Mark Lennihan/Associated Press
According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, the Vikings will sign Cousins to a three-year, fully guaranteed contract Thursday. Earlier, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported Minnesota’s offer was worth $28 million per season.
Prior to Schefter’s report, Cousins’ agent Mike McCartney told him “no final decisions” had been made and that the plan was to visit the Vikings first. However, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk noted that teams aren’t allowed to arrange visits during the negotiating window, adding the “Vikings have essentially violated this provision.”
Cousins played each of the last two seasons in Washington under the franchise tag.
Washington attempted to work out a long-term contract for months to no avail, with Cousins putting together a season that could have made him the most coveted free agent on the market. A third franchise tag would have cost Washington $34.5 million. The team could have also used its $28 million transition tag.
Instead, Washington acquired Alex Smith from the Kansas City Chiefs in a January trade—a move that essentially ended Cousins’ tenure with the franchise.
Cousins threw for 4,093 yards and 27 touchdowns against 13 interceptions in 2017 as he noticeably declined in most passing categories. His interception rate increased and he played particularly poorly in December, throwing six touchdowns against five interceptions.
“When you’re 7-9, you know it’s hard to say, ‘Wow, this guy really was outstanding,'” Washington coach Jay Gruden told reporters following the season. “Kirk had his flashes where he was really good. From a consistent standpoint, over the course of 16 games, you know we’re 7-9.”
Cousins was 18th in Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric among quarterbacks a year after ranking fifth. It was the first time since 2014 he ranked outside the top 10 in that metric. Washington failed to make the playoffs for the second straight season.
The Vikings’ decision to go all-in on Cousins is curious and understandable at the same time. His numbers and performance could be categorized under the Andy Dalton syndrome—good enough to get you close but not good enough to get you all the way there. He could look like a perennial Pro Bowler one week and throw you out of the game the next.
Cousins, at the very basement of his talent, is a competent NFL starting quarterback. It’s an instant upgrade over whatever the Vikings were going to put under center next season. That said, there’s still some reason for hesitation.
Gruden will not be joining him. Cousins had trouble with turnovers before finding a system tailor-made to his skill set, and he might revert to throwing more picks under new Vikings offensive coordinator Bill DeFilippo.
This isn’t something Minnesota can quickly recover from if it goes badly. As it stands, the Vikings may have pushed their chips to the center of the table on a player who could be bound for regression if surrounded by less talent.