Over the last few seasons, Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins has received criticism over not only his large contract but the shortcomings that have occurred in his tenure in Minnesota under that sizable contract. Notably, fans and league media criticised Cousins for his lack of being able to step up on the biggest stages when his teams needs him the most. That has resulted in speculation about the Vikings potentially looking to trade Cousins and starting fresh under center in Minnesota. Yet, Cousins is still under contract and will be a Viking until the organization decides it wants to part ways with the veteran quarterback. With the latest news of Minnesota hiring Los Angeles Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell as head coach, along with his current contract situation, signs are pointing towards Cousins remaining under center for the purple and gold at least through the 2022 season.
Signs Point Towards Minnesota Vikings Keeping Kirk Cousins in 2022
In a move that likely will become official shortly after the conclusion of the Super Bowl, Minnesota reportedly will hire O’Connell to take over as the tenth head coach in Vikings history. O’Connell replaces Mike Zimmer, whom the Vikings fired at the end of the regular season.
O’Connell is a young offensive mind that could come in and provide a breath of fresh air to an organization that has been stagnant over the last few years. Zimmer notably led the team for eight seasons with a defensive-minded philosophy. He will be a nice fit to go along with newly-hired general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah at the top of the new regime taking over in Minnesota.
The hiring of O’Connell could be the first sign that the Vikings will hold onto Cousins for at least the 2022 season, assuming O’Connell will want the opportunity to work with Cousins to see what they can come up with on offense under new play-calling. O’Connell has done a nice job leading the Rams offense the last few years, and his history with Cousins when they were together in Washington could mean they want to give it at least one year to see what could be accomplished together.
With that familiarity between the incoming head coach and current quarterback, it could be a combination that leads to success in 2022; at the very least a combination worth trying. Cousins appears to be on board with the hiring of O’Connell and trying to make the pairing work.
“He is a great football mind. He’s been around a lot of great football minds. He’s a hard worker,” Cousins said recently. “He was big in my development. The fact that he’s never been a head coach before, that he’s a little younger than a lot of head coaches, I think the track record with the other guys would suggest that he’ll be just fine.”
Difficult Contract to Trade
In an ideal world, Minnesota would be able to find a trade partner for Cousins while also acquiring a starting quarterback to fill in for him under center for the Vikings. Not because of his underwhelming performances on the big stage, but more so because of his contract situation for the upcoming season.
Cousins’ contract will be awfully hard to even try to trade away, with the veteran quarterback set to make $45 million in the new year. That total accounts for 21.6 percent of Minnesota’s total team salary. Sending that contract to another team is difficult, especially without taking on some unwanted players or salaries to make a trade work.
Even if there are teams in the NFL that would like to acquire Cousins to start for them in 2022, it’s unlikely that a team would want him so bad as to give up a decent amount to make a trade work out in order to obtain Cousins and his lengthy contract. Possibly, Minnesota and Cousins may benefit all parties by working out some sort of contract extension or rework his contract to spread out the money over a few years. Until that potentially takes place, Cousins will likely remain with the Vikings as they eat his sizable price tag in the final year of his contract.
Teammates Publicly Backing Cousins
Another sign that points towards Cousins remaining in Minnesota is the public backing from some of his teammates this off-season. Oftentimes, if teammates are not fans of a specific player, they would not come out and show much support over said player publicly.
Recently, one key Vikings player has come out publicly to show support of the veteran quarterback and his fondness of Cousins under center in Minnesota. Vikings star wide receiver Justin Jefferson spoke to Pro Football Talk and displayed his support for Cousins in their time together in Minnesota thus far.
“Our relationship has been growing ever since I stepped in the building last year,” Jefferson said. “Things aren’t always perfect with us. He’s the reason I got this many yards. He’s the reason why I’m this type of player. I’m not throwing the ball to myself.
“He’s been doing a great job for us. Of course we want a better record, better outcome, but Kirk has been doing good. He’s been doing a phenomenal job.”
Of course, Jefferson could just be saying the right things to avoid conflict or unwanted attention over the off-season. But the fact he went into detail in his support for Cousins could mean that he genuinely enjoys Cousins as his quarterback and would like him back for another season in 2022.
Minnesota could still explore trade possibilities for Cousins this off-season and the Vikings might try to explore every opportunity to see if a deal could be agreed upon with another team in the league. But given the recent head coaching hire, Cousins’ contract situation, and some recent comments from a teammate showing support of Cousins, signs are pointing to the quarterback once again taking the field for the purple and gold when the new year kicks off.