Kirk Cousins

Largest 2022 Cap Hits: Offense

After the COVID-19 pandemic led to the second reduction in NFL salary cap history last year, the 2022 cap made a record jump. This year’s salary ceiling ($208.2MM) checks in $25.7MM north of the 2021 figure.

While quarterbacks’ salaries will continue to lead the way, a handful of blockers and skill-position players carry sizable cap numbers for 2022. A few of the quarterbacks that lead the way this year may not be tied to those numbers once the regular season begins. The 49ers, Browns and Ravens have made efforts to alter these figures via trades or extensions.

Here are the top 2022 salary cap hits on the offensive side of the ball:

  1. Ryan Tannehill, QB (Titans): $38.6MM
  2. Patrick Mahomes, QB (Chiefs): $35.79MM
  3. Kirk Cousins, QB (Vikings): $31.42MM
  4. Jared Goff, QB (Lions): $31.15MM
  5. Aaron Rodgers, QB (Packers): $28.53MM
  6. Carson Wentz, QB (Commanders): $28.29MM
  7. Jimmy Garoppolo, QB (49ers): $26.95MM
  8. Russell Wilson, QB (Broncos): $24MM
  9. Lamar Jackson, QB (Ravens): $23.02MM
  10. Kenny Golladay, WR (Giants): $21.2MM
  11. Garett Bolles, T (Broncos): $21MM
  12. Dak Prescott, QB (Cowboys): $19.73MM
  13. Derek Carr, QB (Raiders): $19.38MM
  14. D.J. Humphries, T (Cardinals): $19.33MM
  15. Keenan Allen, WR (Chargers): $19.2MM
  16. Taylor Decker, T (Lions): $18.9MM
  17. Sam Darnold, QB (Panthers): 18.89MM
  18. Baker Mayfield, QB (Browns): $18.89MM
  19. Matt Ryan, QB (Colts): $18.7MM
  20. Ronnie Stanley, T (Ravens): $18.55MM
  21. Donovan Smith, T (Buccaneers): $18.4MM
  22. Ezekiel Elliott, RB (Cowboys): $18.22MM
  23. DeAndre Hopkins, WR (Cardinals): $17.95MM
  24. Cooper Kupp, WR (Rams): $17.8MM
  25. Laremy Tunsil, T (Texans): $17.71MM
  • The Chiefs’ cap sheet looks a bit different this year, with Tyreek Hill and Tyrann Mathieu off the roster. But Mahomes’ cap number rockets from $7.4MM in 2021 to the league’s second-largest figure in 2022. This marks the first time Mahomes’ 10-year contract is set to count more than $10MM toward Kansas City’s cap, with the AFC West champs not yet restructuring the deal this year.
  • Tied to a few lucrative extensions since relocating to Minnesota, Cousins’ third Vikings deal dropped his cap number from $45MM. The fifth-year Vikings QB’s cap number is set to climb past $36MM in 2023.
  • Prior to negotiating his landmark extension in March, Rodgers was set to count more than $46MM on the Packers’ payroll.
  • The 49ers are aiming to move Garoppolo’s nonguaranteed money off their payroll. That figure becomes guaranteed in Week 1, providing a key date for the franchise. San Francisco is prepared to let Garoppolo negotiate contract adjustments with other teams to facilitate a trade.
  • Wilson counts $26MM on the Seahawks’ 2022 payroll, due to the dead money the NFC West franchise incurred by trading its 10-year starter in March.
  • Jackson, Darnold and Mayfield are attached to fifth-year option salaries. Jackson’s is higher due to the former MVP having made two Pro Bowls compared to his 2018 first-round peers’ zero. The 2020 CBA separated fifth-year option values by playing time and accomplishments. The Browns and Panthers have engaged in off-and-on negotiations on divvying up Mayfield’s salary for months, while a Jackson extension remains on the radar.
  • Golladay’s cap number jumped from $4.47MM last year to the highest non-quarterback figure among offensive players. The Giants wideout’s four-year deal calls for $21MM-plus cap hits from 2023-24.
  • Prior to being traded to the Colts, who adjusted their new starter’s contract, Ryan was set to carry an NFL-record $48MM cap hit this year. The Falcons are carrying a league-record $40.5MM dead-money charge after dealing their 14-year starter.
  • The Texans restructured Tunsil’s deal in March, dropping his 2022 cap hit from $26.6MM to its present figure. Because of the adjustment, Tunsil’s 2023 cap number resides at $35.2MM

Contract information courtesy of Over The Cap 

NFC North Notes: Vikings Front Office Hire, Hundley, Jones, Alexander

New Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah made a noteworthy addition to his staff earlier this week. The team announced the hiring of Demitrius Washington as their new vice president of football operations.

