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Kirk Cousins plans to "relinquish" to his upcoming free agency

The 2023 season has ended. The contract between the Vikings and quarterback Kirk Cousins will be expiring. And there's nothing the Vikings can do to keep Cousins from becoming an unrestricted free agent — other than re-signing him before he does.

In an end-of-season press conference with reporters, Cousins talked about his decidedly undecided future. He was asked to identify "the most important thing" going forward.

"What a great question," Cousins said. "What a great question. I think it ultimately is about winning football games. And so that will be the most important thing, winning football games. With that, no one thing is in a vacuum. Usually, you win football games because there are some other factors that are really important to me that are going to have to be there to be able to win football games. So it ultimately all ties together. The factors work together. But I certainly believe we can do that here."

Beyond those "factors" is the contract. He'll hit the open market, barring a new deal. He has made a ton of money. How much more will he want? What's the balance between getting paid and having enough cash and cap space left to put a good team around him?

Cousins said he'll defer to the decisions the team makes about the situation, and he'll rely on his agent.

"God has blessed me financially beyond my wildest dreams, so at this stage of my career, the dollars are really not what it's about," Cousins said.

He nevertheless recalled something a coach told him eight or nine years ago: "It's not about the dollars, but it is about what the dollars represent."

In other words, the money conveys a level of respect and status within the team. If the starting quarterback isn't paid at a certain level, it becomes harder for him to lead the team the way he needs to lead the team.

Cousins said he plans to "relinquish" to the circumstances, as he did after he suffered a torn Achilles tendon. And he doesn't plan to chase other teams.

"I'm not gonna try to sell myself, if you will," Cousins said. "I kind of like to let people make their own decisions, because I do think that the league needs quarterbacks. And if you're trying to talk yourself out of a quarterback, I can't help you much."

He can help plenty of teams. He has shown this year how he can help the Vikings, and how the Vikings — with Kevin O'Connell as head coach — can help him.

Six days before Cousins suffered his injury, he had perhaps the finest game of his career. If he had stayed healthy, the Vikings would be getting ready for a playoff game. They possibly would be preparing to make a deep run into the postseason.

Could that happen for Cousins and the Vikings next year? Could it happen if Cousins jumps to a new team? Those are decisions that need to be made, and they'll be made within the next couple of months.