Former NFL Exec Raises Red Flag Over Vikings, Kirk Cousins Contract Talks

Former NFL general manager Randy Mueller has a cautionary tale for the Minnesota Vikings, who are just weeks away from losing veteran quarterback Kirk Cousins to free agency.


The Vikings’ current roster situation, boasting a handful of elite players but lacking in depth and difference-makers at several key positions, is a familiar place for Mueller.


Mueller likened the Vikings’ dilemma to the 1992 offseason for the Seattle Seahawks.



Seattle had a 51-44 record with Dave Krieg at quarterback from 1986 to 1991. Undrafted in 1980, Krieg was a three-time Pro Bowler. He had won three playoff games and even led a loaded Seahawks offense to the NFC title game in 1984, winning over the fan base and cementing himself as a starter.



The Seahawks front office was confident they could be a winning team with an above .500 record in 1992. But after a trio of first-round exits with Krier at quarterback over a seven-season span, the front office could not carry on with business as usual.


“We also knew we weren’t going to go further than that,” Mueller told The Athletic in a February 22 article, “so the decision-making had to change for us.”



The Seahawks made the call to move on from Krieg — and it didn’t prove to be a favorable outcome. They didn’t have a winning season again for eight years.


“So you can’t just say, ‘We’re going to find another quarterback,’” Mueller said.



The Vikings face a similar dilemma. Cousins has a 50-37-1 regular-season record in six years with the Vikings and has made four Pro Bowl appearances. But his lack of success in the playoffs with a team that has atrophied since its 2018 NFC title game appearance has led the new regime to reconsider his future in Minnesota.


While Mueller’s Seahawks struggled with the repercussions of resetting at quarterback, he urged the Vikings to stay the course they’ve carved through after not re-signing Cousins to a long-term extension in the past two offseasons.


Former NFL Executive Believes Vikings Could Buy Into Veteran Bridge QB Sam Darnold



The new Vikings regime has maintained its “competitive rebuild” philosophy through two seasons. Last offseason leaned closer to a rebuild after the Vikings parted ways with several household names who were past their prime and due for inflated paydays against the cap.


But without deciding on Cousins, the Vikings have not clearly defined their path to contention. A 13-win 2022 campaign ended with an exit in the wild-card round of the playoffs and a 7-10 showing in 2023 was far from encouraging.


Even if Cousins wasn’t lost for the season due to injury, it’s hard to argue the Vikings would have fared any better than they have in the playoffs throughout the Cousins era.


“The middle of the pack is a hard, hard place to be,” Mueller said. “That’s kind of what they’ve proved. To me, the first couple of years (with [Kwesi] Adofo-Mensah and head coach Kevin O’Connell) have proved that they have a ways to go. They just don’t have the guys to compete week in and week out. Yeah, they’re going to win a few games. And yes, you can blame some of last year on Kirk Cousins getting hurt. But I just think they’ve got to add to what they have. But that may cause them to take a step back to get there — which is a hard thing for anybody in this game to do.”


Mueller’s ideal path forward for the Vikings would be to secure a potential future franchise quarterback through the draft and sign a veteran journeyman to maximize the roster in the interim — namely Sam Darnold.


“They’d all have to be on the same page, for sure,” Mueller said. “But what (a player like Darnold) brings you at a cap number of $10 million, with what else the team could do with that money, could sell to coaches.”



Last week, the NFL announced it would increase the 2024 cap to $255.4 million — an unprecedented 13.6% markup from the previous year’s cap.


According to ESPN’s Dan Graziano, many teams had worked with models for their 2024 roster construction at roughly $242 to $245 million to spend — making the extra cap a “game-changer” around the league.


In the Vikings ‘ case, the additional cap space unaccounted for could improve the case for internally re-signing Cousins.


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