Kirk Cousins Has To Go

The next two months are going to kill me. Vikings QB Kirk Cousins will be a free agent this March. Despite his age (36), his pedigree (one playoff victory in six seasons with Minnesota), and his recent injury history (torn Achilles), he’ll be the best quarterback available on the market, and therefore the most expensive one. Cousins is famous for making money, more so than he is for winning football games. So after Daniel Fucking Jones landed himself a contract with an AAV of $41 million last offseason, it’s not absurd to think that Cousins could wrangle himself an even more lucrative deal. Someone will be willing to give it to him. I just hope it isn’t my team.

For the moment, nothing is definitive. Cousins has openly said he’d like to retire a Viking, and hasn’t outright dismissed the idea of taking a pay cut to make that happen—he’s become just that attached both to the organization and to his adopted home state. But catches abound. While Cousins says he has more money than he could ever need, he also craves security. He wants to know he’s loved, likely in the form of more guaranteed years on his contract: something the Vikings denied him when they tried to negotiate an extension prior to the 2023 season.

Meanwhile, GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has said he’d like Cousins back as well. And it’s easy to see why, after the Vikings experienced a season that didn’t end so much as it bled out. Bereft of Cousins, this team cycled through three different lousy quarterbacks, all of whom made Cousins look like the second coming of Kurt Warner. The 2023 Vikings lost six of their last seven and turned the ball over 50,000 times (number approximate). They need steady quarterback play, and they need it sooner rather than later. Kirk Cousins solves that problem, as long as they’re willing to pay him. But Adofo-Mensah comes from a numbers background (just ask him), so the true price of keeping Cousins around isn’t lost on him. “There are a lot of factors that go into these things. It is age. It’s injury, but it is also performance,” he said.

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Two years into his tenure, I still can’t divine how much power Adofo-Mensah is allowed to wield within the Vikings organization. Upon his hiring, he was given a mandate by co-owner Mark Wilf to keep the team competitive right away. In that respect, Adofo-Mensah’s first year on the job, in which Minnesota went 13-4 and won the NFC North going away, was a rousing success. But this past season revealed a whole lot of cracks in this team’s foundation: on the interior O-line, across the entire D-line, in the running game, and on the edges of the secondary. All of those holes have to be filled, but bringing Cousins back can help patch over them for the time being.

Maybe that’s what Mark Wilf and brother Zygi want. Maybe they just want to look respectable. Maybe that’s why Adofo-Mensah has used the phrase “competitive rebuild,” a naked contradiction in terms, to describe his approach to roster construction. If Adofo-Mensah was hired merely as a puppet, he’s probably already been given orders to bring Cousins back, no matter the cost.

But if Adofo-Mensah has been given license to stand on his own, he surely knows the reality of his surroundings. This team has over $36 million in cap space heading into the offseason, but needs to give out big extensions to wideout Justin Jefferson, tackle Christian Darrisaw, and impending free agent edge rusher Danielle Hunter. Cousins, who already counts $28.5 million to next year’s cap, isn’t going to take the kind of obscene paycut that would allow for those three players to stay. And what kind of team are we looking at if Cousins sticks around but the roster deteriorates further around him? It’ll look a lot like the 7-10 squad I just endured this fall.

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Meanwhile, the 2024 draft is loaded with talent at quarterback, and we all know the value of having a great QB on a rookie deal. Look no further than the reigning AFC South champion Houston Texans(?!?!) for proof. Even if you have to sell the farm and trade up to get your guy, it’s worth it if you hit. You may whiff on a QB pick, because that’s just the nature of the draft. But if you don’t take the risk, you’ll never reap the reward. In this league, you get your QB first and worry about the rest later.

Again, Adofo-Mensah is the kind of guy who knows this. He’s not gonna overpay Cousins, if he wants to pay Cousins at all. Meanwhile, he has to answer to a couple of Win Now owners, to a head coach in Kevin O’Connell who cannot tolerate being embarrassed by the performance of his own offense, and to fans who, thanks to Netflix and to Cousins’s sterling performance in the front half of this season, have embraced Cousins more than they have perhaps any other non-Minnesotan. Whatever decision Adofo-Mensah makes, if he’s allowed to make it, is gonna piss someone off. Maybe the wrong someone. But he has to make a move one way or the other, and I still don’t know what move that’s gonna be.

And it’s making me shit a brick. I have become grudgingly fond of Cousins as his time in Minnesota has come to an end, but I need that time to END. Now. It’s been six years, man. Six years of standing still, watching Kirk pilot this team to nowhere. You know Kirk’s deal just as well as I do: lots of pretty stats, zero rings. He is the ultimate empty-calorie quarterback, and I can’t spend one more second convincing myself that he’s anything but. I certainly don’t want to write another goddamn word about him. I just watched Michael Penix Jr., in a purple uniform, set the world on fire against Texas and had to mop my drool up off the floor. Then I watched Penix tank his own draft value in the national title game against Michigan, just enough that dropping to the Vikings at pick no. 11 feels realistic. The idea of getting Penix, or some other talented rookie, is new so tangible that I could eat it.

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As you can tell, I need a new quarterback. More importantly, I need to know that one is coming. I want to be excited again, and a new young passer would do that job with the utmost speed. The last good QB my team drafted was Daunte Culpepper, who had one MVP-caliber year and 102 career fumbles to his name. Also, someone on a Vikings message board in 2000 called him “Dountoyou Dullpecker” and I can’t get it out of my head.

So I can’t sit here for two whole goddamn months, listening to both sides hem and haw, praying that Kirk Cousins and the Vikings get a divorce. I’ll eat my fucking lips if I have to wait that long. Kirk Cousins was brought into Minnesota as the supposed final piece of a championship roster. Since he arrived, he’s become the one thing holding them back. I’d like a better, cheaper QB, preferably one who can run faster than a security guard. So to Kwesi and Kevin and Mark and Zygi, I’m gonna tell you the same thing that everyone else should be telling you: Stop wasting my time. Get Kirk the fuck out, and draft me a fucking savior.


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