Kirk Cousins left $90 million guaranteed from Jets on table to accept Vikings' offer

Right around the time free agency began, Kirk Cousins told ESPN that he’d decided to have a camera crew follow him around to document the free agency process.

Part One of the end product of that partnership is now online, and it reveals interesting bits of information, namely that Cousins had a bigger offer on the table from another team and decided to sign with the Minnesota Vikings instead.

Three years, $90 million

The video opens on March 2, 12 days before free agency begins, with Cousins calling Mike McCartney, and asking the agent to walk him through the process of what can happen and when.

McCartney says the pair have done a lot of research on quarterback-needy teams, and adds, “Minnesota and Arizona maybe are a little above the Jets and Broncos.”

Lots of green, Cousins in purple: A new documentary series gives a behind-the-scenes look of how Kirk Cousins became a Minnesota Viking. (AP)
Lots of green, Cousins in purple: A new documentary series gives a behind-the-scenes look of how Kirk Cousins became a Minnesota Viking. (AP)

On March 12, the day the “legal tampering” window opens, Cousins is on the phone with McCartney again. When he hangs up, he tells his wife, Julie, that the Jets have upped their offer: three years, $30 million per year, fully guaranteed.

Her eyes wide, Julie says, “Whoa.”

At the time, the Vikings were at $25 million per year. With the increased offer from New York, Kirk explains to Julie, McCartney can go back to Minnesota to get them to close that gap.

Talking to the camera, Cousins explains that money is important, but the structure is more important: “We want the money to be guaranteed. My preference would be to get a fully guaranteed contract or do one-year deals,” he said.

Cousins agreed to a three-year, $84 million, fully guaranteed deal with the Vikings, or $28 million per year. In the documentary, he says he feels like Minnesota is a good fit, and while the contract is relatively short, it’s a move made with long-term implications in mind.

Lots of voicemail

The funnest moment of the 14-minute video is near the end. Cousins, with McCartney, has decided to agree to the deal with Minnesota and calls his wife to tell her the news.

No answer.

Then he tries his mother.

No answer.

A third attempt is made to share his great news when Cousins calls his sister. But, he explains, she’s a doctor and is likely busy. Sure enough, Karalyne Cousins’ phone goes straight to voicemail too.

We hear a voice off-camera suggest that Kirk try James, the friendly AAA agent he was speaking to a few days earlier; James realized he was talking to an NFL quarterback and told Cousins to get his money but remain humble and win a Super Bowl.

So Cousins calls James, and we’re left to believe that before anyone in his immediate family knew Cousins had signed the richest fully guaranteed contract in NFL history, James from AAA knew he’d agreed with the Vikings.

Living in the basement

During this time, Cousins, his wife and their son are living in the basement of Julie Cousins’ parents’ home outside Atlanta.

“Even though I’m from Michigan, I hate cold weather,” Kirk says, which makes you wonder if he knows what winter is like in Minneapolis.

He doesn’t explain exactly how the young family ended up as basement-dwellers. “Almost on accident we ended up moving in with my in-laws. We weren’t planning on it, but it happened,” Cousins said. “We spent some money to remodel my in-laws’ basement so that we could have our own apartment down there, and so we have our space in the basement. We’ve got our little life down here.”

The situation seems to work. Cousins plays catch with his 64-year-old father-in-law, Michael Hampton, in the backyard. Cousins explains that a major league pitcher told him to never let his arm rest, for fear that stiffness could set in.

“Made him into a pretty good receiver,” Cousins said. “It’s a little silly and goofy to be living with your in-laws, but it works out.”

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