Insider Buzz: Kirk Cousins’ Price Up to $45M/YR; Vikings Want Russell Wilson?

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears
Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

So far this offseason (which hasn’t technically started yet), the belief around insider circles has been that Minnesota Vikings quarterback and 35-year-old pending unrestricted free agent, Kirk Cousins, wants to stay in the Twin Cities. That, unlike contract negotiations in his past, Kirk would be more flexible, in certain areas, this time around.

Minnesota Vikings hoping Kirk Cousins offers them a discount

Those plugged into the situation were being told that Kirk was willing to settle for a yearly salary much closer to $30 million per season, as long as he got two fully-guaranteed years, rather than look elsewhere for something closer to the $50 million per season, which is much closer to what his market value would be in free agency.

Related: Kirk Cousins’ Achilles Recovery is Ahead of Schedule

Skeptics out there have questioned from the beginning whether or not the most business-savvy quarterback in NFL history would really take a discount to stay in purple. But then again, he’s a soon-to-be 36-year-old father of two young children, both of which have lived in Eagan, MN for their entire lives.

The rough estimates going around, on what Kirk might be willing to accept in his new deal, were two fully guaranteed years, at ~$35 million per season. Enough to make his agent and the NFLPA happy, but still a $10-$15 million discount off market value (AAV) for the Vikings.

As long as general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah offered enough term and security to make him comfortable, it was believed the Minnesota Vikings and Kirk Cousins would work out the numbers in a way that could benefit everyone.

Cousins price tag up to $45 million per year?

Kirk Cousins: San Francisco 49ers at Minnesota Vikings
Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

But in his Sunday morning column, longtime newspaper insider in St. Paul (and former Minnesota Twins pitcher) Charley ‘Shooter’ Walters (Pioneer Press) says that’s no longer the case. According to Shooter, Kirk Cousins is now asking for 2 years, $45 million per, something neither Walters, nor I, can see the Vikings agreeing to. If Purdy struggles today in the NFC Championship, Charley believes the Niners could jump into the bidding war for Kirk too (Update: Brock Purdy and the Niners are playing in the Super Bowl two Sundays from now).

The buzz now is that it will take $90 million guaranteed for two years, despite that he’s still not yet fully recovered from Achilles surgery in November, to sign free agent QB Kirk Cousins. If that’s the case, he certainly won’t get that from the Vikings.

Meanwhile, if Brock Purdy falters Sunday against the Lions, Cousins’ admirer with the 49ers, coach Kyle Shanahan, could push for him.

Charley Walters – Pioneer Press

Related: Vikings Can Sign Cousins, Jefferson and Hunter with Room to Spare

Charley has earned his trust as a local insider many times over, but he’s had a miss or two lately and I hope he’s missed again here. Otherwise, I’m very concerned about where this organization goes next. Moving off of an elite QB in his mid-30’s is risky no matter what, but doing it without a succession plan in place takes that risk to dangerously high level.

Vikings turning focus to Russell Wilson…?

Russell Wilson: Los Angeles Chargers at Denver Broncos
Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Shooter has a fix, he thinks. Russell Wilson. Now, Charley is very careful to word the Russell Wilson portion of his column in a different way than he did Cousins. Instead of reporting it as steam, he lays it out as his own education reasoning, based on what he believes the Vikings would want if they move on from Kirk, which is a serviceable bridge QB who can still feed the many hungry mouths of Justin Jefferson, TJ Hockenson and Jordan Addison.

It’s not far-fetched that the Vikings would consider, for financial reasons, Russell Wilson as their bridge QB next season if they draft a QB with their No. 11 pick in April. The Broncos are expected to cut Wilson, 35, who if he’s on the roster next March, his 2025 salary of $37 million becomes guaranteed. His $37 million deal for next season already is guaranteed by Denver.

But if the Vikings are interested in Wilson, his 2024 contract has a salary off-set, meaning he would cost only the NFL veteran minimum of $1.2 million with incentives. The Broncos would owe the rest. Bottom line: The Vikings can either pay Cousins $45 million next season or Wilson $1.2 million.

Charley Walters – Pioneer Press

Related: 3 Teams Have Better Projected Odds to Land Kirk Cousins Than Vikings

I will pushback a bit on that last sentence. The Vikings will pay a $28.5 million dead cap hit for Kirk Cousins next season, if he is not on roster after March 13. So while Russell Wilson would technically only cost $1.2 million, the salary cap would reflect $29.7 million being paid to the QB1 slot in 2024.

Still, Walters’ point stands. I have a feeling Minnesota’s front office would feel a lot more comfortable paying $30 million for their QB1 and focusing in on who they will draft come April as their quarterback of the future, than they would be paying Kirk Cousins $45 million per season, guaranteed for two years.

Only time will tell us what happens this offseason

Cousins has made ~$250 million in his career and that number will continue to go up, long after his NFL career is over. Of course, the values in these contracts come down to a lot more than what’s best for Kirk, his family and the Vikings.

The players union and player agents are always major voices in these negotiations too. If Cousins takes less money than what he is worth, that hurts every single QB in the league. In other words, what the large discounts Tom Brady used to give the Patriots are very much frowned upon, in league circles.

When you’re the GOAT, you do what you want. Kirk could too, but there’s a lot of pressure for the best players at each position to get as much as they can, and for good reason. It sets the bar higher for everybody else.

Nonetheless, I still thought Cousins’ drive to stick around Minnesota would be strong enough to offer a Brady-type discount to the Vikings. But money talks, so I’m not going to act like this news is shocking, should it wind up true.

Related: 3 Reasons Why Re-signing Kirk Cousins is Obvious Move for Vikings

There’s no doubt that, should Kirk finish his NFL career in Minnesota, he’d surely be a transplant resident for the foreseeable future, following retirement. Between appearances or TV day jobs, I can absolutely see Cousins busting into the head coach’s office at TCO Performance Center on random mid-season mornings a decade from now.

Freshest white New Balances on his feet, cup of coffee in one hand and newspaper in the other (yes theys still exist 20 years from now and Kirk still buys them), champing at the bit to discuss how top Star Tribune columnist, Ben Goessling, is trying to get him fired again.

But, I could see him taking $50 million per year somewhere else too.

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