The Minnesota Vikings have been without quarterback Kirk Cousins since Week 8. They lost the four-time Pro Bowler for the season to a torn Achilles.
Now going on eight weeks removed from surgery, Cousins spoke about his rehab, future in Minnesota, and much more during a conversation with ESPN NFL insider, Adam Schefter.
“I would love to be back in Minnesota. Hopefully, we can make that happen,” Cousins said on “The Adam Schefter Podcast” on December 18. “Tends to be more of a February, March conversation. And this is more right now about just finishing the football season, and trying to help us get to the playoffs and then stay in the playoffs.”
The Vikings’ playoff chances took a big hit with their loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 15. They entered the week with a 63.2% chance with an opportunity to jump to a 78.5% chance with a win. Instead, their odds fell to 51.2% with the loss.
Cousins went on to say that his “focus” on supporting the team “any way I can.” It is a notion fill-in starting quarterback Nick Mullens has attested to.
Cousins isn’t losing sight of the big picture, though.
“When we get to late February, the [NFL] Combine, March, kinda try to see how 2024 is going to shake out,” Cousins told Schefter.
Brad Spielberger of Pro Football Focus projects Cousins’ next contract to resemble that of Philip Rivers in 2020, or, roughly 12.6% of the salary cap which was $198.2 million at that time, per Spotrac.
For Cousins, under a salary cap expected to exceed $240 million, Spielberger estimates Cousins’ deal could come in around $60 million over two years with $37.5 million in guaranteed money.
That $30 million annual salary works out to $12.5% of the projected cap in 2024.
The next question is should the Vikings be willing to invest that kind of capital into a quarterback who will be 36 years old by the start of next season and is coming off a major injury?
Cousins listed off a whole host of athletes (and other public figures and friends) who have overcome Achilles injuries. He notes that many – including teammates Cam Akers and Jordan Hicks, who has torn both of his Achilles before – came back as good if not better than before.
“I do believe there’s, probably, my best football still up ahead of me. But I gotta go prove that with the way I heal up and then with the way I play up ahead,” Cousins said. “The game is so much mental, and it’s so much on past experiences.”
Kirk Cousins Impacted by Tom Brady, in Contact With Aaron Rodgers
“I’ve heard Tom Brady comment, … ‘I’ve spent my whole life in football to get to this point where I know the defenses, I know the blitzes, I know the checks, I’ve seen them all that many times,’” Cousins said. “It’d be a shame if I’m the best version of myself but my arm can no longer do it. … Because the mental side of it, and even the emotional, is the best it’s ever been.”
Cousins again pointed to the “experience factor” and the reps that he has under his belt.
He added that he isn’t thinking too far into the future, but says it would be “hard” for him to walk away while he still feels like he can do it physically.
Schefter then asked about why Cousins hasn’t been mentioned in similar comeback conversations like Aaron Rodgers, who tore his Achilles in Week 1. It was just four snaps into his career with the New York Jets.
Cousins noted the roughly seven-week difference in their injuries. He said it would put his return in line with a Vikings Super Bowl run. He also joked they would keep him out if they made it.
But he did say he has spoken to Rodgers since the injury.
“He and I spoke … and I was just able to ask him about his rhythm, his routine. I wanted to hear his habits,” Cousins said. “It was just helpful. And then, on our bye week, we checked in again. … It’s fun to have a guy who’s two months ahead of me so I can have this road map to follow and learn from.
Cousins said he was “really grateful” for Rodgers. He called him a “great resource,” saying he would be checking in with the Jets quarterback again.
Kirk Cousins Updates Timeline for Return to Field
He admitted that after his initial diagnosis, which took the team’s foot and ankle surgeon, Dr. J. Chris Coatzee, “about a half a second,” he had doubts about his future.
“You wonder,” Cousins said, reflecting on his looming free-agent status.
Cousins said that his medical team is hesitant to put a definitive timeline on his recovery. But the next time he’ll meet with the surgeon will be “late January, early February”. That is right around the time he will start thinking about his contract.
At that point, he expects to be making the transition from walking to jogging. Cousins said he’s planning on “missing as few practices in the spring as possible.”