Vikings, Cousins agree to 1-year, $35M contract extension

Published 8:48 am Monday, March 14, 2022

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The Minnesota Vikings have committed to quarterback Kirk Cousins for the next two seasons, banking on further improvement under new head coach Kevin O’Connell.

The Vikings announced their agreement in principle with Cousins on a one-year contract extension Sunday — the latest high-leverage deal that Cousins has successfully bet on himself with and the clearest sign yet that the Vikings aren’t interested in a teardown under new management.

According to a person with knowledge of the situation, speaking to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the terms were not being publicized, Cousins will get $35 million in newly guaranteed money to double the amount of cash the Vikings are on the hook for. He also has a no-trade clause in the new contract, the person said.

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The deal includes a $25 million signing bonus spread out over the next four years to flatten the salary cap impact. Factoring in the remaining proration from his last signing bonus and his new 2022 base salary of $15 million, Cousins will now carry a cap hit of slightly more than $31.4 million.

That slashes $14 million off Minnesota’s salary cap charges, almost enough for the club to be fully under the $208.2 million figure that kicks in on Wednesday when the new league year officially begins. The Vikings would get there by either releasing or restructuring a contract for another veteran player.

This is the third contract for Cousins with the Vikings in a four-year span. He played his last two seasons with Washington on the franchise tag. With a 59-59-2 career record as a starter, no player has better maximized his value on the market than Cousins, whose earnings over the eight-year period from 2016-23 will top $228 million.

Cousins’ previously existing cap number made it imperative for the Vikings to reduce that either by trading him or extending him with a deal that would flatten out his guaranteed money. With new head coach Kevin O’Connell on board, having developed a strong relationship with Cousins as his quarterbacks coach when they were both with Washington in 2017, the Vikings opted to keep Cousins for at least the near future without a replacement in waiting on the roster.

“Kirk was one of the first players I called when I joined the Vikings, and it was immediately clear how much he cares about this organization and about winning,” new general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah said in a statement distributed by the team. “High level quarterback play is a prerequisite to building a championship team, and we are confident Kirk will continue along that path.”

Cousins passed for 4,221 yards and 33 touchdowns in 16 games last season. He threw only seven interceptions for the best interception percentage (1.2) of his career. He missed one game at Green Bay after testing positive for COVID-19. He was one of several key players on the team who were unvaccinated. The Vikings went 8-9 in 2021 and fired general manager Rick Spielman and head coach Mike Zimmer.

Cousins has started 63 games for the Vikings, the fourth-most by a quarterback in team history. They’ll be leaning on O’Connell’s expertise, Cousins’ accuracy, durability and reliability over the next two years to try to win that Super Bowl that has eluded the franchise over its first 62 seasons.

“Now that that’s out of the way,” Cousins said on Twitter, “let’s get to work on a Lombardi.”