Kirk Cousins contract: What could an extension look like?

The Minnesota Vikings are going to face quite an interesting decision this year. It’s one that we’ve talked about before but it’s never been more of a reality than it currently is.

Will the Vikings move on from quarterback Kirk Cousins?

After signing a three-year, $84 million contract in free agency in March of 2018, the Vikings have given him a two-year, $66 million extension in March of 2020 and a one-year, $35 million extension in March of 2022. By that trend, the Vikings would be giving him an extension of some sort in March of 2024.

This time around, things are just a little bit more complicated. How complicated are they? Let’s dive into it.

Salary cap

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Going into the 2023 season, Cousins was set to have a cap number of $36.25 million. The Vikings restructured $20 million of his $30 million base salary to drop his cap hit to $20.25 million. That move has it’s consequences, as his dead cap hit in the 2024 season if he doesn’t agree to an extension before March 15th is $28.25 million.

If the Vikings do agree to an extension with Cousins before his contract voids, his prorated bonus owed to the salary cap drops $18.25 million to $10.25 million. That would make signing him to an extension much more palatable in 2024.

The Vikings currently have a projected $37,296,185 in cap space for 2024 with 39 players signed according to Over The Cap.

Other free agents

USA Today Sports
USA Today Sports
  • Tennessee’s Ryan Tannehill

  • Washington’s Jacoby Brissett

  • New York Giants’ Tyrod Taylor

  • Philadelphia’s Marcus Mariota

  • San Francisco’s Sam Darnold

  • New Orleans’ Jameis Winston

  • Seattle’s Drew Lock

  • Tampa Bay’s Baker Mayfield

  • Indianapolis’ Gardner Mishew

Past extensions

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The quarterback market is rather interesting. Players who are deemed superstars are getting contracts over $50 million per season but Cousins is set to turn 36 years old. That will change how we approach the discussion.

Let’s take a look at what similar players have gotten on their third or later contracts.

  • Russell Wilson: 5 years, $245 million, $124 million guaranteed

  • Matthew Stafford: 4 years, $160 million, $63 million guaranteed

  • Derek Carr: 4 years, $150 million, $60 million guaranteed

  • Ryan Tannehill: 4 years, $118 million, $62 million guaranteed

  • Geno Smith: 3 years, $75 million, $27.3 million guaranteed

  • Jimmy Garoppolo: 3 years, $72.75 million, $33.75 million guaranteed

In order to gauge what Cousins might get, looking at what the market has given to a player that hasn’t won an MVP award in his mid-late 30s. It’s why Aaron Rodgers wasn’t included on here.

There is one thing that stood out with these contracts. Only one of them (Wilson) had their guarantees come close to half the value of the contract. It’s worth noting that these are all full guarantees and not ones that are injury guarantees.

How will Kwesi Adofo-Mensah approach an extension?

Michael Reaves/Getty Images
Michael Reaves/Getty Images

This is the real wild card of the entire discussion.

The Vikings tried to agree to a contract extension with Cousins this offseason but bot parties couldn’t come to an agreement. The Vikings were only willing to guarantee the 2024 season with Cousins and his camp wanting guarantees into the 2025 season. They decided to table discussions until the offseason.

Now that the offseason is here, what kind of approach will Adofo-Mensah use?

Going into the week eight game against the Green Bay Packers, Cousins was playing at a near MVP level. Then, he tore his Achilles tendon. That is the ultimate wild card here, as what he’s done doesn’t matter as much anymore but rather what he will do moving forward.

Tearing your Achilles tendon is different than your ACL. It is key in generating explosiveness from your lower half and in turn, arm strength. Cousins has a very capable arm that can drive the ball into tight windows consistently. Will that change with a torn Achilles tendon at the age of 36? That is a question that will be discussed immensely inside the building.

It’s been established that the Vikings want the person Cousins is in the building next year and many will want the player that he is but will the front office? The Vikings have a great infrastructure to bring in and nurture a young quarterback and the Achilles injury to Cousins gives them the opening they might have needed to make the jump.


Michael Reaves/Getty Images
Michael Reaves/Getty Images

This is going to be an interesting discussion.

In terms of what Cousins brings off the field, his impact has been discussed frequently. The entire organization loves him and he even sounded the Gjallahorn shirtless with his son Cooper.

On the field, Cousins was playing at close to an MVP level before he tore his Achilles tendon. The continuity in the offense was evident early in the year, as Cousins was humming, still sitting eighth in EPA/play. The offense continued on for a few weeks before crashing in December.

If Cousins can maintain his level of play for a few seasons, it would behoove the Vikings to consider a contract extension. The problem is discerning the extent his Achilles injury will impact him. Considering Cousins is set to turn 36 years old in 2024 with only above-average arm talent, it could seriously impact both his short and long-term prospects at quarterback.

We won’t be able to fully discern how his Achilles will impact him moving forward but the Vikings will likely have something on the injury before his contract voids on March 13th.

It also should be mentioned that the play of the Vikings backup quarterbacks this season should have little to no bearing on whether or not Cousins should be brought back. They are all backups and wouldn’t normally be starting games.

On the Monday after the regular season ended, Cousins spoke to the media about his future and had some poignant remarks stating that it’s more about what the dollars mean than the dollars themselves.

“I think that God has blessed me financially beyond my wildest dreams. So at this stage in my career, the dollars are really not what it’s about,” Cousins said.

“I had a coach who I was with who was a younger coach at the time. This was back eight, nine years ago, before my first franchise tag [with Washington], and we were talking about the situation, and he made a great comment.

“He said, ‘Kirk, it’s not about the dollars, but it is about what the dollars represent.’ I thought that was an interesting comment that he made. There will always be some of that.”

What does that mean in terms of a discount? It appears that Cousins wants a financial commitment from the Vikings to be enough that he is the unquestioned guy. Remember, the Vikings before the 2023 season offered 2024 fully guaranteed but his camp wanted 2025 also guaranteed. With everything that has manifested from 2023, that isn’t all too likely to change.

There is also the caveat of the NFL draft. Currently, there appear to be three bona fide top of the first round quarterbacks that appear to be worth trading up for. With the Vikings sitting at 11th overall, it’s much easier than last year when they allegedly tried to move up from 23 to go get Anthony Richardson. If they fall in love with a player, that could change things for the front office as they continue to build up this roster.

With all of the above information, both sides will be able to determine what his value is and make a decision. Until then, it’s going to be a lot of speculation on what could be with Cousins and the Vikings.

Prediction: Vikings offer one year, $35 million fully guaranteed but Cousins will choose to hit the market without guarantees into 2025.

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Story originally appeared on Vikings Wire