Rick Spielman May Already Be Planning for the Next Kirk Cousins Negotiation

Full disclosure: this one is based off some speculation from yours truly. From my perspective, Rick Spielman is making moves to help with the next Kirk Cousins extension.

Allow me to explain myself.

Our old friend Captain Kirk has just completed his initial three-year deal in Minnesota. In 2021, Cousins will be entering the first year of his two-year extension. Over the Cap suggests that he will count for $31 million against the cap. Next season, that number grows to $45 million. Now, we need to remember that not every NFL dollar is created equal (as OTC has suggested at various points). $31 million in the Covid Cap is a ton. If the cap grows to well over $200 million in 2022, then the $45 million cap hit will be easier to digest.

That being said, our Vikings are likely beginning to think about life after Cousins, especially if it means being able to save tens of millions of dollars.

Over the weekend, Rick Spielman appeared on PFT PM. He spoke about how he addressed the aftermath of the Kellen Mond pick: “I spoke to [Cousins] Saturday morning and talked to his agent and just let him know that we want to make sure we have competition behind him, that there’s no doubt that Kirk’s our quarterback going forward, and that we want to create competition to see who’s going to be the backup.” Spielman goes on to explain that “Kirk was great. He understands. He knows he’s our guy, his agent knows he’s our guy. Right now, we’re just focusing on getting ready for this season coming up.”

A specific question that came up was whether the Mond pick had anything to do with the negotiation with Cousins in a couple years: “Every rookie that we draft, we’re hoping that regardless of position that they’re going to be here, whatever role they end up carving out, they end up helping the Minnesota Vikings whether it be in the backup role, starter role, special teams role. We’re just trying to put the best 53 players together and trying to bring in young competition every year to compete with the guys that are currently on our roster. You’re always looking down the road, but you don’t know that until you get everything in the building and start working with these guys and let’s just see where we’re at down the road.” Head over to PFT to see Florio’s full interview with Spielman.

Recently, rumors emerged that Minnesota was interested in drafting Justin Fields if he fell to 14th. Perhaps the rumor was fabricated out of thin air. After all, who wouldn’t be interested in a top-tier QB who mysteriously falls to the middle of RD1? There are other possibilities, though. Perhaps the Vikings intentionally leaked that news so that Kirk knows Minnesota doesn’t feel like they’re married to him because they have no other options.

The offense really needs to perform in 2021. After three years, it’s time for Cousins to finally take the Vikings over the top. He was brought in after 2017 because Minnesota’s leadership felt like he could be the final piece. We made it all the way to the NFC Championship Game in 2017, so there was good reason to believe that we were close.

Through three seasons, Cousins has gone 8-7-1, 10-6, and 7-9. He has one playoff win in that time. This just isn’t good enough anymore. If he fails to elevate, then Kirk Cousins won’t be the Vikings’ QB beyond 2022, making the decision quite easy for Rick Spielman. There’s no need to extend Cousins if he doesn’t play well.

It gets more complicated if Cousins actually does find success. Prior to drafting Kellen Mond at the top of the third, Minnesota really had no solution at QB apart from Cousins. That simple reality would make any contract negotiation really difficult. We know from past experience that Cousins can drive a pretty hard bargain; he’s not at all afraid to turn down deals if he doesn’t think they’re fair.

It’s a fair bit easier to negotiate with Cousins if Minnesota feels like they already have a competent, cheap replacement on the roster. He’ll get to see Mond in practice every day for the next two seasons, so Cousins will know what the kid can do. This simple reality may allow the Vikings to get better value on their next deal with Cousins.