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Vikings QB Kirk Cousins rates structure, not salary, as free agency priority

Oct 29, 2023; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) gets pressure from Green Bay Packers linebacker Kenny Clark (97) in the first quarter at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Mending Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins is two months from another foray into free agency, but his priorities look different as a 35-year-old coming back from a torn right Achilles tendon.

Cousins said Monday he is focused mostly on “structure,” and not salary when his contract automatically voids in March.

“Everything that isn’t the dollars,” Cousins said when asked to elaborate. “That stuff you also work through.”

At an average of $35 million per season on his existing contract, Cousins ranked 15th in the NFL among quarterbacks in annual salary last season.

Cousins understands the reality and business elements in play this spring. He could be the top available quarterback in free agency with a few of the richest — in terms of salary cap available — teams possibly looking for help at the position.

So for the first time since he joined the Vikings on a fully guaranteed contract in 2018, Cousins did a full cleanout of this locker on Monday.

“I’m not going to try to sell myself, if you will. I kind of like to let people make their own decisions, because I do think the league needs quarterbacks, and if you’re trying to talk yourself out of a quarterback, then I can’t help you much,” Cousins said.

“The Achilles is going to heal. And it’s on track, and I’m a pocket passer and there’s a lot of time before next season. For a lot of reasons, it doesn’t concern me, but if I can’t convince other people of that, then that’s OK.”

Cousins will be 36 before playing his next regular-season snap. A fourth-round pick in 2012, he was tied for the NFL lead with 18 touchdown passes when he suffered the Achilles injury eight weeks into the 2023 season.

Wide receiver Justin Jefferson and defensive end Danielle Hunter are two other high-priority offseason negotiations the Vikings must address. Jefferson said Sunday after a loss to the Detroit Lions he wants Cousins back. But contract talks last summer weren’t fruitful, and a long-term deal with Jefferson will impact what else the Vikings can afford in free agency.

Hunter set a career-high with 16.5 sacks in 2023 after relenting on plans to sit out in a contract standoff. He said Sunday that staying with the Vikings is his preference.

“It’s all I know. I came into this league, I don’t know any better. Purple, ever since middle school I’ve always been wearing purple so I’m here now,” Hunter said.

Among teams who could be in the market for a quarterback this offseason are the Atlanta Falcons, Chicago Bears, New England Patriots and a few contenders that might consider a move. One team in that category is the Detroit Lions, who won the NFC North. Cousins grew up in Holland, Mich., and played at Michigan State.

Current Detroit starter Jared Goff has one year remaining on his current contract.

–Field Level Media

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