Extending Kirk Cousins Makes Most Sense For Vikings

Photo: Brad Rempel - USA TODAY Sports

Have you spent the last 6 months searching for ways to relieve the Minnesota Vikings of Kirk Cousins’ bloated contract? We have. Unfortunately, this song and dance always lands you back in the same spot.

Because Kirk’s contract for 2022 guarantees next month (March 19, 2021), the Vikings need to decide on his future now. Letting 2021 play out first, isn’t an option.

Kirk’s March 19 Payday

The Vikings extended Cousins last offseason, in a deal that was clearly primed to be re-worked again between the 2020 and 2021 seasons. Kirk is now due $31 million against the salary cap in 2021, currently good for 6th-most among NFL QB’s.

In 2022, that number will balloon to $45 million, which would make him the highest QB cap hit in the league (by far). His closest competitor would be Matt Ryan’s $41.6 million. Again, if nothing changes by March 19, next year’s $45M becomes guaranteed (see below under “contract details”).

Trading Kirk isn’t a good option, either.

The Vikings need to win in 2021. Jobs are literally on the line. Because of that, nobody at TCO Performance Center wants to downgrade at the sport’s most important position, no matter how much future cap relief it might bring.

A downgrade would be the most likely scenario should Spielman decide to move on from #8. Maybe Rick would shock the world with a Deshaun Watson mega-deal… but that’s highly unlikely. In case we’ve forgotten, good quarterbacks don’t grow on trees.

Kirk Cousins’ biggest problem isn’t his play or his demeanor. It’s his price tag, especially with a shrink-wrapped salary cap in 2021 and (likely) 2022. This is a team that has an abundance of holes to fill but no money to do it.

It’s a more desperate scenario than what they saw last offseason when they re-did Kirk’s deal to save $10 million. Mike Zimmer and the Vikings’ organization fully expected to make the playoffs in 2020, making another Kirk extension an easy sell for this offseason. Instead, they got off to a 1-5 start putting Rick, Mike and Kirk all on hot seats.

Contract Negotiations

When Cousins signed his massive deal with the Minnesota Vikings before the 2018 season, he was maximizing his worth. Good for him. But, this isn’t 2018 anymore and Kirk isn’t a $45 million quarterback at age 34.

With that March 19 deadline just over a month away, I’d be shocked if the Minnesota Vikings and Kirk Cousins aren’t already discussing a contract extension that would make him the QB here through 2022 and likely 2023.

If I’m Kirk, however, my aim in these negotiations would be much different than what they have been in the past. Instead of aiming for top dollar and impossible future cap hits, I’d work for that extra year of guarantees (2023) while surrendering my choke hold on my team’s salary cap.

After March 19, the Vikings will owe Kirk $76 million in guaranteed money. Reworking his deal and wrapping some of that $76M into a signing bonus seems likely (like you’re seeing elsewhere).

I am throwing spaghetti at the wall but something like $25 million (2021), $30 million (2022), $35 million (2023) with a tradeable out if both sides agree to part ways, would seem reasonable and wouldn’t look that much different from what they re-wrote last year around this time (without the massive balloon payment on the end).

I’ll probably end up way off on my numbers but something has to give with the Vikings current cap situation and the massive balloon payment built into Kirk’s contract for 2022. It only makes sense that they fix one with the other.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan

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