April 13, 2024

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QB Kirk Cousins ​​leaves the Vikings on a 4-year deal with the Falcons

QB Kirk Cousins ​​leaves the Vikings on a 4-year deal with the Falcons

The Atlanta Falcons have finally solved their franchise quarterback issues.

The club agreed to terms on a four-year contract with former Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins ​​on Monday, according to his agent Mike McCartney.

A source told ESPN's Adam Schefter that Cousins' deal is worth $180 million ($45 million per season), including $100 million guaranteed.

“After significant and positive dialogue with Kirk and his representatives, we were unable to reach an agreement on a contract that fits the short- and long-term visions of both Kirk and the Minnesota Vikings,” Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah said in a statement. statement. “Kirk holds a special place in Vikings history, and we appreciate his leadership and contributions to the team and the Minneapolis-St. The middle linebacker. We are moving forward with plans that will allow us to continue building a roster that can compete for a championship. “

Cousins ​​joins an offense that includes several players taken in the first round. The Falcons have three offensive linemen in the first round — left tackle Jake Matthews, right tackle Caleb McGary, and two-time Pro Bowler Chris Lindstrom at right guard. He also has Atlanta's last three first-round picks — tight end Kyle Pitts, receiver Drake London and running back Bijan Robinson — as skill-position players to work with.

Atlanta agreeing to terms with Cousins ​​should put an end to the team's multi-year quest to find a replacement for 2016 NFL MVP Matt Ryan, whom the team traded to the Indianapolis Colts before the 2022 season after a failed pursuit of Deshaun Watson.

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The Falcons then signed Marcus Mariota to be their starting quarterback and drafted Desmond Rader in the third round of the 2022 draft. Mariota lasted 13 games as a starter before being benched for Rader, who started the final four games of the 2022 season and enters 2023 as the franchise's top starting quarterback. the team.

Reeder was benched twice in 2023 in favor of replacement Taylor Heinicke, but neither played well, as the Falcons eventually fired former head coach Arthur Smith and replaced him with Raheem Morris. In the press conference surrounding Smith's firing, team owner Arthur Blank described the quarterback's performance last season as “deficient” and pledged to resolve the team's issues at the position.

Rader completed 64.2% of his passes last season for 2,836 yards, 12 touchdowns, 12 interceptions and 12 pass breakups. Heinicke completed 54.4% of his passes for 890 yards, five touchdowns and four interceptions.

Both Ridder and Heinicke are under contract for the 2024 season, but the Falcons could save $6.96 million against the cap if Heinicke is released and would also avoid paying him a $1.32 million bonus if he's not back with Atlanta on March 17.

Cousins, 35, was having one of his best seasons in 2023 and was one of the most durable quarterbacks in the NFL before tearing his right Achilles tendon in Week 8 at Lambeau Field. At the time, he was tied for the NFL lead in passing touchdowns (18) and second in passing yards (2,331).

Before the injury, he had started 136 of a possible 138 games since ascending to QB1 with the Washington Commanders in 2015. One of those two missed games occurred when the Vikings were resting for the playoffs in 2019, and the other came after a positive COVID-19 test. In 2021.

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Cousins ​​spent three seasons as Washington's full-time starter but couldn't find common ground on a long-term extension. He played his final two seasons with the franchise-tagged team, positioning himself to hit the free agent market in 2018 at the age of 30 — a rare entry for a high-profile quarterback available to every team in the NFL at the peak of his career. .

The Vikings, one year after backup Case Keenum took them to the 2017 NFC Championship Game, quickly pounced, hoping he could lift the team to a Super Bowl berth. They fulfilled his demand for a three-year, $84 million, fully guaranteed contract and have since signed him to extensions in 2020 and 2022 to provide short-term salary cap relief.

However, the Vikings did not come close in their quest for a Super Bowl during that span. They had a 50-37-1 record in the regular season with one NFC North title and were 1-2 in two playoff appearances.

As a result, during negotiations in the spring of 2023, general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah decided not to extend the guaranteed portion of Cousins' contract beyond the 2024 season. Instead, the two parties agreed to an amendment that would allow the Vikings to lower his salary cap number and guarantee Cousins ​​a path To free agency in 2024 without the Vikings being able to use the franchise tag on him.

The four-time Pro Bowl selection ranks fifth among active quarterbacks — and 24th all-time — with 39,471 yards in 12 NFL seasons. Cousins' 270 touchdowns rank 20th all-time, and he has 110 interceptions. He also rushed for 958 yards and 19 more scores.

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ESPN's Kevin Seifert contributed to this report.