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Kirk Cousins’ future in Minnesota hinges on 2023 performance

With the upcoming NFL season on the horizon, the spotlight shifts to Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins and the lingering uncertainty surrounding his future with the team beyond 2023. As the four-time Pro Bowler approaches the last year of his contract, the pressing question of whether he will continue wearing the purple and gold jersey takes center stage.

It’s important to note that regardless of Cousins’ performance on the field this season, general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah may prefer to proceed with a quarterback on a rookie scale contract instead of giving Cousins another cap-constraining extension. He could find himself as the odd man out due to the team’s core needing contract extensions. The franchise’s future on offense is centered around Justin Jefferson, T.J. Hockenson, Danielle Hunter and Christian Darrisaw, all of whom are set to (potentially) receive substantial deals.

The possibility of Cousins’ departure becomes increasingly likely as he’ll be commanding market value for his position, which is around $40 million per season. As Cousins enters the 2024 season at 36 years old, it’s hard to imagine the team would be willing to give him another multi-year extension without significant improvements from not only him individually, but the team as a whole.

The NFL has been known to be a never say never league, but if Cousins truly wants to retire in purple and gold, he will need to have his best season yet. The biggest question is: what does Cousins have to accomplish this season to earn an extension?

Bringing a Championship to Minnesota

Cousins’ most remarkable accomplishment would be to achieve what no other quarterback in franchise history has ever managed—to secure a Super Bowl victory. It is virtually unprecedented for a team to part ways with a quarterback after winning the Lombardi Trophy. Therefore, if Cousins can lead Minnesota to a Super Bowl victory, his future with the team would likely be solidified, with fans advocating for a lifetime contract.

Minnesota reaching the Super Bowl has been a challenge, primarily due to its struggles in solidifying the quarterback position. While there have been some memorable moments, none quite matched the feeling of Brett Favre’s near-heroic season performance in 2009, coming close to leading the team to its first Super Bowl appearance since 1977.

Case Keenum’s unlikely success in 2017 was special, but it didn’t evoke the same sense of potential as Favre’s tenure, where a single mistake seemed to be the only thing standing in the way. Knowing the team hasn’t reached the biggest game in the sport in 46 years, if Cousins can find a way to get the team over the hump, his chances become more likely to receive an extension.

Winning League MVP

If Cousins played well enough to win the league MVP, then Minnesota more than likely exceeded expectations and quite possibly made it as far as the NFC Championship game or even the Super Bowl. If Cousins wins the most prestigious individual award in the sport, it would be difficult for Adofo-Mensah to let Cousins walk in free agency knowing he’s still playing at a high level.

Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning over the last decade have won MVP in their late 30’s, while it’s not an impossible task for Cousins to accomplish, it’s unlikely since those three quarterbacks are arguably in the top five conversation of all-time. Matt Ryan won the award as well in 2016, but he also was 31 years old, while Cousins is entering the season at 35 years old.

At this point in his career, Cousins is who he is, there isn’t any untapped potentially left for head coach Kevin O’Connell to unlock, but if Cousins wants to remain in Minnesota for the foreseeable future, he’ll need to play out of his mind and have his best season yet that results in him winning MVP.

Winning Over The Locker Room

Out of the three potential outcomes, this seems the most realistic since Cousins has a reputation of being a leader and a quarterback players want to play for. By winning over the locker room, stars such as Jefferson or Hockenson may feel inclined to take a hometown discount to keep the offensive core intact, along with even Cousins himself.

If his teammates truly believe in him, who’s to say Cousins or anyone else wouldn’t take a discount to keep the core together? It’s still a business at the end of the day, but if there’s any aspiration for Cousins to remain beyond 2023, he’s going to have to win over the locker room and front office proving he’s the quarterback to bring a Lombardi Trophy to Minnesota.

Cousins has proven to be a leader for the Vikings, but he hasn’t had the effect that someone such as Tom Brady has, whereas players are itching to come play and take discounts to go ring chasing for him. If Cousins can find a way to win over the locker room and even be open to taking a hometown discount himself, others may be inclined, which could result in others wanting to play in Minnesota.

Cousins’ reputation has often been caring more about winning in the negotiating table than on the football field, so if he can change that perception, it could increase his chances of landing a multi-year extension and ending his career in purple and gold.

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