The Kirk Cousins sweepstakes were over before they really began, and Thursday afternoon it became official. The Minnesota Vikings announced his signing, and reports have confirmed it is a three-year deal worth $84 million, and is fully guaranteed. His numbers break down as follows.
Signing bonus: $3 million
2018: $22.5 million base salary, $500K workout bonus
2019: $27.5 million base salary, $500K workout bonus
2020: $29.5 million base salary, $500K workout bonus
No transition tag when the deal is done. They can tag him one more time in 2021 at $44.64 million
I think this is the first fully guaranteed multi-year contract in NFL history, or at least of three or more years. And it is far and away the most fully guaranteed money in any NFL contract ever. NFL contracts usually include year 1 full guarantees, and maybe year 2, but that’s about it. Cousins played through two straight franchise tags to build the kind of leverage that allows him to do this.
A lot of people are declaring it a game-changer in the way players do business in the NFL. I think it is a little too early to declare a sea change in guaranteed NFL contracts. Cousins was in a position of unique leverage. Your average NFL player, or even your good NFL player won’t have the leverage Cousins had this year.
Instead, the big question is how big name quarterbacks will use this situation. Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan, and Tom Brady are all quarterbacks who could end up netting new contracts. Rodgers seems like the quarterback who could really break the bank with a fully guaranteed deal. But could he do it for more than the three years Cousins did? Or will we only see more short-term deals like this?
Cousins is in a potentially great position. If he plays well over the next three seasons, he can cash in big again in 2021. It will be a new league year with new television contracts closing in. Maybe he signs another three-year fully guaranteed deal, or maybe he goes for a bigger bite of the apple. I don’t see this as a big change in the way NFL teams do business, but it’s certainly still an interesting result.