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Monday Morning Mailbag: Free Agency Clock Ticking on Kirk Cousins, Vikings Other Decisions

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We've reached the day that officially opens legal tampering, a two-day window created with an idea of allowing prospective free agents to receive reports on offers from other teams when free agency opens.

The new league year is set to begin at 3 p.m. (CT) on March 13, so between 11 a.m. (CT) today and then, expect to hear quite a bit of numbers circulated through various forms of media.

The start of free agency is always welcome because of the major news events across the league and the energy toward next season, even though it is roughly half a year before Week 1.

Kirk Cousins is among Vikings players with expiring contracts, and his status has driven much of the conversations regarding Minnesota's approach. He and the Vikings could work out an extension before that happens, or he might reach the open market for just the second time in his career.

If he does reach the open market, he could still opt to return to the Vikings, or he could join a third NFL team as he prepares for his 13th pro season.

Because of the size of contracts for veteran quarterbacks, he's the first domino for the Vikings.

We'll have plenty of thoughts from fans about Cousins below, as well as a couple other topics.

The NFL on Friday announced the awarding of 34 compensatory picks to 14 teams. Compensatory picks are designed to offset a team's net losses through free agency in the previous year, but there also are special compensatory picks awarded when a team has a minority employee hired away to be a head coach or primary football executive by another team.

The Rams and 49ers were each awarded five compensatory picks, including one special pick for each team. The special pick awarded to the 49ers is heading to the Commanders as part of a previous trade.

The Eagles received four compensatory picks. The Jets, Packers and Saints received three apiece. The Jaguars, Cowboys and Bengals picked up a pair of picks through the process, and the Ravens, Bills, Chiefs, Buccaneers and Chargers each received one selection.

Compensatory picks are assigned at the ends of rounds three through seven and can be traded.

The assigning of the picks also means that Minnesota's full slate has been assigned.

The Vikings currently have the following selections:

First Round: 11th overall

Second Round: 42nd overall

Fourth Round: 107th overall

Fourth Round: 128th overall (from Detroit)

Fifth Round: 156th overall (from Cleveland)

Fifth Round: 166th overall (from Kansas City)

Sixth Round: 176th overall (from Carolina through Jacksonville)

Sixth Round: 187th overall (from Las Vegas through New England)

Seventh Round: 230th overall

To Cousins or not to Cousins, that's the big question. We'll find out pretty soon. However, the Vikings finish fourth in the NFC North either way in 2024. If they go with Cousins and the cap-draining contract he'll bring, then they'll have very little left to address the many holes that remain, except the draft. If they address QB in the draft, then that's one less pick for all the other holes. The fundamental problem is that the current GM doesn't have much success to point to with two prior drafts and two prior rounds of free agent signings. Will the third try at each be more successful? One can always hope.

— David Sinclair in Rio Rancho, New Mexico

As mentioned, we'll have plenty of chatter about Cousins in this Mailbag, which probably doesn't surprise anyone, but I feel like David's email sort of sets the agenda.

Some fans want to bring back Cousins, regardless of cost. Others would like to see him back, but only at a certain percentage against the salary cap. And then there's some who are interested in moving on after six seasons.

The Vikings do have holes and opportunities at other positions and have not been shy in saying as much.

Some fans want the Vikings to draft a QB with their first pick, even if Cousins returns, but yes, that would take away an opportunity for a player who could contribute directly to the team quicker, which is desired for a team that finished 7-10 by losing six of its final seven games (all without Cousins, who was lost in Week 8 with the team at 4-4 but surging).

General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has been working against tight cap space for his first two seasons, so his free agency efforts have been limited, like stepping into the batter's box with a toothpick instead of a Louisville Slugger, but he's made some strategic additions that have helped Minnesota go 20-14 in regular seasons. Jordan Hicks and Harrison Phillips were two players the Vikings acquired in Adofo-Mensah's first offseason. The signing of Marcus Davenport last year was a bigger swing of sorts without being a long-term commitment by Minnesota, but he quickly landed on Injured Reserve.

