Kirk Cousins sees extension as 'win-win' for him and Vikings

A month after signing a two-year, $66 million contract extension, quarterback Kirk Cousins is thrilled with the way things played out between himself and the Minnesota Vikings.

"It was a no-brainer for me to want to be back with the Vikings and try to find a way to make it work, and I think it's a win-win," Cousins said Tuesday on a conference call. "I think the Vikings did a great job of finding a way to make it a win-win and it's great to be able to create some cap space for this year and to be able to solidify that I and my family can be back in Minnesota for another couple of seasons and hopefully beyond that. I want to play well enough to where I get to be here beyond that, too.

"I do know that whoever the quarterback is that delivers a world championship to the Minnesota Vikings is going to be welcome in the state of Minnesota for the rest of their lives. I certainly want to be that quarterback, and we're working really hard to do that."

Cousins' new deal keeps him under contract in Minnesota through the 2022 season and came with $61 million guaranteed at signing. Including the final year of his first deal for 2020, the total value of Cousins' contract is valued at $96 million over three years.

The move also created $10 million in cap space. Within hours of executing a new deal with Cousins, the Vikings placed the franchise tag ($11.41 million) on safety Anthony Harris on March 16.

Cousins' extension looks similar in structure and length to the first contract -- for three years, $84 million fully guaranteed -- that he signed in Minnesota as a free agent in 2018.

Signing another short-term deal was among several goals for Cousins and his representation.

"We felt like with the CBA and the shifting landscape that it was going to be difficult to know where this was going to go from here, so the timing was not going to be easy," Cousins said. "And I think that was a big point of communication through the process to make sure that a long contract would have been difficult because of the changing landscape of the CBA, and I think that's true for both sides."

The same day Cousins got a new contract, Minnesota parted ways with one of Cousins' top weapons. Stefon Diggs being traded to the Buffalo Bills didn't come as a surprise to Cousins, who noted it was evident the receiver wanted to play elsewhere. But replacing him this offseason comes with a host of challenges.

"He was electric," Cousins said. "The guys who have those movement skills don't grow on trees. But you can find other ways to do things. I think one great example is when we lost Adam [Thielen] last year for six or seven weeks. You watched our offense evolve and suddenly three tight ends were in the game quite a bit. Certainly two tight ends quite a bit. We ran the ball effectively. And we did rely on Stefon quite a bit as kind of the one receiver, if you will.

"You have to be ready to evolve. Quite frankly, I'm someone who is a proponent of a two- or three-tight-end offense, of having a fullback in the game -- especially when you have C.J. Ham. So there are some things you can do personnel-wise to where you can kind of accentuate what you find to be the strengths of your roster and of your offense. If that's three or four wide receivers, then that's fine. But if it's not, there's no rule that says we have to play four or five wide receivers at a time. I think coach [Gary] Kubiak will be really smart with how we use personnel to put our best players on the field, whoever that may be."

Cousins called head coach Mike Zimmer's decision to hand the reins of the offense to Kubiak as "the natural hire," given the new Vikings offensive coordinator's role last season as the assistant head coach and offensive adviser. Cousins anticipates the Vikings' offense will have a "pretty similar playbook" to what it ran in 2019, which will help it improve despite losing Diggs.

"I think we can take another step," Cousins said. "I think it helps to have had a year with Coach Kubiak in that system, coach [Rick] Dennison as the O-line coach and really putting together our run game. There was a bit of figuring it out last year and feeling one another out during the offseason of 'What is this going to look like?' and 'How do we do things?' I'd like to think that, in a way, this is Year 2, and as a result, we can take a step forward, just because we're more familiar with the goals and the plan and what it should look like.

"I think, personally, you look at the San Francisco game, and you see there's a tremendous amount of room for improvement. And personally, in my own game, I felt like we got a lot of man coverage in that game, and I really needed to take off and run. I heard Fran Tarkenton made a comment recently about 'Cousins needs to run more.' My wife told me that. She said, 'Fran says you need to run more,' and I said, 'Fran's right.' I do need to run more. I have an athleticism there that I don't know that I tap into enough. And so, that's maybe an area that I'll try to work on the best I can."