The Minnesota Vikings converted Kirk Cousins’ roster bonus into a signing bonus in March as a salary-clearing maneuver, and by doing so, they pushed cap hits through 2027 and created a $28 million cap hit in 2024. Cousins’ future with the team is unclear beyond 2023. However, despite the pessimistic narratives surrounding the quarterback conversation, the Vikings have multiple options.
Cousins is looking for stability and consistency to end his career. He’s played well enough to earn a multi-year extension and is reportedly willing to take a below-market rate to stay in Minnesota.
The length of the contract was the sticking point in negotiations. Cousins wanted guarantees through the 2025 season, and management is unwilling to commit to the veteran quarterback for that long. If Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Kevin O’Connell prefer not to utilize use resources and position players to move up for a franchise quarterback, the team could turn to a bridge player to span the gap.
Players like Tyrod Taylor, Matt Ryan, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Alex Smith have served as average to above-average starters who teams have used to fill just such a role. Teams have then used extra cap space to acquire free agents while preparing to make a move for their quarterback of the future.
The bridge quarterback option provides the ability to fill roster holes with extra salary cap while not immediately mortgaging future assets to move up in the draft for a quarterback.
If the Vikings opt for the priciest route, they have the resources necessary for a trade up. Cousins will turn 37 before the 2025 season. While there is increased precedent for 35-plus-year-old quarterbacks performing at a high level, the team has shown interest in acquiring a younger, talented quarterback on a rookie deal.
Reports from NFL insiders like Tom Pelissero and Ian Rapaport revealed that the Vikings had an aggressive mindset in last year’s draft. Therefore, it’s not far-fetched to think that Minnesota could look to maneuver for prospects like Caleb Williams, the presumptive first-overall pick in 2024, or his closest challenger, Drake Maye.
All withstanding, the Vikings still have the ability to extend Cousins. While it may be the least exciting option, he may be the best choice for the team to remain competitive.
Cousins can perform as a top-10 QB and is notoriously consistent. Cousins has only had one season where he threw for fewer than 4,000 yards, and it was in the lowest pass-volume offense of his career under defensive-minded head coach Mike Zimmer, and Cousins attempted only 444 throws, a stark contrast from the 500-plus he is accustomed to.
He averages 25-plus passing touchdowns a year. In four out of the last five years, Cousins also has ranked top-10 in completion percentage. While he’s always been an above-standard passer, Cousins has also shown growth in his ability to maneuever the pocket, decision-making, and rushing ability.
He has shown no reason to believe he will not continue to be the hyperefficient quarterback. He performs incredibly well within Kevin O’Connell’s scheme, works on schedule, and is able to deliver throws into tight windows and expertly place deep balls.
Quarterbacks have experienced longevity in a league ever-changing in pursuit of player safety. Combined with Cousins’ essentially nonexistent injury history, it is not improbable that he plays into his 40s. If the team believes they can retool at a quick enough pace, Cousins provides a safe option with the upside of a potential Super Bowl-caliber quarterback.
Given the uncertainty of the competitive nature of the team, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has done a fantastic job of avoiding locking the Vikings into an unalterable course. He’s provided himself and Kevin O’Connell the freedom to choose whatever option best suits the team.