Kirk Cousins’ first free-agent visit will be with the Vikings. It’s quite possible the visit will end with a contract making him the NFL’s highest-paid quarterback.
According to an NFL source, the Washington quarterback will visit the Vikings on Wednesday and Thursday as the league year officially begins. The former Michigan State quarterback is still talking to teams in addition to the Vikings, another league source said, but mutual interest between the former Pro Bowler and Minnesota has been something of an open NFL secret for weeks.
Multiple reports said the Vikings have offered Cousins a three-year, $84 million deal, which would make him the highest-paid quarterback in the league. It remains to be seen if the Vikings’ offer will be the biggest one Cousins receives — the New York Jets have $84 million in cap space, and have positioned themselves for a strong run at the former Holland Christian star — but the chance to compete for a championship in Minnesota could be what gives the Vikings the edge.
The reported deal also could make Cousins the first quarterback to receive a fully-guaranteed contract, possibly setting the precedent for similar extensions for quarterbacks like Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers and Atlanta’s Matt Ryan in the coming months.
It would be the latest in a recent series of pricey investments aimed at solving the team’s long-running quandary at the quarterback position.
The Vikings spent first-round picks on Christian Ponder in 2011 and Teddy Bridgewater in 2014 and shipped three draft picks to the Philadelphia Eagles in 2016 after Bridgewater tore multiple ligaments in his left knee. The Vikings paid Bradford $7 million that season and $18 million in 2017, a year in which lingering knee issues limited him to just six quarters of regular-season football.
Assuming Cousins, who turns 30 on Aug. 19, signs with the Vikings and starts in Week 1 of the regular season, he would be the Vikings’ sixth different opening day starter in seven years at quarterback. Ponder, who started the first games of the 2012 and 2013 seasons, remains the most recent Vikings quarterback to hold the job after the preseason for two consecutive years.
Whether by his durability or his effectiveness, Cousins would be expected to come to Minnesota and end years of quarterback searches that ultimately proved fruitless.
Cousins, who hits free agency after playing on the franchise tag the last two seasons in Washington, has passed for more than 4,000 yards each of the past three seasons. He made the Pro Bowl after 2016, when he threw for 4,917 yards, 25 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He has started 49 consecutive games, including his lone playoff start where he threw for 329 yards, but was sacked six times, in a 35-18 NFC wild-card loss to Green Bay after the 2015 season.
The Eagles, who signed Bradford to a contract extension after 2015, were reportedly interested in bringing Cousins to Philadelphia if the Redskins had decided not to franchise tag him. Had he played for the Eagles, he would have worked with quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo; if Cousins gets his deal done with the Vikings, DeFilippo would be his offensive coordinator.
He would replace Case Keenum, whom a league source said is expected to sign with the Broncos once free agency kicks off on Wednesday. Keenum’s unlikely turn as the Vikings’ starter — during which he passed for 3,547 yards and 22 touchdowns while leading the team to the NFC Championship Game — created a market for him in free agency. The Vikings, ostensibly, would be signing Cousins because they believe he can take them a step further.
Cousins’ career record as a starter is 26-30-1, and Washington, which went 10-6 with Robert Griffin III in 2012, were never better than 9-7 with Cousins as a starter. The Vikings, though, would be betting on Cousins’ ability to command a talented supporting cast and join with the NFL’s top-ranked defense to make them regular NFC contenders.
By Thursday afternoon, they might have officially pushed their chips to the middle of the table.
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