The Vikings have more picks at this point in the calendar than in 2023, so there's more bites at the apple and more flexibility to navigate the draft board.

The tone of the Kirk Cousins speculation has definitely taken a turn to the darker side recently! Having been a Cousins supporter during his tenure in Minnesota, that tone is upsetting, and if it proves true, it would tarnish his legacy as a Viking. I was — and still am hoping Kirk is different, hoping he places integrity above greed. So many of these pro athletes are wealthy beyond their own imagination, and still the focus of their career is only about accumulating more wealth. I hope the rumors are proven wrong. If not, I hope he has a long and happy life counting his pennies but never wins another football game!

— Dale Kruse

Without rehashing a bunch of speculation that many of you have combed through for the past couple of weeks, there are said to be suitors interested in Cousins.

The scarcity principle really comes to the forefront during free agency, especially when it involves experienced quarterbacks who have demonstrated the consistent levels of production that Cousins has.

When a person has limited time to maximize career earnings, I can see how large offers would be enticing.

The Vikings might be outbid, and Cousins may depart, or they might be outbid, and he could choose to return to Minnesota because of multiple other factors that can offset the cash.

The reason to not re-sign Kirk Cousins is he can't beat a winning team. Kirk is 16-47 against winning teams. Sign Terry Bradshaw. At his age, he could win one of four games.

— Bill Kahlert (Viking fan since 1965) in Maysville, North Carolina

I'm not getting the win-loss record to matchup by my count, but I do understand one of the narratives that has been associated with him is beating up on teams with losing records and falling more than not to teams with winning records.

My count, for regular seasons going all the way back to his 2012 rookie season with Washington (as a fourth-round pick) follows:

Vs. teams that entered the game with a winning record: 23-37-1 (.385)

Vs. teams that entered the game with a losing record: 40-19-1 (.675)

Vs. teams that entered the game with a .500 win percentage: 13-11 (.542)

Since joining the Vikings in 2018, he has the following records:

Vs. teams that entered the game with a winning record: 15-24-1 (.388)

Vs. teams that entered the game with a losing record: 23-9 (.718)

Vs. teams that entered the game with a .500 win percentage: 12-4 (.750)

And since Kevin O'Connell's hire in 2022, the percentages are better:

Vs. teams that entered the game with a winning record: 6-4 (.600)

Vs. teams that entered the game with a losing record: 7-3 (.700)

Vs. teams that entered the game with a .500 win percentage: 4-1 (.800)

O'Connell and Cousins have worked well together in these two seasons, going 17-8.

I'm sure the weekly pressers with Bradshaw would provide some antics, though!

So, the longer we wait to see what this team needs to address and fix before the new season, the more and I can't but help to think we have way too many expensive mouths to feed. And seems like the organization is not able to swallow their pride for a season or two, to allow for a proper rebuild of this team. We are always in the mindset of doing whatever it takes and signing big-market names, when we have a glaring issue at hand: the QB!! I mean Kirk is a fantastic stats guy, but he hasn't won squat the six years he has been here. I mean what's the allure? Winning one playoff game, and now at 36 years old, dealing with an Achilles tear at $30+ million a!! Come on Minnesota brass, we have a decent draft spot to pick a successor and maybe in a couple years we can keep pace with the Lions, Bears and the Packers. Because they have endured years of bad teams (except the Packers) and by the looks of things our divisional rivals are way better than the Vikes. Hoping they can make the right decision and stop overpaying for someone who literally has won one playoff game.

— Cyrus S.

Kirk's 1-3 showing in playoff games for his career is not great, but he wasn't exactly problem No. 1 against the Giants in January 2023. He completed 79.5 percent of his passes for 273 yards and two touchdowns and a passer rating of 112.9.

Had the Vikings returned to the postseason this past year with a healthy Cousins leading the charge, perhaps the team could have improved on that mark.

It is true that the Vikings don't want to be slotted to pick at 11 or in the top 10 because that means that the previous season fell shy of the team's goals.

