MINNEAPOLIS -- A month after Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer publicly backed Kirk Cousins, calling the quarterback "our guy" amid rumors and speculation over whether he could be traded this offseason, Minnesota general manager Rick Spielman doubled down his support for the QB on Wednesday.
"I think Coach [Zimmer] put that to bed when he spoke after the season," Spielman told reporters. "Kirk Cousins is our quarterback. I know there's a lot of rumors floating around out there, but Kirk Cousins is our quarterback. We felt that he played very well, probably the best that he's ever played, down that stretch last year.
"Kirk is our quarterback going forward, and I look forward to him [having] another year in this system. I'm excited for him and what he's going to bring to our team next year."
With the potential for so much quarterback movement this offseason, Cousins' name has been inserted into the conversation as a player who could wind up starting for a new team in 2021. Given that Cousins no longer has a no-trade clause in his contract, moving on from him this offseason is more feasible if Minnesota wants to exercise that option.
After signing a record three-year, $84 million fully guaranteed deal as a free agent in 2018, Cousins signed a two-year, $66 million extension last March that earns him a $21 million base salary in 2021. His $35 million base salary for 2022 becomes fully guaranteed if he is on the roster on the third day of the 2021 league year, which begins March 17.
Even with Spielman pouring water on any trade speculation, the Vikings could find themselves in a position to begin thinking about life after Cousins should the team opt to move on from the quarterback after his contract expires in 2022. With three picks inside the top 92 in April's NFL draft, selecting a quarterback to eventually take over for Cousins might be part of Minnesota's succession plan at the position.
But after Cousins threw a career-high 35 touchdowns in 2020, Spielman isn't giving much public thought to moving on from the quarterback, given how many quality seasons he feels Cousins has left.
"I don't want to ever force taking a quarterback when there's not a quarterback there to take, because that's when you make mistakes," Spielman said. "I don't know the best term to use without you guys putting it in quotes. ... Regardless [of position], take the philosophy of the best player available where you're picking. Or if there's a guy you covet who's still hanging around, being aggressive enough to go up and get that player, regardless of position.
"I still think Kirk right now is still in the prime of his career, at 32. And he's got a lot of good football left in him. But we'll always look at the different options and if there is anything in the draft as well."