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A mock Vikings-Kirk Cousins extension negotiation

The Vikings have a major decision regarding their quarterback -- what will the discussions look like between the team and Cousins?

If you have been on social media since the end of the Super Bowl, you have probably noticed an abundance of mock drafts flooding the hallways of Twitter, Facebook etc. But the Minnesota Vikings’ most interesting (and future-shaping) decision comes way before the NFL Draft. Within the next few weeks they are tasked with deciding how to handle quarterback Kirk Cousins’s future as he enters the final year of his contract.

How will Cousins and the Vikings approach negotiations? Let’s attempt to put ourselves in their shoes with a mock negotiation between Cousins and the Vikings.

(Please keep in mind that this is only a mock. Neither the Vikings nor Cousins’s representation have publicly said any of the things that are written below).

*All cap numbers via

The Vikings’ opening proposal:

We would like to begin by acknowledging that Kirk Cousins put together an excellent 2022 season in which he led the organization to 13 wins, an NFC North title and another Pro Bowl appearance. It is the team’s desire to extend his contract beyond 2023 and continue to build on the connection forged between Cousins and head coach Kevin O’Connell. It is our belief that with the right roster decisions around him, Cousins can lead us back to the top of the NFC North and deep into the postseason.

With that said, there are some considerations regarding his future that need to be made, including salary cap flexibility in the short and long term, age and the challenges of predicting future performance.

Last offseason a short-term extension created $10 million in cap space that was used to improve other parts of the team. We believe that a similar short-term extension that lowers his 2023 cap hit could help us add players, particularly on the defensive side. We also have projections based on his age and future performance that suggest a long-term deal would carry great risk considering that many comparable quarterbacks have dipped past the age of 35 or even retired.

We also understand that Kirk’s side may see a one-year extension as a lack of buy-in to him as the franchise quarterback. For us, the middle ground is a similar extension to what Derek Carr and the Raiders agreed upon last offseason. Carr received a three-year, $121 million deal with $24.9 million guaranteed. His cap hit for 2022 was $19 million. If we adjust for the current salary cap, our offer is three years, $140 million with $37 million guaranteed.

Cousins’ camp’s opening counter offer:

Thank you for that generous offer. We would like to find middle ground that works for both of us in these negotiations. While Kirk has expressed that he would like to be a Viking for the rest of his career, he also understands the realities of the business of the NFL.

We are going to reject your initial proposal because $37 million guaranteed essentially results in a one-year deal and gives the team more power to decide what happens to him after 2023 rather than Kirk controlling his own future. Carr signed a three-year deal, only to have the Raiders change course and leave him searching for a new team just one year after thinking he would be in Vegas long term. We do not like the idea of that much uncertainty. We would prefer more of a commitment from the Vikings.

Over the last three years, there are only four quarterbacks with a higher QB rating, four with more touchdown passes and five with more wins. Among those ranking similarly in key categories are only players the likes of elite QBs in Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Josh Allen and Joe Burrow.

In the three years (2019-2021) previous to Russell Wilson signing his five-year contract extension worth $245 million, including $165 million guaranteed and $124 million at signing, Wilson ranked fourth in QB rating, fourth in touchdowns and seventh in wins.


Prior to 2022, the team had not won the NFC North with Cousins at QB and missed the playoffs in back-to-back seasons, and those shortcomings were used as evidence that we should sign a short-term extension last year. However, this season under coach O’Connell, the team won on the back of a record-setting eight game-winning drives. His connection with O’Connell was one that he greatly enjoyed and we believe can lead to even more success going forward. Kirk was also praised this year for his leadership in the locker room, as noted in numerous articles and quotes from teammates and coaches.

As far as his age goes, the only games Cousins has missed in five years were in 2019 because the team already reached the playoffs and in 2021 due to illness. He took more hits than any QB last year, giving everything he had to win, and got back up each time. Whatever projections you are using are based on other QBs and their health and performance, not Kirk’s specific situation.

Our counter proposal is the same contract given to a similar QB at a similar age: Matthew Stafford. Last March he signed a four-year, $160 million deal with $120 million guaranteed and $63 million at signing. Stafford’s cap hit was just $13.5 million in 2022 and $20.0 million in 2023 before jumping in 2024. We would accept the same contract and believe it’s a win-win for both sides.


On our end, the trouble with using Wilson and Stafford as comparables is that both players are Super Bowl champions, both appeared to hit a wall last year, and their teams could be in tough for the future because of those deals. To be frank, there is very likely to come a point within the next few seasons where Justin Jefferson has a cap hit that is similar to the top quarterbacks in the league. We simply can’t have Kirk on a deal that would take up 40% of the cap between him and JJ.

Kirk has always thrived on short-term deals. We are appreciative of the fact he wants to be a Viking for the rest of his career but the flexibility of a short-term deal for both the player and the team is ideal.

What if we went with another one-year extension that lowers his cap hit and pays him $45 million cash for 2023? That’s in line with his 2020 extension that dropped his cap hit to $21 million for 2020 and paid him $40 million cash in the first year of the extension.

Cousins’ camp:

You are right that Kirk has always bet on himself and been comfortable with short-term deals but now that we’re laying our cards on the table: We would prefer stability. We are aware that he only has so many years left in the NFL and he doesn’t want to move his family all over the country chasing short-term deals. He wants to be here with coach O’Connell but only if he’s wanted. Even Ryan Tannehill got a four-year extension from the Titans when he was in his 30s and that carried $62 million guaranteed back in 2020.

If the team wants to give Kirk less money or stability that similar quarterbacks received, we are ready to play out the deal next season or be traded now.


We have to be reasonable here. If Aaron Rodgers retires, Cousins will be the oldest starting QB in the NFL. He isn’t coming off a Super Bowl victory like Stafford or entering his prime years like Dak Prescott and statistically speaking this was not his best year in purple. You used a three-year sample to describe his excellence but last year he ranked 15th in quarterback rating. We are taking on serious risk if we do a deal that locks us in beyond 2024. Matt Ryan signed a five-year deal in 2018 when he was around Kirk’s age and never saw the playoffs during the entire length of that contract.

If you guys don’t want to play ball on a short-term deal, we can restructure his current contract and create a big chunk of cap space ($19 million, per OTC) and let things play out. We can always come back to the table if things work out next year.

Cousins’ camp:

We will only agree to a short-term deal if it’s fully guaranteed and if it ranks in the top eight QBs in average annual value. That’s what we believe he deserves. Otherwise Kirk is willing to bet on himself. Just in case you aren’t planning to make some concessions and want to start the process of finding your next quarterback this offseason, here are five teams where Kirk would accept a trade: Carolina, Seattle, San Francisco, New York Jets, Tennessee Titans.


We’ll have to get back to you…

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