Vikings HC Suddenly Changes Tune about Kirk Cousins’ Future

Kirk Cousins
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The quarterback decision will shape the offseason of the Minnesota Vikings and, with that, the franchise’s future. Keeping Kirk Cousins is expensive but ensures solid QB play (until he encounters his inevitable but unpredictable age-related decline), whereas coming off an injury at age 35 makes that move riskier than it was in the past. Selecting his successor in the draft, of course, also comes with a risk, as draft prospects regularly flame out.

Vikings HC Suddenly Changes Tune about Kirk Cousins’ Future

Vikings HC Suddenly Changes Tune About Kirk Cousins' Future
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

It is on general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah to decide which risk he will take. In addition to that, it should be noted that the four-time Pro Bowler can opt out and head in a different direction by signing with another once the new league year arrives on March 13. He will be an unrestricted free agent, and the Vikings cannot use the franchise tag.

Head coach Kevin O’Connell and Adofo-Mensah have always praised Cousins whenever speaking to the media, emphasizing how much they would love for him to return.

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Showcasing an optimistic approach surely was their goal, but on Saturday, when O’Connell appeared on NFL Network’s coverage from the scouting combine, his tune changed, and he suddenly didn’t sound quite as optimistic.

The combine just gave everybody else an opportunity, whether they are supposed to be or not, to maybe have conversations. I know (Cousins), where he’s at in this whole process. He’s earned the right to be a free agent and he’s played really good football. I know (Cousins is) going to go through a full process. He’s a process guy. And hopefully, we continue to be a strong part in that process and we figure out a way to keep him a Minnesota Viking, but my expectation is we’re not going to be the only ones that would like Kirk Cousins to be the quarterback of our team in 2024.

Kevin O’Connell

That’s a significant change from his nonchalant statements that said, “We’re going to find a way to work things out with him.”

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The veteran will enter free agency, and some QB-needy teams might not want to take another risk in the draft after failing to find a capable player for some time. Raheem Morris’ Falcons, Mike Tomlin’s Steelers, and Sean Payton’s Broncos could play a serious role in the playoff picture with a significant upgrade at the most crucial position. The Patriots and Commanders are within reach to get one of the highly-touted passers in April’s draft, but signing the veteran and trading the pick for a haul can’t be ruled out.

According to The Athletic’s Dianna Russini, the Falcons are the team to watch in the Cousins sweepstakes: “Over the next month, I’m keeping an eye on the Falcons. They believe Cousins is the type of player who moves them from a fringe playoff team to a contender. New Atlanta head coach Raheem Morris and offensive coordinator Zac Robinson both have familiarity with Cousins. Knowing this could be a seamless transition for Cousins and the talented young group of players across their roster, I expect the Falcons to compete for the rights to his contract. It makes all the sense in the world.”

For the Vikings, the alternatives on the free agency market are underwhelming, with guys like Sam Darnold, Russell Wilson (who is expected to be released), and Jimmy Garappolo. Trading for Justin Fields seems unlikely because the Vikings share a division with the Bears, although that hasn’t bothered Adofo-Mensah in the past.

Mock Draft Reveals Splashy
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In the draft, Minnesota holds the 11th overall pick, too low to get the hands on one of the elite passers, and even the consensus QB4 J.J. McCarthy (Michigan) has generated top-ten buzz. Putting all chips in the middle and facilitating a costly trade for Drake Maye (North Carolina) or Jayden Daniels (LSU) is possible, but the Patriots or Commanders must be willing to trade down for it to become a reality.

At this point, Cousins’ future is still undecided, and Minnesota’s approach to finding his successor is just as unclear.

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