It’s Time to Talk About Another Kirk Cousins Extension

PHOTO: ELIZABETH FLORES – STAR TRIBUNE

The 3-3 Minnesota Vikings have been a confusing football team to follow this season. At the center of the confusion is head coach, Mike Zimmer, who’s done just enough to keep his job through 6 weeks. And if there’s one player Zim has to thank for his continued employment, it’s his quarterback, Kirk Cousins.

The controversial QB has been consistently great all season, making many forget about his huge contract. Speaking of Kirk Cousins and contracts, it’s probably about time we think about extending our franchise quarterback.

As his contract stands right now, Kirk’s cap hit is set to increase from $31 million in 2021 to $45 million in 2022 (his last season). That’ll move Cousins from “worth it” to “holy shit”. Spending $45 million of your cap on one player, no matter how important, is a difficult pill to swallow.

That’s why the Vikings are likely to extend him, lowering that 2021 cap hit and making him a Viking for the foreseeable future. Either that or they’ll get rid of him, which feels much less likely, given how well he’s played through six games.

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Why an extension is a good idea

Extending Kirk Cousins would give Minnesota stability at the most important position in modern day football. As of now, he’s a top 8-12 quarterback, but his stock is rising fast. At this point in his career, Cousins has proven himself as a playoff QB who can excel behind a good offensive line. Even Kirk’s “clutch gene” or “it” factor, which most have seen as non-existent throughout his career, suddenly feels like a strength.

So far this season (6 games), Cousins has thrown for 1,769 yards with 13 touchdowns, just 2 interceptions and has a 69.5% completion rate. That puts him on pace to throw for 5,012 yard and 37 touchdowns in 17 games. Both of those numbers would be career highs, thanks to some help from the additional game.

The Vikings QB is having a career year, at the best possible time. It only makes sense, on both sides, for the Vikings to reward Kirk with a new contract before his 2022 cap hit kicks in. Committing that much money to one player makes winning more difficult. Extending Cousins could drop his hit from $45 million to $30-ish million, a difference of $10 to $15 million in additional cap space to improve the team.

Or… the Vikings can trade him

Any downside to extending Kirk Cousins would depend on your opinion of #8. Many fans out there doubt Cousins’ ability to carry the Vikings to a Super Bowl, no matter how well or how clutch he’s been playing in 2021. Instead, they see Kirk’s improved play as an opportunity to sell high on the 33-year-old QB.

Cousins’ contract makes him impossible to cut because his money is fully-guaranteed. But, the Vikings could trade him and pay only a $10 million cap penalty. Given his current stock, which is continually rising, Rick Spielman might have multiple interested parties. If Kirk’s incredible play were to continue, slick Rick would be looking at nice haul in return.

Risky Business

Moving on from Cousins would be risky but it would also shower the Vikings in available cap space. With the $30+ million they would save by moving on from Kirk, the Spielman could shop around and fill just about every hole on his 2022 roster. Except at quarterback, which I’ve heard is an important position.

But if Rick could find a competent QB in the draft or in free agency, the Vikings could put the rest of their roster on steroids. If it weren’t to work out, the Vikings would quickly fall into the NFL basement.

Making Kirk Cousins the quarterback of their future (again) would give the Minnesota Vikings a chance at playoff contention for the next few years. I’m expecting that’s the route Rick Spielman travels, especially if Kirk continues picking defenses apart.

Cooper Carlson | Minnesota Sports Fan