For all the talk of the Vikings giving Kirk Cousins a three-year guaranteed $84 million contract, with $24 million for 2018, it’s worth noting that the Vikings will be spending only $4 million more on quarterbacks in 2018 than in 2017.
That total doesn’t include a potential $2 million bonus he could earn if the Vikings reach the Super Bowl.
The cap hit for the quarterback position will land somewhere around $26.5 million between Cousins, newly traded backup Trevor Siemian and third stringer Kyle Sloter.
In 2017 the Vikings entered the season with $22.5 million in payroll at the quarterback position with $18 million for Sam Bradford, $2.2 million for Teddy Bridgewater, $1.9 million for Case Keenum and $438,000 for Sloter.
That means that for the Vikings to secure Cousins, who they believe can become a foundational quarterback, their cap hit will be just $4 million more for quarterbacks in 2018.
General Manager Rick Spielman said that the Vikings knew they had great options at quarterback, and great cap flexibility, which allowed them to chase the player they wanted.
“I think we evaluated our roster and liked all three of our quarterbacks. But the No. 1 priority was getting the offensive coordinator [John DeFilippo] in place. Once we got the offensive coordinator in place, we did a quarterbacks study with myself, [head] Coach Zim [Mike Zimmer], [assistant general manager] George Paton, [quarterbacks coach] Kevin Stefanski and John DeFilippo and we went through and evaluated our guys but also wanted to look and kind of compare against Kirk Cousins.
“We felt we had a lot of options going into this thing, but we just felt that Kirk Cousins was a unique opportunity that doesn’t come along often. We were aggressive and decided to try to go after him once free agency started.”
When it came to the contract, Spielman said that was the price of doing business.
“When you have a quarterback of this stature that gets out in the open market you know what you’re going to have to do,” he said. “We were willing to go down that road. I think after talking with our ownership and getting a blessing from the Wilf family [Zygi Wilf, Mark Wilf and Leonard Wilf], to go ahead and get this quarterback, we didn’t have any hesitation about doing that.”
Career years at quarterback
Once Spielman knew the money wouldn’t be an issue, the coaches were on board.
“I think we all liked him once myself and Coach Zimmer and everybody talked through the scenarios, we watched all of his tape for the last three years,” Spielman said. “We looked at him and from an analytics standpoint and how he plays indoors, how he plays against our division, I think everybody, once we got through those meetings, felt that we should make a strong push to go get him.”
For all the talk of the Vikings defensive coaching, you have to consider that when it comes to quarterbacks this team really feels like it can get more out of a player at that position than anyone has before.
Consider Bradford, who was traded to the Vikings in 2016 and promptly had the best passing year of his career.
Bradford had posted an 81.0 quarterback rating with a 60.1 completion percentage over 63 starts between the St. Louis Rams and Philadelphia Eagles. With the Vikings he had 17 starts, posted a 101.1 QB rating and completed 71.8 percent of his passes.
Keenum was a similar story. Before joining the Vikings in 2017, he had started 24 games and played in 26 between the Texans and Rams and had posted a career 78.4 passer rating with a 58.4 completion percentage. In the Vikings system, he posted a 98.3 quarterback rating with a 67.6 completion percentage, 22 touchdowns and 3,547 passing yards — all career highs.
Spielman said when the Vikings considered all of their QB options, they thought that Cousins’ game could fit even better into their system.
Cap management key
Spielman knows that people are concerned about the team’s salary cap in the coming years, but he said the team has it under control.
“[Executive Vice President] Rob Brzezinski does an outstanding job with the cap,” Spielman said. “We know we have some extensions coming up and we want to make sure that we have enough room to potentially get some extensions done coming up here in the near future.”
The team still has sights on bringing back cornerback Terence Newman and all-around player Marcus Sherels, and it re-signed kicker Kai Forbath this past week.
But the bigger challenge will be getting long-term deals for linebackers Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks, defensive lineman Danielle Hunter and wide receiver Stefon Diggs, and keeping the core of the team intact.
“That is why we do our cap planning,” Spielman said. “We want to try to make sure we be conscientious of how we move forward so we have enough in the cap planning that potentially we can get those guys extended here.”
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