The Vikings’ playoff hopes came to a disappointing end against the Packers with unvaccinated quarterback Kirk Cousins unable to play in Minnesota’s biggest game of the season after testing positive for COVID-19. Sunday’s night 37-10 defeat assures the 7-9 Vikings of back-to-back losing seasons for the first time since 2014, which was Mike Zimmer’s first year as head coach. Cousins will be back for Sunday’s regular-season finale versus the Bears.

The fallout from missing the playoffs for a second consecutive season could be immense. There is plenty of speculation that Zimmer will be fired once the season ends. General manager Rick Spielman may be on the hot seat as well. Cousins also faces an uncertain future in Minnesota. Whether the Cousins era comes to an end is complicated by his contract.

Cousins’ contract

Cousins was signed in 2018 as an unrestricted free agent to the NFL’s first lucrative fully guaranteed veteran contract after playing under franchise tags for consecutive seasons with the Washington Football Team. He received a three-year, $84 million deal (worth a maximum of $90 million through incentives).

Minnesota’s tight salary cap and the way Cousins’ contract was structured created leverage for him to get a new deal during the 2020 offseason. The contract contained a no-trade clause and language preventing Minnesota from designating Cousins as a transition player. It would have been $44.64 million to put a third and final franchise tag on Cousins in 2021.

The Vikings created just over $10 million of much-needed salary cap relief by signing Cousins to a two-year, $66 million contract extension (worth up to $70 million through incentives) with $61 million fully guaranteed that March. Cousins’ $35 million 2022 base salary in the final year of the contract was guaranteed for injury at signing. The $35 million became fully guaranteed this past March 19 on the third day…

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