NFL: Cousins, Wilson sign free agent deals

Kirk Cousins, who was in the midst of one of his best seasons in the NFL until being sidlelined with an Achilles injury, has signed a free agent deal with the Atlanta Falcons. Elsewhere, former Seahawks and Broncos QB Russell Wilson has inked a deal with the Pittsburg Steelers.

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March 11, 2024 - 2:24 PM

Kirk Cousins (8) of the Minnesota Vikings looks to pass against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on Oct. 29, 2023, in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images/TNS

Kirk Cousins is leaving Minnesota for Atlanta, landing another big contract with a well-timed foray into free agency.

Cousins agreed Monday to a four-year deal with the Falcons, his agent Mike McCartney announced on social media. Atlanta had a glaring need at quarterback after cycling through Tyler Heinicke and Desmond Ridder last season, and Cousins’ wife, Julie, grew up in the metro area.

Working his way back from a torn Achilles tendon in his right foot that sidelined him because of an injury for the first time in his career, Cousins had a 103.8 passer rating in eight games for the Vikings last season that was still the third best in the league despite the lost time.

The epitome of a late bloomer, Cousins enjoyed largely the most effective performances of his career since the Vikings hired coach Kevin O’Connell in 2022.

They were going to need a succession plan regardless of how this negotiation played out, though, considering Cousins’ age and their commitment to a “competitive rebuild,” as general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has termed it several times.

The Vikings were serious in their desire to continue with Cousins, but given their cap situation and the recent improvement and outlook around them by their NFC North foes they had to have a limit about how much — and for how long — they could guarantee.

Cousins, for as much as he wanted to finish his career with Minnesota, he also made clear he wanted to be valued with a commitment beyond a token year.

“It’s not about the dollars, but what the dollars represent,” was how Cousins put it in an interview with reporters on Jan. 8.

Cousins has not only been the consummate overachiever on the field, from afterthought college recruit to fourth-round draft pick to currently 24th place on the NFL’s all-time list in career passing yards (39,471), but he has mastered the business side of the game with the guidance of his agent Mike McCartney.

After playing on consecutive franchise tags for Washington in 2016 and 2017, Cousins cashed in as the rare starting quarterback to hit free agency in 2018 when the Vikings had salary cap space and a pressing need at the position after an NFC championship game appearance. He got the first fully guaranteed, multi-year contract in league history for a quarterback when he signed for $84 million.

Just over the past eight seasons, Cousins has earned more than $228 million. He has won only one playoff game, after the 2019 season.

The Vikings restructured Cousins’ deal a year ago without giving him any new money, resulting in a $28.5 million salary cap hit in 2024 for the remaining signing bonus proration if they didn’t reach an extension before the new league year officially starts on Wednesday afternoon.

Wilson headed to Steel City

Russell Wilson is heading to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The nine-time Pro Bowl quarterback has agreed to sign a one-year deal with the Steelers, a person familiar with the details told The Associated Press on Sunday night.

The person, speaking on condition of anonymity because the contract hasn’t been finalized, said Wilson will receive the veteran’s minimum of $1.21 million while the Denver Broncos pay the remainder of his $39 million salary.

Wilson posted his intentions on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, saying: “Year 13. Grateful. (at)Steelers.”

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