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Athletic's Russini thinks Kirk Cousins 'winds up leaving Minnesota'

"I think he has a really good market with teams that are willing to pay that."

Kirk Cousins becomes a free agent in less than two weeks, and a prominent NFL insider thinks he won't end up back with the Vikings.

The rumor mill continues to heat up as we approach free agency and the NFL Draft, and one of the major questions in the NFL concerns the future of Cousins, who is the top free agent quarterback, and who continues to be linked to the Atlanta Falcons. 

"It makes sense in Atlanta, right," said The Athletic's Dianna Russini on The Athletic Football Show Friday. "You've got Raheem Morris, who spent time with Kirk in Washington for years. You have Zac Robinson, who obviously has the Sean McVay offense familiarity which is what Kirk is familiar with. There's not a lot of change that needs to happen.

"I don't ever want to undersell that because it is a big part of this process, it just makes it so much easier for everyone understand when that language is all the same."

Kirk Cousins

Kirk Cousins

Cousins has reshaped his image after two spectacular seasons in Kevin O'Connell's offense, even if one of those seasons ended prematurely. The veteran QB threw for 6,878 yards and 47 touchdowns in the two seasons since O'Connell took over as the Vikings head coach. Minnesota posted a 17-8 record in those games, easily the most successful of Cousins' career.

"Minnesota wants to bring him back, no doubt," Russini continued. "But I think there's a world where Minnesota understands that they may have to move on. It just may not make the most business sense for them to stick with Kirk. Kirk is a good business man. He's made it clear that he loves Minnesota, there's no doubt. He's shown us on Instagram. He's shown us on [the Netflix show]. They love it. That being said, I don't think that matters."

O'Connell told KFXN-FM Tuesday that "we want him to be a Viking" but also acknowledged to the wider media a need for a contingency plan if Kirk moves on

"I don't get the sense they're going to take a hometown discount on this," continued Russini. "They're aggressive. They should be aggressive because they have interested teams ... He has suitors and legit ones."

Teams like Atlanta, Washington, Las Vegas and Pittsburgh have all been rumored to be interested in Cousins should he hit free agency. The Falcons, Commanders and Raiders all currently have more available cap space than the Vikings.

"The fact that his market is as robust as it is right now, it would be bad business from him to not see what's out there," said Russini. "I think Kirk winds up leaving Minnesota. I can't turn my back on the way he's operated in the past."

The Kirk Cousins conversations starts at the 22:00 mark in the podcast below.