The 2021 Kirk Cousins Trade Window

Photo: Brace Hemmelgarn - USA TODAY Sports

We’re (pretty much) in the NFL offseason at this point so draft and trade rumors are naturally flying high already. Let’s be honest, we’re heading into the most hopeful time of year for many franchises, the Minnesota Vikings included this offseason.

But Rick Spielman and the Vikings helped prove last offseason that the right trade can change everything about your franchise. Yes, trading for Stefon Diggs changed everything about what the Buffalo Bills were and he vaulted them into the position they sit in now.

For the Minnesota Vikings this year, it’s about climbing back into the deep playoff conversation in the NFC. But in order to do that, many fans and voices around the NFL believe this organization will have to move on from its QB, Kirk Cousins.

Goodbye Kirk?

This blog isn’t an opinion piece on Kirk Cousins. I have plenty of those, if you want to read them. Frankly, I don’t see Cousins being dealt this offseason. It would be a franchise altering move that the Vikings have shown absolutely zero interest in making.

But hell, maybe a Kirk trade is more plausible than I give credit for. Mike Florio, of, certainly seems to think so. (What a great quote find by SKOR North.)

Florio is a Vikings fan and knows a lot more about the NFL than I do. Plus, if there’s one team that would make a deal for Kirk Cousins, it’d be the San Francisco 49ers. Kyle Shanahan loves Cousins and has pretty much gone on the record with that sentiment multiple times. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time those two have been linked.

How and when would it happen?

For the sake of this exercise, let’s assume the Vikings want to trade Kirk Cousins or an offer has hit their phone that they cannot turn down. If that were the case, both sides would prefer the trade to happen sooner, rather than later.

Unfortunately, nothing can be finalized until the start of the 2021 league year, March 17. That doesn’t mean trades won’t be consummated. Teams will still tentatively make deals and those tentative trades will be reported to us.. but nothing gets put on legal paper until March 17.


The hard(ish) deadline for trading Kirk Cousins is June 1. If Spielman deals Kirk before then, his dead cap hit for 2021 is $20 million, saving the Vikings $11 million of his $31 million salary.

Kirk’s 2022 salary becomes fully guaranteed on March 20 (3rd day of league year) so it’s quite possible that a deal would be agreed to before the start of the league year, on March 17, and then completed in that 3-day window between 3/17-3/20, as to avoid that trigger pre-trade.

June 1 is the “hard deadline” to complete a deal involving Cousins because his dead cap hit soars to $45 million on that day (which would cost them an additional $14 million in 2021 and another $10 million in dead cap for 2022).

Kirk Cousins Dead Cap if Traded (League Year starts March 17)
Trade YearDead Cap
Pre June 1
SavingsDead Cap
After June 1
2021$20 Million$11M$45 Million-$14M
2022—–—-$10 Million-$10M
Total$20 Million$11M$55 Million-$24M
**2022 Salary is guaranteed on March 20 –

Insiders around town would tell you that the Minnesota Vikings trading Kirk Cousins is a long shot, but that doesn’t make it impossible. If Spielman does shock the Minnesota Sports world, it would be made official sometime between March 17 and June 1.

We’d likely hear about it before then, however.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan

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