MINNEAPOLIS - Minnesota Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman made one thing very clear on Wednesday, speaking with reporters for the first time since mid-January: Kirk Cousins isn’t going anywhere.
There’s been plenty of speculation that NFL teams needing a quarterback are interesting in trading for Cousins. That, and reports that Deshaun Watson is unhappy in Houston, and Russell Wilson might be getting frustrated in Seattle. The NFL offseason is always active, but Spielman says Cousins is their guy.
"I think Coach Zim put that to bed when he spoke after the season. Kirk Cousins is our quarterback. I know there’s a lot of rumors floating around out there, but Kirk Cousins is our quarterback," Spielman said Wednesday. "Excited for him and what he’s going to bring to our team next year."
Cousins threw for 4,265 yards and a career-high 35 touchdowns last season, but it didn’t translate to wins largely because of a defense battered by injuries. Cousins is due to make $21 million in base salary in 2021, and $35 million in 2022 is guaranteed if they don’t work out a restructured deal before March 19.
The Vikings finished 7-9 and missed the NFC Playoffs for the fourth time in seven seasons under Mike Zimmer.
The Vikings are now in offseason mode, and getting ready for both free agency and the NFL Draft at the end of April. Spielman went into detail about how things will move forward before they have the No. 14 pick in the draft:
- Senior Bowl – Spielman and four other team officials were able to attend the Senior Bowl back in late January. They watched prospects practice, and did virtual interviews with 128 players over a four-day period.
- NFL Combine – Spielman and the Vikings went through the NFL Combine, which was done mostly virtually. Teams got to interview prospects up to five times, got a medical evaluation and psychological testing.
- Pro days – Spielman says he’ll hit the road next week for between 10 to 15 Pro Days at various colleges. Three staff from each team can attend a Pro Day, where prospects work out in front of GM’s and front office staff.
Spielman said the Vikings are going to have to get very creative with their roster this season. The NFL’s salary cap will be an estimated $180 million. Minnesota still has about $5 million in contracts to shed or restructure to get to that number.
"Our ownership is fully committed to giving us the resources necessary to try to go out and do what we have to do improve this football club. They’ve never hesitated once on us not being aggressive in our approach going forward," Spielman said.
The Vikings have roster decisions to make, and one of them came Tuesday with releasing Kyle Rudolph. There’s a chance other big names are to follow. Spielman said parting ways with Rudolph, a 10-year veteran and fan-favorite, was among the toughest he’s ever had to do.
"That’s the hardest part of sitting in this seat and making those type of vital decisions. Those are the nights that you sleep on the couch because you keep staring at the ceiling light because you know how torn you are personally from the decision," Spielman said. "You also know you have to make a business decision on how we can move forward and do some of the things we need to do in other areas to get better."
Spielman also addressed the status of Danielle Hunter. The star defensive end missed all of the 2020 season after having to have surgery for a herniated disc in his neck. He never took a snap last season after the injury popped up during a training camp modified by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hunter was expected to be a dominant force on the defensive line after become the fastest player in NFL history to at least 50 career sacks in his first five seasons. Without him, the Vikings didn’t generate much pressure on quarterbacks most of the season.
"I know from all indications of where he’s at on his rehab right now, I saw an Instagram picture of him yesterday, he looked pretty good. Excited to get him back here in the fold and get him going once we get started," Spielman said.