Kirk Cousins: How his contract will affect the NFL for years to come

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - OCTOBER 28: Kirk Cousins #8 of the Minnesota Vikings passes the ball in the first quarter of the game against the New Orleans Saints at U.S. Bank Stadium on October 28, 2018 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - OCTOBER 28: Kirk Cousins #8 of the Minnesota Vikings passes the ball in the first quarter of the game against the New Orleans Saints at U.S. Bank Stadium on October 28, 2018 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) /

With the end of year almost here, it is time to reflect on the Kirk Cousins contract. How does it affect the rest of the NFL?

As we wrap up the 2018 NFL season, it’s a great time for reflection.

Perhaps you are looking at ways to improve in the following year. Maybe you didn’t get the job promotion you were expecting. Or maybe you didn’t get that raise you were expecting.

Whatever you are reflecting on, it is safe to say that the thought of improvement and optimism is typically on our minds when we wrap up the year.

As for me, 2018 was a big year. I graduated from college, moved across the country, and started medical school. It has been a lot of change in a short amount of time, but I am happy with where I am at.

As for as my sports media goals, things are coming up. I landed a writing opportunity here, and I am looking to continue building an audience of people who love sports and stories the way that I do. If you have been following me since my early radio days, lets continue to grow this thing. And those of you just finding me through this piece perhaps, I’m thankful you made it.

That is enough about me. Let’s shift our reflection to the NFL.

Every year in the NFL, there is always something that stands out and I become beyond obsessed with talking about. It could be a draft pick, a coach, or a signing, but regardless, something stands out that I become invested in.

In early years, it was Jay Cutler and whether or not he was a franchise level talent. I became totally obsessed with trying to convince friends and loved ones that he was talented but just lacked a spark (don’t worry, one day I will write that piece).

Last year, it was me trying to convince everyone to hop on the Jared Goff bandwagon. This one was more wishful thinking but hey, I was kind of right. He looks like he will pan out.

Which of course brings us to this year. This year I have been obsessed with the signing of Kirk Cousins by the Vikings.

With that obsession, and the end of the year upon us, I would be remised if I did not talk about the decision that the Vikings made.

But of course, to be able to fully reflect, you have to go back. So why don’t we do that? Let’s go back and talk about the decision that will forever change the way we view signings in the NFL.

Beginning of 2018

It was March of 2018, and the Minnesota Vikings were looking to make a decision at quarterback.

In the season prior, the Vikings had quite the impressive season led by career back-up Case Keenum. With a talented defense led by Mike Zimmer and company, the Vikings were able to re-capture the NFC North, and with it, advance throughout the playoffs.

Despite the success of the Vikings, Keenum was never viewed as an option at quarterback for the Vikings long-term.

So, when the Vikings were eliminated in the NFC Championship by the Eagles, it seemed like the perfect time to make an upgrade at quarterback.

Perfect timing how?

The Vikings’ roster was at the peak of their powers and if they were going to win a Super Bowl with this team, it was going to have to be in the next couple of years.

But they got blown out in the NFC Championship…


I suppose if you looked at the NFC Championship final score, the game doesn’t seem like it was ever that close. If you just relied on that, you could be made to believe the Eagles and Vikings rosters were a lot farther apart than they truly are.

However, if you actually watched the game, the talent on the field was a lot closer than the final score portrayed. If you recall, the Eagles were able to gain momentum from a pick six thrown by Keenum early in the game. After that play, it felt like the Vikings were destined to lose that game because of the overall momentum that play provided.

So, with a central belief that Keenum wasn’t the guy, a poor performance in the NFC championship game and a history of instability at quarterback, the Vikings had a perfect opportunity to move on.

What do you mean by instability?  

If you aren’t a Vikings fan, you might be unaware of this instability. Since the Favre season in 2009, the Vikings have struggled to have any sort of excellence at the position. With the bust that was Christian Ponder in the 2011, the unfortunate injury to Teddy Bridgewater and the inability for Sam Bradford to stay healthy, it is safe to say the Vikings were frustrated.

They were frustrated because if not for a kicker issue (I went into this problem in a different piece, check my twitter for the link), and a stable quarterback, the Vikings might have been in a Super Bowl or two.

So, when you are frustrated, getting older and running patience, what do you do? You overpay! You overpay for anything that will get you over the hump.

In March of 2018, the Vikings decided that they believed they had a piece would provide a spark that would get them over that hump. The Minnesota Vikings signed Kirk Cousins to a three-year/ 84-million-dollar contract.

Now, ignoring the numbers for a second, this contract was surprising for multiple reasons:

If the Team that drafted you doesn’t love you, why should another team?

First, it is always alarming to me when your own team doesn’t want you. The Washington Redskins never believed in Kirk Cousins. They showed us that when they refused to offer him any sort of an extension. This was also seen with years and years of constantly putting being placed on the franchise tag. With those ideas in mind, it was clear they didn’t see a future in him.