Washington had spent seven years with the 49ers, a stretch which overlapped with Adofo-Mensah’s time in that organization. For the past two seasons, Washington served as San Francisco’s director of research and development, the same title Adofo-Mensah held with the Browns prior to his hire. The pair will now reunite and, along with new head coach Kevin O’Connell, oversee the franchise’s transition from the previous Rick Spielman-Mike Zimmer regime.

Here are some other notes from around the NFC North, starting with one more from Minnesota:

  • The Vikings brought in veteran backup quarterback Brett Hundley as a tryout during rookie minicamp, but they made it clear they would not be signing him, as noted by Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press. The 28-year-old hasn’t made a regular season appearance since 2019, most recently spending time with the Colts. Minnesota’s QB room currently consists of Kirk Cousins, Kellen Mond, Sean Mannion and Nate Stanley.
  • The Bears used one of their 11 picks in last month’s draft to add to its receiving corps, selecting Velus Jones in the third round. The team is high on his speed and versatility, leading to the new coaching staff having “big plans” for the 25-year-old. “Let’s start out at receiver and then let’s see what he can do, moving him around to different spots and getting him the ball, because he is an explosive athlete” head coach Matt Eberflus said, via ESPN’s Courtney Cronin. After transferring from USC to Tennessee, Jones produced both on offense and special teams, recording 807 receiving yards and leading the SEC in both punt and kick return yardage in 2021.
  • An interesting note came out in the aftermath of Jaire Alexander‘s record-breaking extension with the Packers. USA Today’s Josina Anderson reports (on Twitter) that the Pro Bowler specifically wanted a four-year (rather than five-year) deal. He got just that, helping him to break the record briefly held by Denzel Ward for the highest annual average amongst cornerbacks at $21MM per season, and keeping him under contract through 2026.

NFC Notes: Packers, Cousins, Seahawks, Kaepernick

Following the mass exodus of the Packers’ staff this offseason, longtime NFL quarterbacks coach Tom Clements received a phone call from his old player, quarterback Aaron Rodgers, as reported by Ryan Wood of Packers News.

Rodgers had just watched the dissolution of the Packers’ 2021 coaching staff. Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett departed to Denver for a head coaching position. Passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach Luke Getsy took an offensive coordinator job for the rival Bears.

Clements was enjoying retirement, looking forward to heading into Year 2 of armchair quarterbacking like the rest of us. Clements claimed he “didn’t have the itch to come back,” but after conversations with Rodgers and Packers head coach Matt LeFleur, Clements found himself back in the NFL, returning to his longest tenured home from his first stint in coaching.

Here are a few other notes from around the NFC, starting with another note from the North:

