At the end of the Vikings season, Kirk Cousins talks financial compromises and succession plans
For more than two months since a torn right Achilles tendon raised the possibility that he played his last snaps in a Vikings uniform, Kirk Cousins has made it clear he wants to return to Minnesota in 2024 under a new contract.
Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and coach Kevin O’Connell echoed those sentiments, and as the players cleaned out their lockers Monday, right tackle Brian O’Neill gave perhaps the most emphatic support of any of Cousins’ teammates in supporting his return.
“Absolutely. Absolutely,” O’Neill said when asked if he wanted Cousins back. “A thousand million percent. This is my man, and I’ll drive for him. I’ll tell anyone that. Ten thousand percent, I’d rather have no one else but Kirk under our center. I love this guy. I can.” Talk about Kirk for the next two hours then. We wanted that. He has that kind of influence on the locker room.”
Players left the Vikings’ locker room to begin their offseasons after the team’s final meetings on Monday. By the time they return to the locker room in April, the Vikings will have gone through contract negotiations with Cousins, which could be one of the most important steps in an offseason that could define the tenures of Adofo-Mensah and O’Connell. Through these negotiations, the interest of the midfielder and the team in continuing to work together will crystallize.
Cousins, who spoke with reporters Monday, reiterated his desire to remain in Minnesota and said he understands the possibility of the Vikings drafting his successor in the spring even if they sign him.
“I don’t think you can do your job as a leader of an organization without saying: What is our succession plan? What do we have going forward?” “This is just being responsible and (doing) your due diligence,” he said.
The 35-year-old QB has also indicated a willingness to at least consider an affordable deal that would give the Vikings salary cap space to address other positions. “I think God has blessed me financially beyond my wildest dreams. So at this point in my career, dollars aren’t really what it’s about,” he said, adding: “At this point, structure is probably more important.”
But it still isn’t likely to be cheap for the Vikings to bring back Cousins, who ranked near the top of the league in most passing categories at the time of his injury and could return from surgery he underwent during organized team activities this spring. He said Monday that his recovery remains free of “curve balls,” adding that his injury should not affect the way he plays as a pocket passer. By the time his agent, Mike McCartney, goes to the NFL at the end of February to meet with teams about potential free agents, he may be armed with video of Cousins running around trying to convince teams that his Achilles injury isn’t a problem. they.
“I’m not going to try to sell myself, so to speak,” Cousins said. “I think I kind of like to let people make their own decisions. Because I think the league needs quarterbacks, and if you’re trying to talk yourself out of a quarterback, I can’t help you much. “He’ll recover. He’s on the right track and I’m passing through, there’s plenty of time before next season. So, for many reasons, I don’t care.”
Cousins sought a long-term deal from the Vikings before the 2022 and 2023 seasons; The team gave him a one-year, $35 million extension before 2022, and added two empty years to his existing deal last year when talks about a long-term plan collapsed. Multiple sources said that the two sides have reached an impasse over the deal’s guarantee structure. Cousins’ camp wanted guaranteed money through 2025, while the Vikings were only willing to offer guarantees through 2024.
A two-year deal this year would give Cousins through 2025, while potentially giving the Vikings a chance to draft and develop his successor, but the team will have to weigh its interest in giving Cousins the commitment he wants, given the reality of his departure. An injury and heading into his 36th birthday.
“I think I’ll let Mike McCartney do his thing and I’ll let the team do theirs,” Cousins said. “I will not impose anything. So, we will let the team do what they want to do. It is their club and they will make their decisions and then we will respond accordingly.”
When Cousins signed with the Vikings in March 2018, his eldest son, Cooper, was less than six months old. He is now the oldest of two boys who have spent most of their lives in Minnesota, and he is in kindergarten and loves his school. “So there are all kinds of factors,” Cousins said.
“Ultimately you just want to try to find the fit that makes the most sense and that you feel at peace with,” he added. “I felt great peace and clarity when I committed to Michigan State. I felt great peace when I got to Washington and saw the coaches I was going to work with. I felt great peace when I came here. And that’s what I really felt ‘this time looking for: ‘Where do I get peace from the Lord?’ ?’ Then follow it.”
As he approaches free agency for the second time in his career, Cousins has public support from both O’Neal and Justin Jefferson for his return. The Vikings’ quarterback plan, for both 2024 and the next several years, could be shaped by their efforts to turn their mutual interest with Cousins into a trade.
“No matter what everyone in the world thinks, or whatever their purpose or moral compass is or how they go about their lives, I think people can look at Kirk and say, ‘Whoever he is, he lives 100 percent fully.’ “Every day,” O’Neill said. “He’s truer to himself than most people I’ve ever met. “He’s true to himself in his preparation and his belief, and he’s a footballer. It’s really very good. “I would love to have the chance to play with him again.”