Kirk Cousins

Latest On Vikings, Kirk Cousins

Today marks the opening of the franchise tag window, but Kirk Cousins‘ contract is not set to expire until after the deadline for teams to apply the tag. He is therefore on track for free agency unless another Vikings agreement can be worked out.

Cousins looms as one of the key figures in the 2024 free agent class as the most accomplished passer set to reach the open market. A new Minnesota deal could be forthcoming, as a mutual interest exists for a contract to be hammered out. However, SI’s Albert Breer notes the current Vikings regime is not prepared to guarantee Cousins’ next deal in full as its previous one was.

That serves as confirmation of a report from last month which detailed the four-time Pro Bowler’s efforts to receive guaranteed compensation through 2025 during summer extension talks. Minnesota – led in the front office by general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah for the past two years – authorized a three-year, $84MM deal in 2018 under Rick Spielman as well as a $66MM extension followed by last year’s restructured pact. The latter agreement set up the team’s current situation, one which will dictate the rest of Minnesota’s offseason and represent a major domino in free agency around the league.

Both Cousins and the Vikings have expressed a desire to continue their six-year relationship on a new deal. Efforts to negotiate one will likely depend in large part on the guarantee figure, as a short-term arrangement should be expected. Cousins is entering his age-36 season and is rehabbing an Achilles tear. That injury put an stop to a promising 2023 campaign, where the former fourth-rounder posted the third highest passer rating (103.8) of his career.

The Vikings do not have an heir apparent under center, and the team has financial considerations such as a new Danielle Hunter contract and a Justin Jefferson mega-extension to take into account if free agency is used to find a Cousins replacement. Breer does add that the sides have spoken recently, and an open line of communication obviously offers the potential of a deal being struck before the new league year begins on March 13.

With the potential exception of Baker Mayfield, Cousins should be able to land the NFL’s largest QB deal amongst veterans this offseason. Minnesota will remain a team to watch closely as talks continue, but it will be interesting to see how strong of a market emerges if financial terms remain a sticking point. The upper limit of Cousins’ guarantee ask will be a key storyline in the coming weeks.

Latest On Danielle Hunter’s Impending Free Agency

The Vikings have a few pressing needs to focus on before they shift their attention to Danielle Hunter. Unfortunately for the organization, it doesn’t sound like the veteran pass rusher will be easy to retain. According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, the impending free agent is expected to have “a very strong market” this offseason.

With the Vikings eyeing an uphill battle following Kirk Cousins‘ season-ending injury, there were reports that the team took calls on Hunter leading up to the deadline. The organization rejected those inquiries, but Fowler notes that plenty of teams expressed interest, and those teams will surely be in the hunt again with Hunter hitting free agency.

Fowler throws out a handful of potential suitors. The Bears could look to pair a veteran opposite Montez Sweat, and the Jaguars could also be in the market (although they first have to figure out Josh Allen‘s future with the organization).

The Vikings will also make a push to keep their star defensive lineman. However, ESPN’s Dan Graziano notes that a new Hunter deal isn’t atop the front office’s list of priorities. Rather, the organization is naturally navigating Cousins’ impending free agency and their questionable future at the quarterback position. The organization can obviously juggle multiple negotiations at once, but the team would probably like some clarity on their QB salaries before committing big money elsewhere.

Hunter maxed out his incentive package this season, collecting an extra $3MM by reaching the 14-sack plateau. These bonuses were part of a recent restructure that saw the 29-year-old earn $17MM in guaranteed money this past season. More notably, that restructuring also prevents the Vikings from slapping Hunter with the franchise tag, meaning the nine-year veteran will be free to test the market.

The Vikings will also have to weight Hunter’s next contract with his impending dead cap charge. If Hunter ends up leaving Minnesota, the Vikings will be left with a $14.9MM dead-money charge. That isn’t a drop in the pan, and the Vikings front office may decide they’re willing to commit the extra money instead of being left with a hole on their depth chart and on their cap sheet.

