Will Kirk Cousins Sign Discounted Contract to Stay with Justin Jefferson?

NFL: Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

There’s no avoiding it anymore. The Minnesota Vikings cannot afford Kirk Cousins, at market value, beyond the 2023 season (which starts on Sunday vs the Tampa Bay Buccaneers). It’s time we accept that salary cap reality. That way, we can attack the financial roster problems the Vikings are up against head-on.

The Vikings could have the best contract/cap guru in the NFL — which they might, in Executive Vice President of Football Operations, Rob Brzezinski — and it won’t make much of a difference. This team is going to go through cap hell over the next few years and a top-10 QB salary will not feasibly fit in the fiery picture.

Vikings Show Hand on Future Roster Priorities

By not extending Kirk Cousins’ contract, when they had the chance early this offseason, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah tipped his hand on what players will be made priority going forward, as he and Rob try to navigate what those at TCO Performance Center have termed, “a competitive rebuild”.

My information is that the Vikings like Cousins but think that if they tried to sign him to a deal this offseason, it would have complicated getting the Jefferson deal done, and would have required them to pay Cousins more than the Giants paid Daniel Jones, who received a four-year deal valued at $160 million.

Jim Souhan – Star Tribune

Last week, when Kwesi made TJ Hockenson the highest-paid tight end (kind of) in the league, he completely showed his hand. The Vikings are already committed to (RT) Brian O’Neill and now have big money set aside for TJ. Don’t forget about Justin Jefferson, either, who is still expected to sign a new record-breaking contract sooner, rather than later.

Those three deals, alone, are expected to account for over $50 million in cap space, by the 2025 season. Piling another $40-$50 million on top for Kirk Cousins would put approximately 1/3 of Minnesota’s expected $298 million salary cap on FOUR offensive players. That’s before you even touch on a likely (LT) Christian Darrisaw extension or upcoming free agent negotiations with Danielle Hunter, Marcus Davenport, Byron Murphy Jr and Ezra Cleveland.

Here is a list of notable players who are due for free agency (or expected) to sign extensions (Darrisaw) in the next two years:

PosPlayerAgeFree Agent
QBKirk Cousins352024
EDGEDanielle Hunter 282024
DLMarcus Davenport262024
OLEzra Cleveland252024
WRKJ Osborn262024
WRJustin Jefferson242025
CBByron Murphy Jr252025
DLHarrison Phillips272025
SCam Bynum252025
CGarrett Bradbury282025
LTChristian Darrisaw242026

Where are the Minnesota Vikings without Kirk Cousins

But here’s the thing. Without Kirk Cousins as their QB1, the short-term future of the Minnesota Vikings looks like a trainwreck. It’s highly unlikely the team bottoms out in 2023-24, meaning no chance at any of the top QBs in next year’s draft. And, as we know all too well, good quarterbacks cost way too much money IF they ever make it to free agency.

So, if we need Kirk Cousins on the team but can’t afford to pay him market value, is it possible he would take a discount contract to remain a Viking. Well, Kirk has built a reputation as one of the most business-savvy quarterbacks in NFL history, so at first glance, the answer is a resounding, “no.

But if you take a step back, it may be more likely than you’d think. Kirk Cousins will turn 36 years old during next season. While his advanced age wouldn’t stop him from making huge bucks on the open free agency market, it would give Cousins and the Vikings an excuse to apply/accept a senior discount on his next contract.

When asked why he would choose less money to stay with the Vikings vs cashing in with another team, an answer similar to, ‘My family is comfortable here and I want to play my career out as a Viking,’ would have Minnesota sports fans eating out of Kirk’s hand for the next few years, until he decided to hang up his cleats.

The Justin Jefferson Effect

Staying with what’s comfortable, however, only applies so much pull when making decisions. The biggest factor, in getting Cousins to take a below-market value deal to stay in Minnesota, is his WR1, Justin Jefferson.

If Cousins leaves Minnesota, not only will he have to uproot his entire family and enroll his kids into new schools, but he would also play the rest of his career on a team that does not employ the best wide receiver in the NFL, the type of superstar talent that only comes around every decade or so.

They don’t think Cousins is worth $45 or $50 million a year, and they think that if Cousins is facing free agency next season as he’s approaching his 36th birthday, he may find it preferable to do a reasonable deal with the Vikings and stay on the same team with Jefferson and with a coaching staff that knows him.

Jim Souhan – Star Tribune

Throwing to JJ for the rest of his late 30’s, with Kevin O’Connell calling and designing plays, would guarantee Kirk Cousins a spot atop the Vikings all time passing leaders, right next to Sir Francis Tarkenton. A handful of playoff victories might even place him #1 atop the franchise’s 10 best QB’s of all-time list.

What does Kirk Cousins want his NFL legacy to be about?

If you’re Kirk Cousins, and you’ve already made over $200 million in salary, alone, it makes sense that you’d want to finish your career with the Minnesota Vikings. You are comfortable, your family is comfortable, you’re playing for one of the best offensive minds in the NFL and you’re throwing to the best wide receiver in the league.

But is that enough to keep you here, especially if it means missing out on another $30-$50 million in career earnings, over the next few seasons? Only Kirk and Julie Cousins can answer that question. But it has to be in the back of their minds, as he enters the final year of his deal with the Vikings.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan

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