But to me, it spoke volume not they didn’t resign Cousins, but that Washington went out and traded for Alex Smith.

Why is that alarming?

It is alarming because of the type of quarterback that they acquired. Smith has always been seen as an average, game-managing type of NFL quarterback. One who cannot win you games but can provide some stability. He does not turn the ball over much and he more than likely will not be a reason why you lose a game.

And of course, there is nothing wrong with Alex Smith. He is a fine NFL quarterback and I have no problem with him as your quarterback. But from the standpoint of the Minnesota Vikings, this decision by the Redskins had to make them wonder about Cousins.  That questioning and confusion because the Vikings already had someone like Smith.

Smith and Keenum are not considered to be widely different as far as talent level. They both are slightly mobile and accurate quarterbacks, but they come with limitations in both of their games. They cannot throw the ball downfield at an elite level and have shown that they are incapable of elevating subpar talent.

If the Redskins are moving towards a quarterback of that magnitude, what does that say about Kirk Cousins?

To me, it says they have developed a “Dak Prescott like feeling”. They might believe that he is talented, but he is not the guy. In other words, he is good, but not great and certainly not worthy of a top level of contract.

If an organization has that belief about a player who has been in their system for years, that has to draw some red flags if you’re the Vikings.

If you are the Vikings, there really can only be two solutions with regards to the situation. Either Cousins isn’t a great quarterback, or the Redskins misjudged him from a talent standpoint.

Right? Something was clearly up.

That would be like if I was dating the same girl for five years and I wouldn’t pop the question. Either I am scared of commitment, cheap, or this girl isn’t the one. But either way, something isn’t quite right (Listen I know there are other reasons people don’t get married, but that’s the best analogy I could think of so smile and continue reading).

That feeling that something isn’t right is the same feeling that I had about Cousins.

Vikings sign him anyway

Regardless, the Vikings did in fact pop the question and made Cousins not only the richest player in NFL history at the time, but a unique one as well. Cousins would sign a contract in which he would see the full $84 million guaranteed. The making of the contract in itself is fascinating to me.

For starters, we had never really seen any type of fully guaranteed money. The Cousins contract interesting from a historic standpoint.

Why doesn’t it happen, you ask?

For one, football is, of course, a sport filled with injuries and you are always one play away from never playing again. So, from a business standpoint, it makes sense for organizations to avoid providing as much guaranteed money as possible. This avoids any type of loss finically if the player does great.

Listen, before you comment below, I am all for the player getting paid but from a business standpoint, I get it. The owners want to save money and shorting the players on guaranteed money is a great way to do it.

Second, the NFL player’s union isn’t particularly strong. With a weak union, and few rights in regards to fully guaranteed money, it almost never happens. Thus, making the Cousins contract special.

Not only was it special from the standpoint of fully guaranteed money, but to me, the length of the contract was also interesting. Cousins took less years than he probably could have gotten, a principle not seen in the NFL.

In the NBA, we see this all of the time. Players will continually take shorter deals because of a continuing rising cap and a confidence that they will live to player another year.

But in the NFL, due to injuries and safety precautions, we almost never see players taking shorter contracts. The reason being that players are trying to capitalize on every dollar they can make. They are unsure when their last snap will come, so they don’t take chances. They want the feeling they will be covered if they would get hurt, so they take these long contracts to ensure that they are taken care of.

What does this have to do with Kirk Cousins?

Well, Cousins bet on himself and lost. He could have easily gotten a five to six-year contract but instead took a three-year deal. Some will argue that was the best he could do, but I disagree. I believe the Jets would have given him a five-year deal and perhaps maybe even the Vikings. I believe that Cousins turned it down and wanted a three-year deal because that is when the new Collective Bargain Agreement will be renewed. He had the belief that he was good enough to demand a new contract in three years for more money, but he was wrong.

In fact, he probably should have just taken the money because I doubt he gets any sort of max contract when that time comes to begin with.

When you factor in his contract and how things really haven’t worked out for him, it draws the bigger questions. First, will players will be less likely to take short deals after watching him fail to maintain value?

I doubt it because in order to be a professional athlete, you have to have the highest level of confidence in yourself. Perhaps, they will argue they are better he is and this will not happen to them.

Second, will this make players more likely to take less money because of the way the league has shifted? We are constantly seeing the best quarterbacks do it. Tom Brady and Drew Brees have done it for years and they have benefited from the ability to have more depth on their roster. With the lack of success of quarterbacks like Kirk Cousins, Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan and other quarterbacks who took max deals, I wonder if it shifts back.

Next. 2019 NFL mock draft update. dark

Regardless of whether or not you agree with me on his talent level, the Cousins contract could have long term effects on the NFL. I’d say this year, I might have picked a fascination that the rest of you share with me.