The former third-round pick had one of the strongest seasons of his career in 2023. He finished this past season with a career-high 16.5 sacks and a league-leading 23 tackles for loss. Pro Football Focus graded Hunter 28th among 112 qualifying edge defenders, including a top-20 pass-rush grade.

Kirk Cousins Sought Guarantees Into 2025 During Latest Vikings Talks

Since his franchise tag saga began during the 2010s, Kirk Cousins has been one of the NFL’s financial kingpins. The veteran quarterback’s fully guaranteed $84MM Vikings deal in 2018 remains a landmark NFL accord. He signed two more Vikings contracts, running his career earnings total past $230MM, but is now less than two months from free agency.

Cousins and the Vikings’ most recent negotiations failed, however, leading the 12-year veteran to play out the extension he agreed to in 2022. Minnesota restructured Cousins’ contract last March, adding void years to set up a showdown before the start of the 2024 league year.

Having obviously done extraordinarily well with guarantees since his first Washington tag (2016), Cousins sought multiple additional years of locked-in money during his latest Vikes talks. During the 2023 negotiations, the Pro Bowl passer wanted guarantees through the 2025 season, Ben Goessling of the Minneapolis Star Tribune notes. The Vikings, meanwhile, were only willing to offer guaranteed money into 2024. This led to the sides breaking off talks and the restructure coming to pass.

Teams often bend for quarterbacks, and Cousins almost definitely did not ask for fully guaranteed money through 2025. Given his age and performance level, that would have been a non-starter for the Vikings. But it is notable the team did not want to be tied to any Cousins guarantees beyond his age-36 season. The Vikings now must consider paying for that age-36 season; Cousins will turn 36 in August. Both team and player have said they want to complete another contract, and the Vikings face a time crunch now.

Minnesota must re-sign Cousins before the 2024 league year begins on March 13. Otherwise, $28.5MM in dead money would accelerate onto the team’s 2024 cap sheet. A new deal would still bring some dead cap for the Vikings in 2024, per Goessling, but it would be $10.5MM rather than the concerning total that would come about if no deal was agreed upon. The legal tampering period begins March 11, giving Cousins two days to officially explore non-Minnesota options. Though, the Combine regularly gives free agents an idea of their value ahead of the tampering period.

Cousins’ Achilles tear — his first major injury as a pro — will factor into his latest Minnesota negotiations. The Vikings will not having a clear QB answer if they cannot re-up Cousins would play into the financially savvy passer’s hands, but it is unlikely the organization bends on a three-year guarantee following this Achilles malady. It will be interesting to see if the Vikings want to extend this partnership through 2025. Though, that would probably be necessary, seeing as Cousins’ two Washington franchise tags make him an unrealistic tag candidate. Minnesota resides in the strange position of being unable to tag either of its top two free agents-to-be, with Danielle Hunter‘s reworked contract including a no-tag clause for 2024.

Cousins’ affinity for the Twin Cities notwithstanding, he sounds open to exploring the market. Bill Belichick is the favorite to be named the next Falcons HC, and Cousins would be interested in playing for the legendary HC. Regardless of who their next coach is, the Falcons are looking to upgrade on Desmond Ridder.

I’m not going to turn down an opportunity to play with a future Hall of Fame coach, but we’ll have to see where March leads,” Cousins said, via Isabel Gonzalez of CBS Sports. “It’s just a lot of unknowns right now.”

Cousins has not hit free agency since 2018. He is believed to be ahead of schedule during Achilles rehab and said he wants to extend his career into at least his late 30s. The October injury may affect his market, but with Baker Mayfield stationed as the only other free agent passer who could command a higher-end starter salary, Cousins would attract attention if he truly tested the market.

Vikings Intend To Bring Back QB Kirk Cousins

Now that their season has come to an end, the Vikings can really buckle down on extension negotiations with veteran quarterback Kirk Cousins. These aren’t new conversations, as general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah made his team’s intentions known back in November, after the 35-year-old passer tore his Achilles tendon, taking him out for the year. At the time, Cousins, too, reiterated his desire to stay in Minnesota, but now that it’s time to start negotiating, the structure of the deal will apparently be an important focus moving forward, per ESPN’s Kevin Seifert.