The cap increase has made a few more things possible for Minnesota, but every team gained about $30 million over last year's cap, and several weren't as close to the cap as the Vikings.

Things can change pretty quickly in the NFL — from year to year, game to game or even snap to snap.

View home and away photos of the Vikings 2024 regular season opponents.

Of all the recent years of the NFL draft, none have been close to this year's stable of available quarterbacks who have a legitimate shot of making it in the NFL. In addition to the top three quarterbacks, [Caleb] Williams, [Drake] Maye and [Jayden] Daniels, there are another three, namely J.J. McCarthy, Bo Nix, and Michael Penix, Jr.

After watching three days of NFL workouts at the combine, especially the quarterbacks on Saturday, I have concluded there is no need to move up in the draft, and I would hate to see the Vikings give up the farm to trade multiple high picks. Obviously, I do not know what Kwesi is thinking, but in my opinion, I think the Vikings should stay put. Many mock drafts have the Vikings picking an edge rusher but if McCarthy, Nix, or Penix is available, pull the trigger at pick 11 or trade down if Kwesi thinks his pick will still be on the board. The Vikings may not have the opportunity to draft this [high] in future years.

Personally, I like J.J. McCarthy of this group with his arm and his accuracy, as well as his abilities to run the football that help make him a dynamic threat.

In addition to being a lifelong fan, I missed my calling. I love the draft, and it would have been fun to be part of the Vikings team to evaluate draft picks.

A fan through thick and thin,

— David Bond in Rochester, Minnesota

I'm forever grateful for the interest level that fans have in following the moments up to the draft every year.

The NFL offseason has so many storylines to follow. It's also been really cool to see fans' passion rewarded with more and more opportunities to get involved in their evaluation of prospects through items like combine coverage.

I enjoy receiving people's opinions on the prospects and then seeing what comes to fruition.

Multiple people have touted this class of quarterbacks for its quality and depth, but there are plenty of teams with interest at the position.

The Cousins domino could significantly impact the Vikings plans at 11 — whether to vault up the board, stay put or trade back.

I have been a Vikings fan for over 50 years. I remember my dad taking me to The Met to watch Fran Tarkenton when Sammy White was a rookie. My question is, what about signing Russell Wilson? It seems it would cost considerably less than to keep Cousins because he's basically been paid by Denver already. That way they could sign [Danielle] Hunter, [Dalton] Risner and [Justin Jefferson]. Go after one of the three top [edge defenders] with the first pick to play opposite of Danielle (who still has a lot of game left regardless of his age) and move up with the second pick to draft either an offensive lineman or defensive tackle or maybe a Michael Penix, Jr., to develop behind Russ. Also, with signing Wilson there would be more money for free agents to address their weaknesses, especially on defense. I think Russell Wilson could use a fresh start and who better to throw to then J.J., [Jordan] Addison and [T.J.] Hockenson. I believe he can still make the throws especially in Kevin O'Connell's offense.


— James in Las Vegas, Nevada


What are the odds that we kick the wheels on Sam Darnold. He has the physical tools. He has produced. He has had four head coaches and five offensive coordinators in his young career. He has played on some bad teams. He would be on a talented offensive team and would probably come at a decent price. Do you think the Vikings might be interested?

— Gerald Goblirsch

Those days at The Met had to be electric. I love reading about those teams—and reflecting on how fans and players overcame the harshest elements.

O'Connell and his staff have described trying to build the system to be quarterback friendly. How transferrable it will be could be answered if Cousins departs, either with Minnesota adding a veteran free agent, drafting a high pick or building on what's been done so far with Nick Mullens and Jaren Hall.

If Cousins does move on, the Vikings will need to choose the best possible method of executing the system at a high level. If they don't think it can be done as highly as with Cousins (or if they don't have the opportunity of continuing with him), then the approach is likely to figure out how to offset those losses by strengthening other aspects of the team.

Hunter and Risner are both scheduled to become free agents on Wednesday, along with multiple other players, making it important to know as quickly as possible what is going to happen with Cousins.