  • Following a shiny new deal from the Vikings, quarterback Kirk Cousins appears content to finish his NFL career in Minnesota, according to The Athletic’s Chad Graff. Cousins certainly didn’t need an early extension. He set an example years ago for how a player can bet on himself, becoming the first quarterback in NFL history to be franchise-tagged in consecutive years then signing the league’s first ever (and highest at the time) fully-guaranteed contract. Despite this history, Cousins agreed to a deal that freed up some cap space for Minnesota. When asked why he agreed to this deal, Cousins simply stated, “The short answer is: I want to be a Minnesota Viking.”
  • Jason La Canfora wrote a piece Friday asserting his belief that two quarterbacks will go in the Top 10 picks of the 2022 NFL Draft, notably that he expects Atlanta and Carolina to select one of Liberty’s Malik Willis or Pitt’s Kenny Pickett. If either NFC South franchise ends up addressing another position, though, La Canfora expects Seattle to fulfill his prediction with the No. 9 overall pick. Should neither quarterback be available to the Seahawks, several executives believe that Seattle would trade back, allowing teams who are hungry to select a specific prospect to relinquish some of their draft capital while keeping alive the Seahawks ability to draft a value-player without reaching.
  • Should Seattle not find a quarterback in the Draft, one option they’ve kicked the tires on is former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick hasn’t played since January of 2017, but has stayed in shape amidst lawsuits and accusations against the NFL that settled in 2019. A connection was reported with the Seahawks in March after some comments from head coach Pete Carroll. Carroll gave an update, as reported by USA Today’s Scooby Axson, saying that, while not much has progressed in terms of a contract, Carroll notices the work Kaepernick has put in and admires the 34-year-old’s desire to compete. No deal seems imminent, but Kaepernick remains a possibility should Seattle strike out in the Draft later this month.

Vikings Extend QB Kirk Cousins Through 2023

New Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell wanted a chance to build an offense around quarterback Kirk Cousins. Well, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network, he will get his chance as the Vikings will sign Cousins to a one-year, $35MM extension that will keep him in Minnesota through the 2023 NFL season. 

The Vikings reportedly had been receiving calls on Cousins, but the new coaching staff and general manager are declaring their commitment to the veteran quarterback and gaining some much needed cap space in the process.

Cousins’ scheduled cap hit for 2022 was set to be the largest in NFL history at $45MM. The extension reduces his 2022 cap number to $31.42MM, granting Minnesota a little over $13.5MM in cap space. In addition, Cousins will see a raise, making $40MM this season and $30MM in 2023. The deal includes phantom, voidable years in 2024 & 2025 that allow them to reduce the cap hits in ’22 and ’23.

Say what you will about Cousins pay and performance, but after receiving two consecutive franchise tags in Washington, a three-year fully-guaranteed contract to join the Vikings, and two fully-guaranteed extensions to stay in Minnesota, Cousins has secured eight-straight seasons of guaranteed contracts.

There are expectations for Cousins to thrive under O’Connell. With offensive weapons like running backs Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison, wide receivers Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, and K.J. Osborn, and tight end Irv Smith Jr. all returning, the familiarity of personnel should make up for the new playbook. The bookends of the offensive line seem set with Christian Darrisaw showing promise after a delayed debut and Brian O’Neill making the Pro Bowl last year. There are some questions to be answered on the interior of the line, but the pieces, for the most part, are there.

The onus will now be on the coaching staff and front office to make offseason improvements to a defense that struggled mightily last year. The Vikings defense allowed the third-most yards in the league and the ninth-most points. If the new leaders in Minnesota can turn around that unit, look for Minnesota to make a play for a playoff spot and potentially even challenge the perennial NFC North power from Green Bay for the division.

Colts Interested in Marcus Mariota, Kirk Cousins?

We have not heard much about free agent quarterback Marcus Mariota this offseason, save for some speculation based more on perceived fit than anything else. Now, however, we have something more concrete.

Dan Graziano of ESPN.com (subscription required) writes that Mariota is generating the most buzz as the Colts’ next QB now that Indianapolis has traded Carson Wentz to the Commanders. Mariota, the No. 2 overall pick of the Titans in the 2015 draft, showed some promise during his five years in Tennessee, including a 2016 campaign in which he threw for 26 TDs against nine interceptions and rushed for 349 yards and a pair of scores. But Ryan Tannehill supplanted Mariota as the Titans’ starter midway through the 2019 season, and Mariota has spent the last two years with the Raiders as Derek Carr‘s backup.

He garnered some trade interest last offseason, and it appears as if the structure of his Las Vegas contract was the only real obstacle to a deal. Quarterback-needy teams likely view him as at least a capable bridge starter to a younger prospect, and Graziano’s colleague, Jeremy Fowler, reports that Mariota is open to such a scenario.

The Colts have also been connected to the 49ers’ Jimmy Garoppolo and the Eagles’ Gardner Minshew in recent days, though obviously signing Mariota would allow them to acquire a Wentz replacement without sacrificing any draft capital. Interestingly, Graziano also says some in the industry believe Indy could be a landing spot for Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins.

