With the start of the “legal tampering” period of NFL free agency. . .as of now. . .less than 24 hours away, the Minnesota Vikings started what looks to be a rebuild by dismissing veterans Linval Joseph and Xavier Rhodes, along with tight end David Morgan. Those moves put the purple about $20 million under the salary cap, and thoughts have been that the team could potentially work out a contract extension with quarterback Kirk Cousins that could lower his $31 million cap figure for 2020 and give the team a little room to maneuver.
We’re now starting to get indications that we shouldn’t exactly hold our breath waiting for that extension to happen.
Multiple sources told ESPN that Minnesota has brought offers to the negotiating table but both sides have yet to agree on a number. Could an extension happen down the road? Sure. But it’s more likely that Cousins, who created substantial leverage for himself with a strong 2019 season, is going to wait to see what other quarterbacks make in free agency — particularly Dak Prescott — before agreeing to anything. And if Cousins chooses to forgo signing an early extension and waits until he’s set to hit free agency next year, he’ll probably be in line to make a lot more on a new deal.
From Cousins’ perspective, this makes plenty of sense. He did have a solid 2019 season, and given that the Vikings don’t really have an heir apparent that can readily step in and take over for him at this point, he’s got pretty much all the bargaining power on his side. He can sit and wait for Prescott (or others) to sign their deals before he makes any sort of commitment to Minnesota. And, as Cronin says, if he doesn’t agree to a deal with the Vikings, he would almost certainly be the top quarterback hitting the free agency market next season and have an opportunity to get himself another huge deal.
The lack of an extension could play a big role in shaping the Vikings’ draft strategy in April, or whenever the 2020 NFL Draft actually takes place given the current situation. If Cousins doesn’t have an extension in place by draft day, this team can’t take a chance on him playing out this season and departing in free agency without a solid Plan B sitting behind him. This could mean that the Vikings use a selection on a quarterback of the future earlier than they might want, letting the rookie carry Cousins’ clubs for a season, and turn things over to him when Cousins departs after the 2020 season.
I mean, even if Cousins does sign an extension, the Vikings need to draft a viable quarterback option in the first two days of this year’s draft anyway, in my opinion. Unless you think Jake Browning is “quarterback of the future” material. . .SPOILER: I don’t think he is. . .then this team can’t go into next season with Cousins as the starter and nobody ready to take over for the long term going forward.
As it stands right now, it looks like the salary cap space generated from letting go of Rhodes, Joseph, and Morgan is going to be about what the Vikings have to work with during the free agency signing period. It isn’t much, but it might give them the ability to at least do something.