As far as any veterans out there, I believe the evaluators will be comprehensive in their assessment and be contemplative about anyone who might benefit from a reboot.

View the best touchdown photos of Vikings players during the 2023-24 season.

Do you think Cousins might consider a sweetheart deal if the Vikings offered him a great front line, re-signing Risner and signing or drafting a massive right guard??? Life couldn't be better with the existing TE, WR, and an improved running game!!!!

— Tom Manders, U.S. Army EOD SGM (Ret.) in Osakis, Minnesota

The roar that Cousins got when he sounded the Gjallarhorn last season — shirtless, chained up and with help from his oldest son Cooper — was incredibly robust and is the kind of thing that isn't guaranteed to occur at another team (not just because no one else has a Gjallarhorn). There's obviously 32 NFL teams, but not everywhere is like the environment that Vikings fans provide at U.S. Bank Stadium. There also likely would be an acclimation period to a new team and fanbase. As he's considering his offers, he's an incredibly savvy person who generally leans on comprehensive prep work and attention to detail.

View the best photos of Vikings QB Kirk Cousins, Joshua Dobbs, Nick Mullens, and Jaren Hall during the 2023 season.

I've written in many times as a long-suffering Vikes fan. This whole Cousins saga. Let's be honest, in six years with him, we are no closer to a Super Bowl. He's 36 and [is recovering from an] Achilles injury. He says he's made plenty of $$ in 12 years. So why is he looking for MORE in free agency? Makes him look greedy. Talk a great game, teammates love, good locker room guy but not the answer. Sign Wilson to league minimum and draft Penix late first round or early second. Use draft and free agency to fill needs. Can't wait any longer for a championship!


— Frankie from Connecticut

Been a little bit since we've heard from Frankie but good to hear from you again.

I've never been in a work situation where I've been recruited or headhunted, so I can't honestly say how I'd handle a situation like free agency with a legal tampering period.

I think most of us would be intrigued to hear about the offers if in that situation.

Please press harder when interviewing the coaches on the just average offensive line. Why don't they make getting top-tier linemen a higher priority?

— Jacque Eads

The Vikings have used quite a bit of draft capital on the offensive line over the years, with first-rounders on Garrett Bradbury (2019) and Christian Darrisaw (2021) and second-rounders Brian O'Neill (2018) and Ed Ingram (2022). Ezra Cleveland was another second-round selection who was traded last year after Minnesota signed Risner to a one-year deal.

The offensive system has changed since all the picks except Ingram were drafted. It seemed like some strides were gained last season, but we'll see what the plan is going forward.

Thanks for listening. Micheal Penix, Jr., will be the steal of the draft. I see Pro Bowl with him. The top 3, Maye, Daniels and Williams will take time to fit with the losing teams that will select them. Penix will end up with a team that is playoff ready. Hopefully it's the Minnesota Vikings.

Thanks for listening,

— Rodger in Sacramento, California

Multiple people have written in that they've liked what they've seen so far from the Washington QB who helped the Huskies reach the title game, still honored his commitment to practice at the Reese's Senior Bowl and then participated in the workout at the combine.

Are you guys going to trade Justin Jefferson?

— Michael U.

Adofo-Mensah was asked at the combine about that proposition at the end of his podium session and responded, "That is not something that once crossed my mind. You've got a blue player, blue person. You try and keep as many of those as you can."

Blue is in reference to blue chip/a rating personnel uses.

Jefferson is under contract for 2024, and the sides have been working on an extension.

I think we should keep Cam Bynum and Josh Metellus because they both made a pretty good impact on our defense this year. What do you think?

— Graham Van Wyk (Certified Die-hard)

Bynum and Metellus are under contract for 2024. Bynum, a 2021 pick is finishing the final year of his rookie contract. Metellus, who was a great find in the sixth round of the 2020 NFL Draft and had versatile potential unlocked by Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores last season, signed a two-year extension before the 2023 season. He's under contract through 2025.

I'm not the only one excited to see what Flores has in store for both players this fall.