Fowler reports that the Vikings are truly torn on what to do with Cousins. Extending him would mean committing more years and dollars to a player who has only led the team to one playoff berth in four seasons, but retaining him without an extension would mean carrying a $45MM cap charge for 2022, which hinders the rest of the club’s roster-building efforts. On the other hand, trading him leaves first-year HC Kevin O’Connell without a proven QB to work with.

Regardless of what the Vikings decide to do with Cousins, the Colts are clearly a key team to watch in the non-Deshaun Watson sector of the quarterback market.

Panthers “Very Impressed” By Malik Willis, Not Interested In Kirk Cousins

The Panthers came away from last week’s scouting combine “very impressed” by Liberty quarterback Malik Willis, per Cameron Wolfe of the NFL Network (video link). Carolina presently holds the No. 6 overall pick in the 2022 draft, and if the club decides that any member of this year’s much-maligned crop of collegiate signal-callers is worthy of that selection, Willis would seem to be the choice.

Indeed, Albert Breer of SI.com believes that Willis’ combine performance, both on the field and in his interviews, has positioned him as the current favorite to be the first QB off the board. Much will depend on his March 22 pro day, but his athleticism, arm strength, and personality give teams hope that, once he learns the complexities of the professional game, he can become a top-flight starter.

Wolfe’s report surfaced several days before a grand jury decided against indicting Texans QB Deshaun Watson. Even before that development, the Panthers were keen on acquiring Watson, and now that the three-time Pro Bowl has avoided criminal charges, Carolina is stepping up its pursuit.

As expected, however, a number of other clubs are also willing to get in the mix in the wake of the grand jury’s decision, so the Panthers could be facing some stiff competition as they try to bring a decisive end to their search for a long-term answer at quarterback. Houston is courting as many as 10 suitors for Watson, so the trade package required to land him will be significant, and that’s to say nothing of the voice that Watson has in the process thanks to his no-trade clause (though the most recent reports suggest that Watson would now accept a deal to Carolina).

Should the Panthers miss out on Watson, they could decide that Willis is the next best option, either with the No. 6 pick or in a trade-down scenario. Willis could then serve as Sam Darnold‘s backup for a season before taking the reins in 2023, when Darnold’s contract expires.

Although there are other QBs available on the trade market — Jimmy Garoppolo and (perhaps) Kirk Cousins, for instance — Carolina does not appear interested. In fact, Wolfe’s source laughed off a report that the Panthers had called the Vikings to inquire on Cousins’ availability, saying that the team does not view Cousins as a significant upgrade over Darnold or current QB2 P.J. Walker.

Latest On Vikings’ Cap Situation

The Vikings are looking to reset their cap, and their quarterback could end up being a casualty. According to Jason La Canfora (via Twitter), the Vikings are “eager to move big contracts,” and it wouldn’t be a surprise if they end up moving on from Kirk Cousins.

With the Vikings changing regimes, the status of their four-year starting quarterback has understandably come up. Cousins carries the NFL’s third-highest 2022 cap hit at $45MM, and he’s going into a contract year. If the organization is truly looking to reset their books, it’d make sense to move on from the veteran QB. It would help the Vikings a bit if Cousins agreed to another extension, which would allow the team to reduce his 2022 cap hit. However, Cousins’ camp hasn’t been receptive to that idea.

La Canfora also mentions wideout Adam Thielen, linebacker Eric Kendricks, defensive tackle Michael Pierce, and even running back Dalvin Cook as sizable cap hits that the organization could look to move on from. These four players and Cousins represent five of the team’s seven highest cap hits, joining defensive end Danielle Hunter and safety Harrison Smith.

The Vikings entered the offseason with one of the worst cap situations in the NFL, so it’s not surprising that the team is looking to move around some money. Per OverTheCap.com, the Vikings are currently $15MM over the cap, so moves are certainly coming.

