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Race to sign Kirk Cousins: Vikings reportedly 'very much in this thing'

Decision day could come Monday as the Vikings' quarterback hits free agency.
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Kirk Cousins is set to become a free agent on Wednesday but the period unofficially begins when the league's legal tampering window opens on Monday at 11 a.m. CT. 

With teams laying the groundwork on potential free agent signings the scouting combine, many have speculated that Cousins could be playing elsewhere next season – specifically with the Atlanta Falcons. But some reports suggest that he could still stay with the Minnesota Vikings and ESPN's Dan Graziano believes the Vikings are not out of the running to re-sign the 35-year-old.

"If you're already picturing Kirk Cousins in a Falcons uniform, you might be jumping the gun," Graziano said in a notebook with colleague Jeremy Fowler. "As of the end of this week, Cousins and the Vikings were still talking and while Minnesota hasn't gotten its offer to the point Cousins wants it, I get the sense that the Vikings are still very much in this thing."

Fowler went on to say that Cousins and his family like Minnesota and factors such as head coach Kevin O'Connell – who has been adamant in his desire for Cousins to return at quarterback – and Justin Jefferson – who is looking for a lucrative extension this spring – are in the Vikings favor. 

But while one team source told Fowler the Vikings "are not out of it" he also heard that it's "a 50/50 preposition" of whether Cousins will return. The Falcons still consider Cousins to be their No. 1 target in free agency and it might come down to whether the Vikings are willing to give Cousins what he wants in a new deal, Fowler said. 

"The sense is Minnesota wants to re-sign Cousins but will have its limits after paying him $185 million over the past six years," Fowler said. "The Vikings have considered possibilities should Cousins leave and use both free agency and draft to fill the void."

Should Cousins leave, there are a few options the Vikings could look to. KSTP-TV's Darren Wolfson stated on a Thursday appearance on SKOR North's Minnesota Sports With Mackey and Judd that the team's rumored interest in former New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold is "legit" and the team is "doing their homework" on current Jets quarterback Zach Wilson.

The Athletic's Zach Rosenblatt also mentioned that Darnold or Wilson could be possibilities but Wolfson said the team was also looking into fellow pending free agents Jacoby Brissett and Baker Mayfield.

But for those possibilities to happen, Cousins will have to make a decision. Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio has been one of the key speculators in the Cousins drama after reporting that his family was exploring plans to move to Atlanta and believes that Cousins could be "the first domino to fall" when the tampering window opens on Monday.

"If he stays in Minnesota, the Falcons – and Minnesota's other quarterback options – move on," Florio wrote. "If Cousins goes, the Vikings nail down a deal with their second option, or their third."

Florio also went on to speculate that Cousins could take his time in deciding to maximize his leverage as the top quarterback on the market.

"Cousins (who has always worked the business angle to his advantage) potentially benefits from waiting," Florio wrote. "If/when Minnesota's other targets go elsewhere, Cousins's leverage increases. That also applies to the Falcons, if they have indeed zeroed in on Cousins. If Atlanta's non-Cousins options scatter, Cousins could squeeze more out of the Falcons."

It sets up for an interesting power play for both sides as the Cousins contract drama may finally be reaching a conclusion.

Kirk Cousins

Kirk Cousins