While some may look at Cousin’s age and question why the Vikings would want to commit to someone in their late 30s, Cousins was playing some of the best football of his career before his injury. He was averaging 291.4 passing yards per game and led the NFL in both passing yards and touchdowns when he got hurt. Through eight games, Cousins was on pace to set a number of career-highs, if he kept pace. Pair that with the blossoming of rookie wide receiver Jordan Addison as a strong WR2 to pair with star Justin Jefferson and K.J. Osborn, and the prospects for Minnesota’s season could’ve projected fairly high.

Even before the injury, things were trending in the direction of Cousins remaining in Minnesota. After a 1-4 start to the season, some thought that Cousins would become a popular trade target, with some quarterback hungry teams, like the Jets, reaching out to inquire about him. Despite the early-season struggles, the Vikings made it clear that Cousins was not available.

With that being determined, though, Minnesota is now on the clock to hash out a new deal with Cousins before the start of the 2024 league year on March 14. If the Vikings are unable to extend Cousins by then, they will be forced to confront $28.5MM in dead money, a consequence of the void-year money used to spread out the cost of his current contract over time.

Even though both sides seem amenable to a deal, the structure concern is not a small one. Cousins has become the posterchild for paradigm contracts with fully guaranteed money. Interestingly, though, Cousins told reporters that “the dollars are really not what it’s about.” His focus on structure is reportedly everything else determined in the deal. While he’ll seemingly still want a respectable number sent his way, Cousins claims that he’ll be looking at the other parts of the deal (length, incentives, bonuses, etc.) more.

Currently, Cousins ranks 15th among active quarterbacks in average annual contract value with $35MM per year. It’s really hard to determine what kind of new extension offers will be floated his way based on the above information. For once in his career, though, it seems like Cousins may be accepting non-guaranteed money in a new contract.

NFC North Notes: Bears, CJGJ, Vikings

The last time an NFL team used a franchise tag on a cornerback, the Bears were planning a Jay Cutler-to-Mike Glennon QB transition. Occurring back in 2017, Rams’ second Trumaine Johnson tag remains the most recent instance of a team tagging a corner. Mentioned as a possibility here when the Bears let Jaylon Johnson seek a trade, the contract-year defender being tagged adds up now that Montez Sweat is locked down via an extension. The Chicago Tribune’s Brad Biggs views it as likely the Bears tag Johnson to give them more time to work out an extension.

Receiving his first Pro Bowl invite this week, Johnson has put together a quality contract season — one he acknowledges has made him more money on his second contract. Johnson said in June he wanted that second accord to be with the Bears and reiterated that stance last month. Although the prospect of reaching free agency would understandably appeal to the former second-round pick, the Bears — the most recent team to use any tag on a cornerback, transition-tagging Kyle Fuller in 2018 — can keep Johnson in the fold via a one-year rental or attempt to hammer out an extension by the July deadline. The cornerback tag is expected to cost just more than $18MM.

Here is the latest from the NFC North:

