Will Kirk Cousins remain with the Vikings beyond his current contract?
By: Adam Hulse (@AdamHulseSports)
Kirk Cousins is currently the starting quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings and it will be his job heading into the 2021 NFL season. He has had mixed results in this role and will have to prove his worth if he wants to keep it moving forward. He is still only 32 years old so time is on his side as he is still in the middle of his prime. He is not racing the clock but he is playing for his future with the team. Let’s take a look at whether or not he is the long-term answer at quarterback for the Vikings.
Cousins is under contract with the Vikings for the next two seasons, through 2022, and is set to make a ton of guaranteed money. He is owed 76 million dollars guaranteed including salary cap hits of 31 million n 2021 and 45 million in 2022. This massive contract and the way that it is structured means he will almost definitely remain with the team until it concludes at the end of the 2022 season. That does not necessarily guarantee his starting job but it does keep him on the payroll.
After being the starting quarterback for 3 years in Washington, Cousins has now been the starter for the Vikings for 3 consecutive seasons and has only missed one game since arriving in Minnesota. In his 3 seasons with the Vikings he has accumulated over 12000 passing yards and 91 passing touchdowns against 29 interceptions. His completion percentage has decreased each year with 70.1 in 2018, 69.1 in 2019, and 67.6 in 2020. On the other hand, his total QBR has impressively improved each season with 59.5 in 2018, 60.4 in 2019, and 63.2 in 2020.
His numbers as a whole have not been bad but not exactly spectacular either. He has been fairly consistent and definitely does his best work out of the play-action passing game, which makes Dalvin Cook extremely valuable to the success of their offensive scheme. When Cook is rolling, it allows Cousins to get into his rhythm and operate at his best. Cousins has shown consistent chemistry with veteran Adam Thielen and great promise with the young stud Justin Jefferson.
Besides just the individual statistics, it’s also very important to look at the results of the team since Cousins took over as the starting quarterback. Since his arrival, the Vikings record is 25-22-1 in the regular season. They have only made the playoffs one time out of the three years as a wild card and have never won the NFC North division. While this is not a terrible record over three seasons it still leaves much to be desired. If the Vikings do not at the very least make the playoffs this upcoming season then Cousins could be in big trouble in terms of his job security. This may be his last chance to receive a contract extension beyond the 2022 season.
Through the first three years that Cousins was with the Vikings, there wasn’t any real threat on the roster to challenge him for the job including both the present and the future. It was really always his job alone but now things may be different after the organization used a third-round draft pick this year on quarterback Kellen Mond out of Texas A&M. Mond is definitely not going to start right away and is considered a little bit of a developmental project for now but he does have real talent and true potential. After spending some time with the Vikings coaching staff while also serving as the backup quarterback to Cousins, he could blossom into a solid starter eventually.
As a starter in all four years at college, Mond was a legitimate dual-threat quarterback with dangerous rushing abilities to go with arm talent that continuously improved from one year to the next. His accuracy, which was a weakness initially, started to become a strength as he matured and became more comfortable with how the quarterback position is played. He excelled greatly in a zone-read style of offense because of his elite athleticism and effective scrambling. In his college career, he accumulated an impressive 9661 passing yards, 71 passing touchdowns, 1609 rushing yards, and 22 rushing touchdowns.
What makes Mond a good fit with the Vikings is the similarity in styles between what they do as a team and what his strengths appear to be. With Cousins as their quarterback, the Vikings offensive scheme features a ton of play-action passing as well as RPOs. That is exactly the style of attack where Mond found his most success at the college game. Compared to Cousins, Mond is definitely more athletic and dangerous with his legs but not as efficient and accurate of a passer, especially the deep ball.
Mike Zimmer has been the head coach of the Vikings since the 2014 season so that of course also includes the entire three years that Cousins has been the quarterback. He has a career record of 66-50-1 as the head coach of the team and it seems as though his job is on the line this year also. If the Vikings do not have a successful campaign this season and at a minimum make a playoff appearance then it is very likely that Zimmer will be fired. Often times when a team brings in a new head coach, it also means that it is time to make a change at quarterback as well, preferably to a younger option to develop chemistry between coach and player while growing together. This situation is another serious threat to the future of Cousins, especially with Mond lurking behind him.
All things considered, the plan for the future of the Vikings at the quarterback position seems pretty clear based on multiple factors. Financially, it would make the most sense to move on from him after the 2022 season when his contract officially expires and he becomes an unrestricted free agent. The potential successor is already on the roster in Kellen Mond, who is an exciting young prospect with a style of play that very well fits the modern NFL game. Unless Cousins does something spectacular this season and not only makes a deep postseason run but is also the main reason for that success, it seems his days as the starting quarterback are numbered in Minnesota.
Though nothing is impossible, it is highly unlikely that Cousins can take such a leap at this point in his career. He can still improve his game but who he is as a quarterback has mostly been defined already. By the 2023 season, if not sooner, expect to see a new combination of a head coach and quarterback for the Vikings. The Cousins era in Minnesota was not a failure and still has a little time to be written, but it was not good enough to this point to justify another very expensive contract extension. As long as he continues to show promise, Kellen Mond is up next for the Vikings and even has a chance to take over the job this year if Cousins struggles at all.