Let's get straight to the point: Adam Schefter said on ESPN Sunday that the Vikings and Kirk Cousins will "figure something out."
In other words, Schefter is believes that new head coach Kevin O'Connell wants to work with Cousins, who carries a $45 million cap hit entering the final year of his contract with the Vikings in 2022.
“Kevin O’Connell worked with Kirk Cousins in Washington. Kirk Cousins endorsed Kevin O’Connell for that job. One of the reasons Kevin kind of wants that job is because of Kirk Cousins. There’s a relationship," Schefter said during Sunday's Pro Bowl coverage on ESPN, according to NESN.
O'Connell worked with Cousins in 2017 when he was the quarterbacks coach for the Washington Commanders. That season, Cousins posted the worst passer rating (93.9) and QBR (56.0) of his career as Washington went 7-9 and missed the playoffs.
But this isn't just about the two apparently wanting to work together. Schefter suggested Cousins could restructure his deal to save money in the short term.
“So that tells me that Minnesota and Kirk Cousins will figure out something, and maybe come up with a restructured contract that adds years on for Kirk Cousins and gives the Vikings salary cap relief this offseason, to give them more money to spend on other players."
That brings up the question of how the Vikings would retain Cousins. Would they do it by riding out his current contract, which would eat up 20% of the salary cap, which as Purple Insider's Sam Ekstrom recently pointed out, NFL teams never let happen.
"Historically, teams have never allowed quarterbacks to take up 20 percent of their cap — it never, ever happens — and if Cousins remains at a $45 million cap hit, the Vikings have to get ultra-lean elsewhere. That not only means even less depth, but it could mean cutting ties with veterans that would be useful to have in future years when/if Cousins is gone."
Keeping Cousins at $45 million would likely mean tough decisions with a bunch of big names and big contracts, including Michael Pierce, Dalvin Cook, Eric Kendricks, Harrison Smith, Adam Thielen and Danielle Hunter. Is dumping multiple big names worth keeping Cousins at his current rate, then taking a QB in the first round of the April draft to learn under Cousins for a year? There's a case for it, though it might not be ideal.
Another option, and perhaps more likely scenario, is extending Cousins. But that only delays the inevitable of getting crushed by his gigantic cap hit in the final year of his deal. And if it's hard to trade him at age 33 and a $45 million cap hit, then imagine how difficult it would be when he's 35 or 36 with what might be an even bigger cap hit.
The Vikings restructured Cousins after the 2019 season when Cousins was scheduled to have a $31 million cap hit. Instead of letting him play out the final season, Cousins signed a two-year, $66 million extension that has put the Vikings in this situation.
The Saints restructured Drew Brees' contract multiple times and the end result is the Saints entering the 2022 season $76 million over the cap (per Spotrac), which gives them basically no chance to contend in 2022 despite having some big stars on the roster.
With a bullish quarterback market, there's an argument to be made that now is the time to trade Cousins. But if O'Connell wants to work with him, history may repeat itself.