  • The Bears’ plan to move Cody Whitehair back to center did not take off. Snapping issues plagued the veteran, while Pro Football Focus rates 2022 free agency pickup Lucas Patrick 31st among centers this season. Chicago is expected to pursue a center upgrade this year, Biggs notes, with The Athletic’s Kevin Fishbain also predicting the team will aim to stabilize this spot (subscription required). Whitehair, 30, profiles as a cut candidate; he is due a nonguaranteed $10.15MM base salary in his 2024 contract year. Patrick has one game left on a two-year, $8MM deal. The Bears have some wiggle room here, with three starting O-linemen — Braxton Jones, Teven Jenkins, Darnell Wright — on rookie contracts. A handful of teams re-signed centers in 2023, but four-year starters Tyler Biadasz (Cowboys) and Lloyd Cushenberry (Broncos) are two months from free agency. Three-year Raiders center Andre James is as well.
  • C.J. Gardner-Johnson‘s return from a torn pec will give the Lions an unexpected boost for their playoff journey. It also could disrupt the team’s secondary. Ifeatu Melifonwu has been effective since usurping Tracy Walker as a starter alongside Kerby Joseph. The Lions initially stationed Gardner-Johnson in the slot, where he previously played under ex-Saints DBs coach Aaron Glenn, but the Lions DC moved him back to safety to accommodate rookie Brian Branch. Glenn said (via the Detroit Free Press’ Dave Birkett) the team is still determining its DB plan but confirmed Branch will remain the team’s slot corner. A safety rotation, then, seems likely to commence. Designated for return from IR last week, Gardner-Johnson is expected to return in Week 18.
  • Danielle Hunter maxed out his incentive package this season, with the Minneapolis Star Tribune’s Ben Goessling noting the contract-year Vikings defender collected $3MM by reaching the 14-sack plateau. Positioning himself to do well as a first-time free agent, Hunter has registered a career-high 15.5 sacks. On what could be his final Vikings restructure, the 29-year-old edge rusher received $17MM guaranteed and added $3MM in incentives this season. This latest reworking prevents Hunter from being tagged this year, and the Vikings would be hit with a $14.9MM dead-money charge if they cannot re-sign their top sack artist the 2024 league year.
  • In the strange position of seeing both its top free agents-to-be — Hunter and Kirk Cousins — not profile as tag candidates (due to Cousins having already been tagged twice by Washington), Minnesota has big decisions to make soon. Cousins is at least ahead of schedule on his Achilles rehab odyssey, Goessling adds. Cousins, 35, should be expected back for training camp at the latest and has expressed continued interest in another Vikings contract. If the Vikings cannot re-sign Cousins by March 13 — the last day of the 2023 league year — they will face a $28.5MM dead-money total due to the void years in the leverage maven’s contract.

Kirk Cousins Reiterates Desire For New Vikings Contract

Kirk CousinsAchilles tear brought an abrupt end to his 2023 season, and accelerated questions about his post-2023 future. The pending free agent recently spoke about his upcoming rehab and his plans to continue playing in 2024 and beyond.

“You have a lot of thoughts go through your head, and one of them was: ‘Is this the last time I play football?” the veteran quarterback said, via ESPN’s Kevin Seifert“Now a couple weeks removed I can say, ‘No, it’s not going to be.’ I’m excited to write the next chapter and see what God wants to do with it.”

Cousins’ injury will no doubt play a role in determining his free agent value this offseason. The 35-year-old had posted strong numbers (103.8 passer rating, 18:5 touchdown-to-interception ratio) prior to being sidelined, on the other hand, so another short-term deal could be beneficial for an interested team. It remains to be seen if Minnesota will commit to a third Cousins pact, but that option remains on the table as it did before the season.

Likewise, the Michigan State product confirmed in his remarks that he wishes to continue his Vikings tenure. His six-year stint with the franchise has seen him earn three of his four career Pro Bowl nods and help lead the team to the playoffs on two occasions. No long-term successor appears to be in place at the moment, and Minnesota raised eyebrows by adding only Jaren Hall at the 2023 draft. For the time being, trade acquisition Josh Dobbs has helped keep the team’s postseason hopes alive by filling in for an injured Hall and winning his first two Vikings appearances.

Given that current run of success, Cousins added that he is keeping his attention focused on the present situation rather than his contract status. It was learned well before this year’s training camp that talks on a new agreement would be put on hold until after the 2023 campaign. Cousins’ season has already come to an end, but his future will remain a key storyline for the Vikings in the coming months.

With respect to his rehab, the former fourth-rounder noted that the particulars of his Achilles tear were such that the ‘speed bridge’ procedure Aaron Rodgers underwent was not applicable. He added, however, that he would have elected for the traditional procedure in any case knowing he would not have been able to return at any point this season. While he continues with his recovery process, it will be interesting to see if the mutual interest in exploring a deal shared by both team and player in this case will produce another agreement.