Lamar Jackson Holds Power In Negotiations

If you’ve been following the contract negotiation updates between the Ravens and star quarterback Lamar Jackson, you’ve been hearing about a young kid without proper representation lackadaisically going through “unusual” procedures. Well, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, those plugged into the situation believe Jackson is in far more control than has been illustrated

Baltimore has reportedly presented offers to the 25 year-old focusing on term rather than annual average. Even so, long-term in this situation is being defined as five years or more. These long-term offers to Jackson apparently value in the realm of $35MM per year. In either respect, it doesn’t sound like the offers compare to those of fellow star quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes (10-year, $45MM aav) or Josh Allen (6-year, $43.01MM aav). General manager Eric DeCosta has repeatedly stated that, when Jackson wants to talk, he’s ready to work towards a deal.

Casual observers have frequently made comments that it would be much more prudent for Jackson to allow an agent to move forward with negotiations that could land him a deal worthy of his talents while allowing him to focus on his play. Jackson has confidence he can do both, and those casual observers may come to agree if they learn what Jackson is aiming for.

According to La Canfora’s sources, Jackson isn’t looking at Mahomes and Allen when thinking about his options moving forward, Jackson is looking at Vikings’ quarterback Kirk Cousins. Cousins, who is not considered on the same level as Mahomes, Allen, and Jackson, played out his rookie contract, played out two franchise tags, then captured a fully-guaranteed, three-year deal worth $84MM.

If Jackson follows this route, he is set to earn $23.02MM in the 2022 NFL season. This year’s franchise tag value for quarterbacks is set at $28.6MM. It will be adjusted, and likely increased, next year and the year after. Plus, when a player receives a franchise tag for the second year in a row, instead of getting paid the value of the tag, they are paid 120% of its value. So, to illustrate the inherent value there, if the franchise tag numbers were to stay the same over the next two years (they won’t), Jackson’s next three seasons would pay out $23.02MM, $28.6MM, and $34.32MM respectively. Following that, Jackson would be a former-MVP quarterback on the market before he turns 30, an extremely rare commodity.

If Cousins was able to leverage that situation into a three-year, $84MM deal, think what Jackson could earn. Jackson is obviously worth more than Cousins’ $28MM per year and over a short-term deal Jackson could net an even higher average still. Not to mention that every year, the market increases. With gambling money pouring in and record media deals paying dividends, NFL contracts continue to skyrocket. Cousins’ deal was made in 2018. In 2025, a top-tier quarterback may be able to earn up to $50MM per year if contract numbers continue to climb.

Allowing Lamar to carry those cap numbers over the next three years could truly hamper the Ravens’ ability to surround him with talent. The way Jackson sees it, he is betting on himself in the short-term but sees an opportunity to cash in either way. He has placed himself in an enviable position that tells Baltimore they don’t have to pay him what he’s asking for, but, if they don’t, it won’t do their cap space any favors.

Expect for Jackson to continue waiting patiently for a deal he can’t say “no” to. Until then, Jackson will continue to focus on his play. As long as he stays healthy and continues to perform at the level he’s shown he can, Jackson is due for a payday regardless of when a deal gets made.

Denver Emerging As Premier QB Destination

We wrote a bit earlier today on the Broncos being among multiple AFC teams who “have trade compensation lined up with the Packers,” in relation to quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Well, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Denver has emerged as a prime location for many of the league’s veteran quarterbacks looking for a potential change of scenery.

The Broncos recently hired former Packers’ offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett to replace Vic Fangio, who failed to accomplish a winning season in three years with the Broncos. The former Green Bay staffer represents an obvious and strong connection for Rodgers. Should Rodgers decide to move on from the Packers, having a play-caller that he’s familiar with could add some allure to the Mile High City. Another intriguing aspect that could bring a star quarterback to Denver is the addition of former Vikings’ offensive coordinator Klint Kubiak as passing game coordinator/quarterbacks coach. Kubiak just helped Kirk Cousins turn in one of his best seasons in Minnesota.

