Will Vikings New Braintrust Extend or Trade Kirk Cousins?

Photo: Brace Hemmelgarn – USA TODAY Sports

Now that the Minnesota Vikings have their unofficial head coach, in Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell, it’s finally time to… wait some more. That’s right, lay your hands palm-side down on a chair and have a seat. Because until the Super Bowl commences at the end of next weekend and Monday (Feb. 14) rises in its shadow, all will be quiet at TCO Performance Center in Eagan, MN. For now, our future HC is still the current OC in Los Angeles.

Kirk Cousins Decision Looms

But in-between secretly building his Vikings coaching staff and preparing the Rams offense for a world championship game, you can guarantee there is still room in Kevin O’Connell’s big brain to think about Kirk Cousins and their possible future together. Just in case you haven’t heard, Kirk is due $45 million (21.4%) of the Vikings’ $210 million salary cap in 2022-23, the final year of his current contract.

According to Darren Wolfson (KSTP – CH. 5), there are only two options for Kirk’s cap balloon. The Vikings can (a) extend him, thus drastically reducing his cap hit for 2022 and extending the Kirk Cousins era in Minnesota through (probably) the 2024 season. Or (b) they can trade him, which is the outcome Doogie expects. His colleagues at Ch. 5, Joe Schmit and Chris Long, think the new head coach and GM will opt for an extension. This clip is perfect because it’s a snapshot of the exact conversation happening in Vikings fan circles everywhere.

But unlike Joe, Darren, Chris or any of us, Kevin O’Connell actually has a say in Kirk Cousins’ future. And it’d be naïve to think he and the Vikings head coach search committee didn’t already jump deeply into the subject during both of his interviews during the last two weeks.

Kevin O’Connell + Kirk Cousins

Because Kevin O’Connell can’t be introduced as head coach until after the Super Bowl, media cannot ask him about his thoughts on Kirk Cousins. So until then, we’ll be stuck trying to piece things together ourselves, which has never steered us wrong in the past.

Kevin was Kirk’s QB coach when they were together in Washington during the 2017 season. Other than that, we know very little about their relationship or how O’Connell feels about the quarterback he’ll adopt less than two weeks from now.

One thing was made clear this week, however. Former Washington quarterback and football lifer, Joe Theismann — who has a relationship with Kevin O’Connell — believes Kirk Cousins will stay in Minnesota. He did interviews with both Chris Tomasson (Pioneer Press) and Wolfson (KSTP) this week, preaching exactly that. For what it’s worth, Theismann may or may not have broken the new Washington football team nickname (Commanders) days before it was announced.

Kirk Cousins Option (c)…

The more you search for what the Minnesota Vikings and their new head coach or general manager might think about Kirk Cousins, the more divide you’ll find. Kirk’s become the most polarizing QB in this town since Brett Favre fizzled out of mind during that 2010 season he never wanted to be a part of.

But there could be an option (c) to Kirk’s future in Minnesota. That’s right, it’s possible the Vikings could have their Kirk Cousins cake in 2022 and not have to eat his ridiculous $45 million cap hit too. They could sign Cousins to the aforementioned extension from option (a) before free agency hits, run things back again next season and then re-evaluate the situation yet again next offseason with a trade option still knowingly on the table.

Of course, both sides would have to be ready and willing to operate under option (c) during the upcoming season and that’s where talks could trip up. Cousins could decide enough is enough and force the Vikings into an immediate decision. But the intrigue of working with an offensive minded head coach like Kevin O’Connell could make him think about it.

If Adofo-Mensah, Rob Brzezinski and Kevin O’Connell can find a way to option (c), it would give Kirk Cousins one more opportunity to prove he can lead a talented offense when fully supported by a head coach who appreciates the modern pass-first NFL.

As Kevin Garnett once said, “anything is possible”.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan