The Minnesota Vikings have restructured the contract of quarterback Kirk Cousins to provide $16 million of salary cap relief in 2023, sources said Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the Vikings agreed to terms with incumbent center Garrett Bradbury on a three-year contract, a source told ESPN, confirming a report by NFL Network.
The move made the Vikings cap compliant ahead of Wednesday’s deadline for all NFL teams to get below the $224.8 million threshold. It did not, however, extend the functional duration of Cousins’ deal. Unless further changes are made at a later date, the final years of the contract will void and Cousins will be eligible for free agency after the 2023 season.
The Vikings have twice extended the original three-year, $84 million contract they signed Cousins to in March 2018. One came in 2020 and the second in 2022. In both cases, the Vikings felt compelled to exchange future guarantees for short-term salary cap relief. As a result, in his six seasons with the team, Cousins has earned the NFL’s third-highest total in cash ($155 million) in consumed the league’s highest combined salary cap space ($136.4 million) over that span.
But as Cousins approaches his 35th birthday this summer, the Vikings were not inclined to further push out his time horizon with the team. There would be nothing preventing them from extending his contract at some time before the 2024 free agent market, but the more likely scenario is that they will now begin the process of finding Cousins’ future replacement.
After the Vikings declined his fifth-year option, Bradbury had mixed results in a prove-it 2022 season in new coach Kevin O’Connell‘s scheme. His pass block win rate rose to 93.9%, ranking him No. 19 in the NFL among centers, but he missed the final five games of the regular season because of a back injury and subsequent car accident that extended his stay on the sideline.
Bradbury, who turns 28 in June, returned in time for the Vikings’ wild-card playoff game, but he and the rest of the interior line couldn’t contain New York Giants star Dexter Lawrence in a 31-24 loss.
The Vikings, under former coach Mike Zimmer and general manager Rick Spielman, made Bradbury the No. 18 overall selection in the 2019 draft — the team’s highest pick for an interior lineman in 30 years.
The selection, however, was based as much on need as it was personnel projection. Bradbury had won the 2018 Rimington Trophy at NC State as college football’s best center, but the Vikings had spent the previous four seasons trying to patch the position together following the free agent departure of John Sullivan.
Bradbury was almost immediately elevated to the Vikings’ first team and started all their games for his first two seasons. But he struggled against interior pass rushers, and the Vikings briefly benched him toward the end of the 2021 season. From 2019 through 2021, Bradbury ranked No. 31 of 32 eligible centers in ESPN’s pass block win rate metric (90.5%).