Hackett and company inherit an impressive roster posed to perform. The defense is comprised of veterans like outside linebacker Bradley Chubb, safety Justin Simmons, defensive end Shelby Harris, and cornerback Ronald Darby. There are a number of free agents that Denver would like to bring back like cornerbacks Bryce Callahan & Kyle Fuller, defensive back Kareem Jackson, inside linebacker Josey Jewell, and outside linebacker Malik Reed. Even if they fail to bring some of those names back, the Broncos saw impressive seasons last year for youngsters like cornerback Patrick Surtain II, linebacker Baron Browning, defensive end Dre’Mont Jones, and safety Caden Sterns. The list of defensive players above may not overwhelm you with stardom, but, together, the Broncos defense ranked third in the league in points allowed and eighth in the league in yards allowed.

In addition to a brand new offense and stacked defense, Denver boasts a nice array of young offensive weapons. An impressive receiving corps is led by veteran 26-year-old Courtland Sutton, young star Jerry Jeudy, and Tim Patrick, who has broken out a bit over the past two seasons. The Broncos also have two talented, young receiving tight ends in Noah Fant and Albert Okwuegbunam. Any quarterback looking to join in on the fun would potentially have the benefit of a two-headed rushing attack that was 79 yards short of a combined 2,000-yard rushing season. Running back Javonte Williams enjoyed a healthy dose of carries in his rookie season, and there is mutual interest in bringing back Melvin Gordon.

Rodgers is obviously a name to keep an eye on as the decision on his future in Green Bay looms on the horizon. He has said that he will let the Packers know of his intentions before the franchise tag deadline so they can figure out how to deal with free agent wide receiver Davante Adams. In addition to Rodgers, though, keep an eye out for Denver to make moves on other quarterbacks searching for greener pastures. Russell Wilson has long been rumored to be interested in moving on from Seattle, and Deshaun Watson is still searching for a new home.

Whether Rodgers, Wilson, Watson, or some other under-the-radar name, look for the Broncos to make a move for a star quarterback. If they are able to find the right fit, the move could bring them into contention for what could easily turn into the toughest division in football.

Vikings’ Kevin O’Connell Expects Kirk Cousins Back In 2022

With the Vikings changing regimes, the status of their four-year starting quarterback has understandably come up. Kirk Cousins carries the NFL’s third-highest 2022 cap hit, at $45MM, and is going into a contract year.

Minnesota attempted to trade up for Justin Fields last year and did select Kellen Mond early in the third round. But Cousins remains in place as the team’s starter. New head coach Kevin O’Connell responded to a Thursday question regarding Cousins’ status by indicating (via the St. Paul Pioneer Press’ Chris Tomasson, on Twitter) the 33-year-old passer is under contract. The former Rams OC followed that token endorsement up by saying he does expect Cousins to be the Vikings’ 2022 starter.

I know he’s under contract, and I’m excited to coach him,” O’Connell said. “We’ve already started thinking about how we’re going to build our system for him. … I’m anticipating Kirk being a part of what we’re going to do.”

[RELATED: Cousins Wants To Finish Career With Vikings]

O’Connell compared Cousins to Matthew Stafford, calling each an “elite thrower,” via Tomasson (on Twitter). Despite entering the league three years after Stafford, Cousins is also going into his age-34 season. Cousins is attached to a fully guaranteed $35MM base salary. It would help the Vikings if Cousins agreed to another extension, which would allow the team to reduce his 2022 cap hit, but ESPN.com’s Courtney Cronin does not get the sense the quarterback’s camp is eager to enter such discussions just yet. The 11th-year quarterback possesses considerable leverage, given his guaranteed salary and Minnesota’s lack of options behind him.

If Cousins plays out his contract ahead of another free agency run in 2023, it would hurt the Vikes’ ability to complement him. A report out of Minnesota over the weekend pointed to this scenario playing out. The team holds the NFL’s fifth-worst cap situation at present, sitting more than $16MM over the projected 2022 salary ceiling. But the former Washington QB has been in one of the most advantageous negotiating positions in NFL history, having arrived in Minnesota on a fully guaranteed three-year deal in 2018.

Teams eyeing Cousins in trades would want the Vikings to eat some of his salary, which would increase trade compensation. For now, Cousins is on track to work with O’Connell again. O’Connell was in place as Washington’s QBs coach in 2017, Cousins’ final season with the NFC East team.