Latest On Vikings, QB Kirk Cousins

The Vikings’ latest negotiations with Kirk Cousins are coming down to the wire. The team’s exclusive negotiating rights with the veteran passer expire March 11, with March 13 serving as a more significant date due to dead money. Communication continues.

Kevin O’Connell indicated during an interview with KFAN radio (via the New York Post’s Ryan Dunleavy) he has spoken with Cousins several times this offseason, with the underlying theme of those talks being the team’s interest in reaching another deal with its six-year starter. The team continues to search for a middle ground with the third-longest-tenured starting quarterback in franchise history.

We have our interests; he has his, get to the table and see if we can figure out a creative solution of how to meet in the middle,” third-year Vikings GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah said, via Dunleavy. “What we do know is we have a really good quarterback, great leader and somebody we think we can win the ultimate prize with.”

Cousins, 35, has only appeared in the divisional round once during his years in Minnesota and Washington. What his resume lacks in postseason success it compensates for (and then some) in earnings. Last season pushed Cousins past $231MM for his career. Being close to testing the market again, the proven starter seems a lock to move past $300MM in the near future. Will it be with the Vikings?

If Minnesota cannot re-sign Cousins by the start of the 2024 league year (3pm CT March 13), the team will eat $28.5MM in dead money. That would not prevent a Cousins re-signing, though a deal after that date would cut into the team’s ability to build a roster around its longtime QB. The legal tampering period, which begins at 11am CT on March 11, could serve as the key window here. Cousins will be allowed to shop his services to interested buyers, while the Vikings still have a bit of breathing room until the QB’s void years hit their 2024 cap.

Guarantees figure to be at the heart of Adofo-Mensah’s middle-ground comment. The Vikings were uncomfortable with guarantees going into Year 3 on a Cousins extension last year, leading to talks breaking down and only a restructure coming to pass. A year later, guarantees are again an issue. Minnesota famously guaranteed Cousins’ first contract (three years, $84MM), putting the team on its heels against the leverage maestro in the years that followed. Cousins signed extensions in 2020 (two years, $66MM) and 2022 (one year, $35MM). Neither of the latter two deals was fully guaranteed, but even coming off an Achilles tear ahead of an age-36 season, Cousins will be in good shape due to his consistency, a few teams’ QB needs and the salary cap spiking to $255.4MM.

The Falcons, Broncos and Raiders figure to join the Vikes as interested parties. Though, Cousins has said on several occasions he wants to stay in Minnesota. Denver, which bowed out of a Cousins pursuit six years ago (leading to a Case Keenum signing), is about to take on a record-smashing dead-money sum ($85MM over two years, via a post-June 1 cut) after separating from Russell Wilson. That will obviously hinder a Cousins pursuit. Atlanta may be the clubhouse leader in Justin Fields connections, while Las Vegas has been more closely tied to rookie passers thus far.

As the Vikings pledge to retain Justin Jefferson, the All-Pro wide receiver is understandably interested in knowing if Cousins will be throwing him passes in 2024. That answer will come soon. If Cousins departs, the Vikings — who hold the No. 11 overall pick — will need to scramble to make another QB plan.

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