Sunday’s game confirmed for everyone what many suspected: For Kirk Cousins, those “You Like That?!?” moments are too few and too far between. For the Vikings, who have Cousins under contract for another 28 games, the question is whether they like that enough to keep paying him.
Not that they have much of a choice. His $29.5 million base salary for 2020 was fully guaranteed at signing. Which suggests that the Vikings are stuck with Cousins for the balance of his contract. But if the next 12 games go the way the first 20 have gone, with Cousins failing to step up in big games or big moments (he’s now 2-8-1 in games that fairly could be regarded as significant), will the Vikings try to figure out a way out from under his contract?
There are no good options, short of someone willing to trade for the privilege of paying him $29.5 million in 2020. And that’s not happening. At best, the Vikings would have to do a Jadeveon Clowney-type deal, trading Cousins to a team and paying a large chunk of his salary. Or maybe they’ll have to do a Brock Osweiler-type deal, trading Cousins and his contract to a new team and sending a first-round pick to the team that assumes the responsibility to pay Cousins.
At worst, the Vikings would bite the bullet, cutting Cousins, paying him the difference between $29.5 million and whatever he gets elsewhere, and moving on.
The Vikings will have to ask themselves whether paying him not to play for the team is better than paying him to continuing to play for the team. Without knowing more about their other options, it’s impossible to answer that question.
At this point, though, it’s fair to say that the Vikings made a mistake when entrusting so much cash and cap space to Cousins. Barring a dramatic turnaround by a player who seems to be all too conscious of — and all too freaked out by — big games and big moments, the Vikings will be looking for a way out of a third year with Cousins, even if they won’t have one.