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Lunchbreak: ESPN Analyzes Cousins' Contract Extension with Vikings

With the NFL's free-agent negotiating period in full swing, there has been a flurry of league news in recent days.

That trend should continue once free agency officially opens at 3 p.m. (CT) today with the start of the new league year.

Among the most notable roster moves in recent days was Minnesota and quarterback Kirk Cousins agreeing in principle to a contract extension, news of which the team announced Tuesday afternoon.

ESPN Vikings reporter Courtney Cronin analyzed the move and noted that the extension was a fair deal for both sides.

Cronin wrote:

Minnesota was able to maintain stability at quarterback while remaining in win-now mode. The Vikings aren't locked into Cousins forever, but now they are very much all-in on him. Cousins is coming off the best season of his career, ranking in the top five in completion percentage (69.1) and passer rating (107.4) while throwing for 3,603 yards and 26 touchdowns with six interceptions.

Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak knows what he has in Cousins, and the deal signifies that the Vikings believe Cousins can match his level of play from 2019 if not take it a step further.

Cousins started 15 games in 2019 — he and other starters sat out Week 17 with Minnesota locked into the sixth seed — and put together perhaps his best season as a pro.

Besides the statistics Cronin stated above, Cousins also compiled a career-best 107.4 passer rating, which ranked fourth in the NFL. He tied for the league lead as he recorded nine games with a passer rating of at least 100.0.

Cousins' best stretch of play came in October, when he was named the NFC Offensive Player of the Month.

Minnesota went a perfect 4-0 behind the quarterback's sizzling play in home wins over Philadelphia and Washington, and road victories against Detroit and the New York Giants.

Cousins completed 91 of 116 passes (78.4 percent) for 1,261 yards with 10 touchdowns and one interception over the four-game stretch, which was crucial to the Vikings eventually securing a playoff spot in 2019.

His passer rating in October was 137.1, which is the second-highest single-month passer rating in NFL history (Peyton Manning, 138.0, September 2013).

Recapping recent NFC North transactions

Minnesota's division rivals have been making plenty of moves of their own free-agency moves, too.

Perhaps the most notable is Green Bay's signing of right tackle Rick Wagner, who knows the NFC North well as he spent the past three seasons with Detroit. Wagner played collegiately at the University of Wisconsin. He grew up in West Allis, Wisconsin, which is roughly 120 miles from Green Bay.

The Packers also signed linebacker Christian Kirksey, who was recently released by Cleveland. Kirksey has played in nine total games over the past two seasons due to injuries.

Similar to Minnesota's recent announcement that they released defensive veterans Linval Joseph and Xavier Rhodes, Detroit and Chicago also made similar moves.

The Lions announced this week they let go of linebacker Devon Kennard, who posted 7.0 sacks in back-to-back seasons with Detroit.

The Bears released linebacker Leonard Floyd, who was the ninth overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.