Every year, it seems like the same story for Kirk Cousins. The veteran quarterback is capable of occasional big performances and hot stretches, but ultimately is not consistent and dynamic enough to be among the elite at his position.
Coming off an NFC Championship Game appearance under Case Keenum, the Vikings gave Cousins a fully guaranteed three-year, $84 million contract heading into the 2018 season. The deal was made with the hope Cousins could get Minnesota over the proverbial hump.
Through three seasons, Cousins’ stats in purple look perfectly acceptable. He’s thrown for 12,166 yards, 91 touchdowns and only 29 interceptions. However, the Vikings are only 25-21-1 in games Cousins has started, and the team has missed the playoff two of the last three years.
All of that leads to Cousins being on the “hot seat” going into 2021, according to Bleacher Report’s Gary Davenport. On Saturday, Davenport theorized that if Minnesota misses the playoffs again this year, it could mean the end for head coach Mike Zimmer, general manager Rick Spielman and Cousins.
“If the Vikings come up short of the playoffs for a third time in four years and Zimmer and Spielman are let go (a pair of perfectly plausible possibilities), then it’s a safe bet that one of the first steps a new regime would undertake is making an effort to extricate the team out from under Cousins’ contract.”
A reasonable take, though the matter of money complicates things. Cousins is in the first year of a two-year, $66 million extension, and he would carry a dead cap hit of $45 million for 2022, meaning it’s unlikely the Vikings could release him.
“There is an out of sorts though,” Davenport writes. “If the Vikings can find a trade partner for Cousins, that dead cap hit in 2022 drops to $10 million. That’s not insignificant, but it’s a lot less than $45 million. And while Cousins’ pact contains a whole lot of zeroes, when he re-upped last year it was without a no-trade clause.”
Obviously, the Vikings would love it if Cousins plays well this fall, the team wins 10 games and reaches the playoffs. That makes their decision for 2022 a lot easier.
Of course, doing that could be a tough ask in a loaded NFC. We’ll see starting on Sept. 12 if Cousins is up to the task.