for Kirk Cousins, and those people were very [close] to if not within the Kirk Cousins camp.”

Pittsburgh may need a new quarterback in the next 3-4 months. That’s the word, as Kenny Pickett, who began 2023 as the team’s starter, floundered midseason and never regained a job from Mason Rudolph after recovering from an injury. Pickett still has time to develop into something, but the Steelers might’ve bungled that 2022 draft pick.

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Last month, as well, one former NFLer claimed Cousins as a Steeler would make Pittsburgh an instant Super Bowl contender. That was Marcus Spears, who played in the NFL as an EDGE rusher for nine years. When asked on ESPN’s Get Up one month ago if Cousins would elevate Pittsburgh to immediate Super Bowl contention, Spears replied, “You damn right they are. Absolutely, they are a Super Bowl contender with Cousins. You are absolutely right.”

Pittsburgh employs oodles of playmakers like George Pickens, Diontae Johnson, Najee Harris, Jaylen Warren, and Pat Freiermuth, among others, and Cousins could indeed unlock their potential.

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Spears continued, “An explosive offense with Mike Tomlin is a Super Bowl contender, I guarantee it. And what other further proof do we need? Here’s the thing when it comes to Mike Tomlin, alright? We just came off a conversation talking about being prepared. That Pittsburgh Steelers team had no business being in the playoffs this year. Zero, okay?”

Meanwhile, Cousins was on pace last year to dime 5,000 passing yards, 38 touchdown passes, and 11 interceptions before an Achilles rupture prematurely ended his season in Week 8. That production hasn’t graced Steelers’ box scores since Ben Roethlisberger.

“They got two phenomenal edge rushers. They got a really good safety on the back end. Everything else on this team was patchwork. He [Tomlin] had to fire his offensive coordinator in the middle of the season, and they managed to get this team where they needed to be. He played with Kenny Pickett and Mason Rudolph as his quarterbacks. And Mitch Trubisky. That’s all he’s missing,” Spears added in January.

Kirk Cousins Curse
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The Steelers’ offense ranked 15th leaguewide in 2023 per offense DVOA with Pickett, Rudolph, and Mitchell Trubisky at quarterback. Cousins, in theory, could nudge that mark closer to the Top 10.

If Pittsburgh doesn’t come to fruition as a Cousins dark horse, and the Vikings don’t re-sign him, the Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots also make sense as free-agent suitors.

Cousins will turn 36 in August.

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,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by OverTheCap.com.