In the past decade, arguably no NFL contract has received more discussion than the one belonging to Kirk Cousins. After another underwhelming season with the Minnesota Vikings, what is the situation with Cousins’ contract? What is the impact of the deal on the Vikings’ salary cap, and what are the Vikings’ options with Cousins’ deal?
Kirk Cousins’ contract details and bonuses
In 2020, Kirk Cousins signed a two-year contract extension worth $66 million with the Minnesota Vikings. Cousins was entering the final year of his original three-year, $84 million contract with the Vikings.
In the final year of his original deal, Cousins had $30 million in fully guaranteed salary. Therefore, the contract shapes up as a three-year, $96 million deal. Cousins converted that $30 million in salary into a signing bonus as part of the extension. $31 million in new money was guaranteed, and a further $35 million becomes guaranteed on the third day of the 2021 league year.
Cousins’ contract length is for just one more season
At the time he signed his contract in 2020, Cousins had one year remaining on his old deal. Therefore, the two-year contract extension made it a three-year contract. Therefore, the 2022 season is set to be Cousin’s final one in Minnesota unless the player and team can agree to an extension.
What impact does Cousins’ deal have on the Vikings’ salary cap?
Cousin’s contract is set to count $45.167 million against the Vikings’ salary cap. There is $10 million that has been prorated from the $30 million signing bonus with the extension and $166,667 prorated from a contract restructure. The remaining $35 million is in the form of a base salary.
What options do the Vikings have with Cousin’s contract this offseason?
Realistically there are three options the Vikings could look for. Releasing Cousins and ridding themselves of the contract that way would have no cap saving. That is due to his full $35 million on base salary having become guaranteed at the start of the 2021 league year. Therefore, there is really no benefit to releasing him, unless they are simply ready to move on, or they have a reason to void the guarantees.
That leaves three potential options. The first is they just roll through the season with a cap number of $45.167 million. While not ideal, it would give them a fresh start next offseason. The second option would be a restructure where they add up to four void years and split the salary cap impact between 2022 and 2023. The final option would be to try and trade Cousins and his contract. Let’s examine the cap impacts for both sides of that deal.
What would a trade mean for both the Vikings’ salary cap and the team acquiring Cousins?
It all breaks down fairly simply for both sides in terms of salary cap impact with a trade. Assuming the Vikings do not agree to take on any of the cap, they would carry a $10.167 million dead money charge into the 2022 league year.
Meanwhile, the team acquiring Cousins would be on the hook for $35 million in guaranteed base salary. The team acquiring Cousins could then offer the QB an extension and look to spread that cap number.