Vikings Remain Interested In Retaining Kirk Cousins Beyond 2023

The Vikings’ season took a major, unwanted turn when Kirk Cousins suffered a torn Achilles in Week 8. That injury will shut him down for the rest of the season, the final one on his current contract.

Cousins’ future has been in the air since the start of the campaign, with it becoming clear talks on a new deal would likely not take place until after the season. Given Sunday’s development, that will surely be the case as the Vikings turn their attention to rookie Jaren Hall and trade acquisition Josh Dobbs under center to close out the campaign. Cousins’ injury is not expected to change the organization’s stance on his Minnesota tenure, however.

“Like I said when we broke off talks the first time, every option was still available to Kirk,” general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah said, via ESPN’s Kevin Seifert“And coming back was one of the really good options we had… All options are [as] open as they were before the injury.”

Both Cousins and the Vikings have expressed a desire to continue their six-year relationship, so it comes as little surprise that both Adofo-Mensah and head coach Kevin O’Connell quickly stated their continued commitment to at least seriously exploring another new contract. The former noted that Cousins’ skillset as a pocket passer could limit the impact of a major injury like an Achilles tear. Plus, as Ian Rapoport of observes, Cousins’ surgery was conducted by Vikings team doctor Chris Coetzee, so Minnesota will have something of an inside scoop when deciding whether to pursue a new contract prior to the opening of free agency. Rapoport confirms that a Cousins re-up is indeed on the table, with Dianna Russini of The Athletic (subscription required) adding that many in the building want Cousins back.

Adofo-Mensah added that talks with Cousins, 35, on his recovery plan have led to the “hope” he will be healthy in time for OTAs this spring. By that point, Minnesota will have needed to reach agreement on a new contract – a Cousins franchise tag would be worth an untenable $52.2MM – or found a replacement at the QB spot. Cousins’ performance in 2023 drew rave reviews from inside and outside the organization, giving the Vikings confidence in their decision not to sell off multiple players during this week’s trade deadline.

With the commitment to a ‘competitive rebuild’ thus still intact, it will be interesting to see how the upcoming Cousins negotiations shape up. His market for outside teams will no doubt take a hit given his injury, but it is clear the door is still open to another, presumably, short-term, Vikings arrangement.

Minor NFL Transactions: 10/31/23

Here are the NFL’s minor moves for today:

Atlanta Falcons

  • Signed off Bears’ practice squad: DT Travis Bell
  • Placed on IR: DT Grady Jarrett (story)

Chicago Bears

Detroit Lions

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Kansas City Chiefs

Los Angeles Chargers

Minnesota Vikings

New England Patriots

New York Giants

New York Jets

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Kareem, who was just activated off of injured reserve, is being waived to make room for defensive end Montez Sweat, acquired by trade this morning. The Bears also announced a practice squad release, indicating a possible return for Kareem on that unit. The Colts are expected to do the same with Boettger.

O’Connor will lose his active roster spot to make room for quarterback John Wolford, whom Tampa Bay officially promoted today in order to ward off interest parties such as the Rams and Vikings, both of whom are experiencing injury issues at quarterback.

Vikings’ Kirk Cousins Suffers Torn Achilles

OCTOBER 30: Further testing has confirmed Cousins’ Achilles tear, Rapoport notes. He will miss the remainder of the campaign ahead of an uncertain offseason regarding his future. Rapoport’s colleague Tom Pelissero adds that a schedule with respect to surgery and a recovery timeline will come together later this week. The team has since confirmed the unwanted news.

OCTOBER 29: Kirk Cousins has never missed a game due to injury in six years with the Vikings. That streak will likely come to an end soon. The 12th-year quarterback left the Vikes’ Week 8 win over the Packers with what the team fears is an Achilles injury, per Kevin O’Connell.

The contract-year QB will undergo an MRI on what’s Ian Rapoport confirms is an Achilles injury, but’s Adam Schefter confirms the worst fears. Cousins indeed tore his Achilles, according to Schefter. O’Connell used past tense at points when describing Cousins’ 2023 season, though the second-year HC did not pinpoint the severity of the malady.

This being confirmed would deal a crushing blow to the Vikings, who have rallied back from 0-3 to 4-4 via their road win today. The team has only needed to play without Cousins once since signing him in 2018, with Sean Mannion starting late in the 2021 season due to the starter contracting COVID-19.

Fifth-round rookie Jaren Hall replaced Cousins in Green Bay, but O’Connell did not confirm the BYU product would start if Cousins is indeed out of the mix,’s Kevin Seifert notes. The Vikings reacquired Mannion earlier this month, adding the ex-Cousins backup to their practice squad. Nick Mullens will be considered for the role, but the team’s Week 1 backup is not eligible to play in Week 9. Minnesota placed Mullins on IR due to a back injury; he must miss two more games.

Cousins’ good injury fortune dates back to his Washington days. Since replacing Robert Griffin III for good, Cousins has never missed a game due to injury. This comes at an inopportune time for the player as well. Cousins and the Vikings have agreed on three contracts since 2018, but the team let its longtime QB1 go into a contract year this season. The sides agreed on a restructure in March. Cousins, 35, does not expect to revisit negotiations until 2024.

The Vikings are attempting to become the sixth team to book a playoff berth in a non-strike season after starting 0-3. Only one club — the 2018 Texans — have done this in the 21st century. Naturally, with the NFL expanding its playoff bracket to 14 teams in 2021, more teams are bound to join this club. Minnesota seemed poised to make a strong push, as only two games against a team with a winning record — both Lions matchups — remain on the defending NFC champions’ schedule. But Justin Jefferson missing more time — potentially being out longer than the four-game minimum — and Cousins being likely out for the rest of the season will suddenly make a postseason voyage unlikely.

When Cousins went down, he was in the process of leading Minnesota to a second straight win without Jefferson. Cousins completed 23 of 31 passes for 274 yards and two touchdowns. The steady QB sits tied with Tua Tagovailoa for the NFL lead with 18 TD passes this season. Cousins entered Sunday on pace for a career-high mark; his current best came in 2020. But the Vikings will be set to regroup, with Jefferson being forced to miss two more games due to his IR placement.

Mullens is in his second season with the Vikings, who signed him just before the 2022 campaign. Of the internal replacement options, Mullens is the most experienced QB on Minnesota’s roster, having started 17 games (16 of those in San Francisco). Mullens is a career 65.3% passer, whose TD-INT ratio sits at 27-22. While Kyle Shanahan‘s system undoubtedly aided the former UDFA, Mullens would seemingly be the team’s best option. But it is unknown if his back injury will cooperate in the near future. Mannion has been in the NFL since 2015 but has made three starts.

This could be the injury that prompts a Carson Wentz discussion. The Jets passed on pursuing the 30-year-old free agent when Aaron Rodgers went down in Week 1, but given the midseason emergency circumstances, it would stand to reason the Vikings would consider a one-time MVP candidate who has 92 starts on his resume. The Commanders released Wentz in March; the former No. 2 overall pick has not been closely connected to a team since. Colt McCoy auditioned for the Vikings earlier this month, but the team brought back Mannion soon after.

Latest On Justin Jefferson, Kirk Cousins; Vikings Audition Colt McCoy

OCTOBER 15: In a full-length piece, Schefter reiterates his earlier point that Jefferson could miss the rest of the season if the Vikings are out of contention by the time he is healthy enough to return to the field. From a purely medical perspective, Jefferson stands to miss up to six weeks, and he will undergo imaging tests in four weeks’ time to determine his status.

OCTOBER 12: After going three-plus seasons without missing a game, Justin Jefferson is set to miss at least four. After a hamstring injury in Week 5, the Vikings placed the superstar wide receiver on IR. A few factors could determine Jefferson’s true return timetable.

The Vikings do not expect this injury to require more than the four-week minimum, per’s Ian Rapoport; that would give Jefferson a Week 11 reentrance stage. Kevin O’Connell said (via the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Ben Goessling) the team does not view this as a season-ending injury, though the second-year HC labeled it “significant” in nature. While hamstring injuries present potential for aggravation, they are rarely deemed as season-threatening maladies — at least, not at this point on the calendar. That said, both Keenan Allen and Darren Waller missed large chunks of last season due to hamstring ailments.

[RELATED: Jets Not Looking Into Trading For Cousins]

Jefferson’s summer contract talks may also play into this. After an early-summer report indicated the Vikings were fine tabling these negotiations to 2024, the team attempted a late push to extend the record-setting pass catcher before Week 1. These talks went up against the season opener but did not produce a deal. Despite T.J. Hockenson signing a monster tight end extension, the Vikings have their best player in Year 4 of a rookie contract. Although no team has picked up a wide receiver’s fifth-year option and extended him with two years of control remaining, the Vikings appeared close to breaking this precedent with Jefferson.

The team not doing so opens the door to the wideout playing this cautiously and, as’s Adam Schefter noted, the Vikes’ record by the time Jefferson is moving closer to a return could factor into these proceedings. After turning a negative point differential into a 13-4 season, the Vikings are 1-4 and potentially staring at some decisions before the trade deadline. The team already cut ties with a few veterans this offseason — Dalvin Cook, Adam Thielen, Eric Kendricks, Za’Darius Smith — and has other names to monitor ahead of the deadline. Danielle Hunter is in a contract year, and Harrison Smith took a pay cut this offseason. Both Pro Bowlers would appeal to other teams, should the Vikings become serious about selling.

Regarding Jefferson’s contract situation, it is unlikely his value would diminish if he aggravated this short-term injury by coming back too soon. The 2020 first-rounder will enter the offseason in position to command an extension that separates him from his peers, presenting the Vikings with a potentially challenging negotiation. Jefferson’s stats will obviously take a hit this year, but a secure long-term outlook will allow him to take his time in recovering, especially if the team remains under .500 when he is due back.

Kirk Cousins could theoretically join Smith and Hunter as a high-profile trade chip, being unsigned beyond this season and agreeing to an offseason restructure that dropped his 2023 base salary to $10MM. But the sixth-year Vikings starter holds a no-trade clause. He has indicated several times he would prefer to stay in Minnesota and did not address the topic (via ESPN’s Kevin Seifert) when asked if he would waive his clause to be moved this season.

The Vikings cannot realistically tag Cousins in 2024, due to the two Washington tags that led him to the Twin Cities in 2018, giving the team an interesting scenario with its longtime starter. Cousins, 35, can set himself up for yet another payday by playing well this season. With the QB not expecting to discuss another contract until after the season, the Vikes will soon find themselves in a time crunch. Jefferson’s absence stands to impact this, however, and it will be interesting to see if Cousins adjusts his stance if the Vikes continue to stumble.

Cousins reaching the market would put him in position for a fourth lucrative contract, and’s Dan Graziano notes an AFC exec mentioned Derek Carr‘s $37.5MM-per-year Saints deal as a good comp for Cousins. Then again, Cousins has posted better numbers than Carr and has navigated the financial landscape about as well as anyone in NFL history. But the ex-fourth-rounder will be going into his age-36 season in 2024, limiting his value to some degree. This process will put the Vikings to a decision, as Cousins’ abilities may lead to the team winning enough games to move out of realistic range to nab a replacement near the top of the draft.

The Vikings used a fifth-round pick on Jaren Hall in April; as of now, the BYU product is Cousins’ backup. Nick Mullens moved to IR on Wednesday, and ex-Cousins backup Sean Mannion returned to the practice squad. Prior to reacquiring Mannion, the Vikings worked out Colt McCoy,’s Howard Balzer tweets. McCoy, 37, has been a free agent since the Cardinals released him just before the season. While he was connected to both the Patriots and Jets recently, the journeyman backup is still unattached.