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Kirk Stakes Heating Up: Atlanta Reportedly All-In on Acquiring Cousins

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By: Warren Ludford

Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Price tag for Cousins likely moving higher

The buzz out of the NFL Combine this week is that the Atlanta Falcons are making a strong push to acquire Kirk Cousins, who is set to be a free agent when the new league year begins on March 13th.

A couple media outlets – The Athletic’s Dianna Russini and Zach Klein, who is the sports director at WBS-TV, a local Atlanta TV station, are both saying they think Cousins may opt for an offer from the Falcons, who appear ready to outbid the Vikings for Cousins’ services.

“All eyes, all arrows, everything points towards Kirk Cousins. [Falcons’ owner] Arthur Blank has basically told this front office, ‘Do what you gotta do, pay what you gotta pay, get it done,’” Klein said on the Dukes & Bell show on 92.9 The Game. “So everybody I’ve talked to – agents, other coaches and scouts, guys around the league – that’s the feeling that they are saying, of what they are hearing, is that the Falcons will put all their attention on Kirk Cousins moving forward.” – Zach Klein, WBS-TV

Dianna Russini also said that Atlanta makes sense for Cousins given a similar offense, and the Falcons thinking they’re a quarterback away from contending in the NFC. Certainly a relatively weak AFC South appears to be wide open, so adding Cousins to an ascending defense makes some sense. From Cousins’ side, Russini doesn’t think he’ll go for a hometown discount to stay in Minnesota, even at this stage of his career when getting the last dollar he possibly can may not be as important. Russini says Cousins is a good businessman and it wouldn’t be like him to not entertain a stronger offer from the Falcons, and that has not been his history.

It is true, however, that Cousins turned down a slighter better offer from the Jets when he signed with the Vikings in 2018, feeling the Vikings were a better fit. Cousins also said at his end of year press conference that winning would be a big factor in where he signed, adding he thought Minnesota was a good spot in that regard. Cousins has also hinted that playing for multiple teams over a career is not his ideal career path, and moving his family again is a consideration- and they like being in Minnesota. But Cousins’ wife is a native of Atlanta, so that could make the transition easier for them as a family.

But at the end of the day, it would not be surprising if Atlanta offered Kirk Cousins more than the Vikings. Cousins has said that the structure of the contract is perhaps more important than the overall dollar amount, and it’s unclear how long a contract Atlanta would be willing to dangle in front of Cousins, and in particular how much guaranteed money they will be willing to offer him. But again, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Falcons outbid the Vikings in terms of contract structure as well.

A year ago, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah could have extended Cousins through the 2025 season at an average annual contract value under $40 million according to local beat reporter Andrew Krammer. My guess is that is no longer an option for Adofo-Mensah, who more likely would need to guarantee at least two years and $80 million to retain Cousins. We’ll see what deal Cousins ultimately accepts in the coming weeks, but it seems increasingly likely that the Falcons, and perhaps some other team as well, will outbid the Vikings for Cousins’ services.

What’s the Plan B if Cousins Signs Elsewhere?

Kevin O’Connell has been unequivocal in wanting Kirk Cousins back with the Vikings, and Adofo-Mensah has also said he wants Kirk back. But he’s also been unwilling to commit to Cousins past the 2024 season and there appears to be a limit on how much he’s willing to guarantee to Cousins, which appears less than Cousins’ market value. The team has shown a lot of loyalty to Cousins and appreciation of his leadership over the past year, so not signing him puts extreme pressure on Adofo-Mensah to find a better solution.

But what would that better solution be?

Clearly the Vikings are likely to spend a top draft pick on a QBOTF, regardless of whether or not they extend Kirk Cousins. But if Cousins signs elsewhere, the most likely scenario would be for the Vikings to acquire a quarterback bust to compete with a rookie acquisition for the starting job. That bust could be Justin Fields, Zach Wilson, or Russell Wilson (who was a bust with Denver, not Seattle obviously), or a Jimmy Garoppolo or Sam Darnold. That would be a higher risk plan for the Vikings, who would prefer to keep Cousins and who has been performing at a high level, and give a rookie QBOTF a chance to settle in and develop a bit as a backup before being named the starter after Cousins eventually declines. The risk is that neither the rookie or the veteran acquisition are able to perform well next season, and the Vikings are faced with a quarterback situation similar to the last half of last season after Cousins went down.

The other aspect of Cousins potentially signing elsewhere is that it may well complicate extension talks with Justin Jefferson. It would seem less likely that Jefferson would be willing to commit to a contract extension with question marks at quarterback. He may well delay that decision until next year and see how things play out at quarterback before committing to a contract extension with the Vikings. Jefferson has made it clear that winning is the most important thing for him, and there have been rumors that he is also concerned about the direction of the franchise at quarterback and the offensive scheme and his role in it going forward.

Bottom Line

Both Kirk Cousins and the Vikings have expressed interest in completing a contract extension together. On both sides, working out a deal seems preferable to moving on from one another, but negotiations- and now competing offers- are complicating that equation.

For Cousins, he’ll likely get a better offer elsewhere and he’ll have to consider if it is worth moving to his third team and third location to take advantage of that better offer. For the Vikings, they’ll need to consider how much keeping Cousins is worth it to them compared to the alternative- and the potential ramifications that will have in the coming season and with the players.

The next couple weeks will be telling. Stay tuned.

Follow me on X/twitter @wludford

Originally posted on Daily Norseman