Latest NFL rumors on Kirk Cousins ahead of start of free agency tampering period

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Kirk Cousins
Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Kirk Cousins is the top quarterback on the market heading into the start of NFL free agency and with the tampering window beginning at noon ET, it appears a bidding war is about to ensue between the Atlanta Falcons and Minnesota Vikings.

Cousins, who suffered a torn Achilles on Oct. 29, is poised to become one of the highest-paid NFL players ever. Even coming off a devastating injury and entering his age-36 season, the Falcons and Vikings have made him their top priority this offseason.

  • Kirk Cousins stats 2023: 103.8 QB rating, 18-5 TD-INT, 2,331 passing yards, 7.5 yards per attempt

Related: Most underrated NFL free agents 2024

On Sunday, Alec Lewis and Dianna Russini of The Athletic reported that Minnesota expected to hear from Cousins that night on whether or not he would explore NFL free agency. The team was hopeful to receive an answer before the tampering window opened on Monday at 12:00 PM ET.

However, per Russini, as of early Monday morning, the Vikings hadn’t received an answer from their Pro Bowl quarterback. Despite months of negotiations, there was a growing sense that Cousins would test the open market and negotiate with Atlanta.

Related: Most overrated NFL free agents 2024

  • Kirk Cousins career stats: 98.2 QB rating, 39, 471 passing yards, 270 passing touchdowns, 66.8% completion rate, 7.6 yards per attempt, 28 game-winning drives

The Denver Broncos, who were once viewed as potential suitors for Cousins, dropped out on Sunday night. With limited cap space due to the release of Russell Wilson, Denver was never likely to land the top quarterback in free agency. However, the decision made it a two-team race.

On the Vikings front, team sources indicated to Russini that the feeling is Cousins wants to stay in Minnesota but his decision will come down to the structure of the contract. Entering the weekend, the Vikings had yet to offer the contract he was looking for.

Latest on Atlanta Falcons’ backup plan at quarterback

Before the start of NFL free agency, it was widely reported that Cousins was the Falcons’ top target this offseason. Team owner Arthur Blank is determined to upgrade at the position following years of the offense being dragged down by inconsistency and poor play at the position.

Related: 2024 NFL Draft QB rankings

If Atlanta couldn’t land Cousins, its backup plan was Baker Mayfield. However, the Pro Bowl quarterback agreed to a lucrative three-year deal to remain with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers less than 24 hours before the tampering window opens.

With Mayfield off the board and Cousins leaving the door open to re-signing with Minnesota, the Falcons’ third option is believed to be Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields. A Georgia native, Fields’ trade value has dropped since the start of the offseason. With very few suitors, Atlanta likely could land him for less than a second-round pick.

Related: 2024 NFL Draft order, picks by team

Minnesota Vikings’ quarterback alternative if Kirk Cousins leaves

While Minnesota prioritized re-signing Cousins this offseason, the front office has consistently left the door open to pursuing his long-term replacement. The Vikings have been heavily tied to top quarterbacks in the 2024 draft class, keeping a close eye on them at both the Senior Bowl and NFL Combine.

Related: NFL teams believe they’ll need to trade up ahead of Minnesota Vikings for this quarterback

The Washington Commandes (second overall pick), New England Patriots (third overall pick) and Los Angeles Chargers (fifth overall pick) are all viewed as potential trade-down candidates in the upcoming NFL Draft. However, Washington is still widely expected to select quarterback Drake Maye with the second pick.

If Cousins ultimately leaves Minnesota, with Mayfield off the market, Minnesota could pursue a short-term deal with free-agent quarterback Sam Darnold. However, the far likelier scenario would see the Vikings moving up in the first round for either Jayden Daniels or J.J. McCarthy.

Related: NFL salary cap tracker 2024

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