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AP source: Vikings convert Cousins bonus, clear $16M off cap

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MINNEAPOLIS - The Minnesota Vikings cleared the necessary space from their salary cap the day before the start of free agency, with a big boost from a contract restructure for quarterback Kirk Cousins.

This time, the Vikings held off on another commitment.

The Vikings reached an agreement with Cousins on Tuesday to change bonus language in his existing contract that saved them $16 million in cap charges for 2023, according to a person with knowledge of the negotiation. The person confirmed the deal to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team did not announce it.

The Vikings also reached agreements to bring back center Garrett Bradbury, long snapper Andrew DePaola, kicker Greg Joseph and backup quarterback Nick Mullens, before they were due to hit the open market as unrestricted free agents at the beginning of the new league year on Wednesday.

Cousins will enter his sixth season with the Vikings, who have yet to signal their interest in keeping him beyond that. Owner and president Mark Wilf did not directly answer a question this week during an NFL Network interview about what the future holds for Cousins in Minnesota.

"Kirk's an outstanding quarterback. He's done a great job for us this past season. I think with Kevin O'Connell, he took our offense to the next level. So we're looking for great things in '23, and Kirk's going to be our leader on the offense," Wilf said.

Recently at the NFL combine, general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah said Cousins meets that threshold of being a quality and proven starting quarterback. 

Indianapolis Colts v Minnesota Vikings
Kirk Cousins Adam Bettcher / Getty Images

"How long does he meet that threshold? Those are things we've got to answer. Is there a chance to add somebody maybe with different skill sets? Those are all questions we've got to answer," Adofo-Mensah said.

The Vikings also added two more voidable years to Cousins' deal as part of the bonus conversion to spread out the money as much as they could. He'll still make $30 million in 2023, including a $10 million base salary, but his cap charge will now be $20.25 million. That includes prorations from two different bonuses.

So while Cousins now has four automatically voidable years after this on his deal, those are merely accounting mechanisms. He remains on an expiring contract, set to hit the market in 2024, unless the two sides strike an extension sometime in the coming year.

The Vikings gained cap relief in 2020 and 2022 with extensions for Cousins, who first signed with the Vikings in 2018 as a free agent on a fully guaranteed $84 million deal.

Cousins had a $20 million roster bonus due next week, but this conversion and the accompanying addition of two more void years allowed the Vikings to spread that money evenly on their cap at $4 million annually over five years. The extension Cousins got a year ago came with a $25 million signing bonus and two void years to spread that money evenly at $6.25 million from 2022-25.

The Vikings dived into the open market on Monday by reaching agreements with tight end Josh Oliver and defensive end Marcus Davenport.

Bradbury's return on a three-year, $15.75 million deal, according to NFL Network, will retain the entire starting offensive line. The Vikings last year declined the fifth-year option on Bradbury's contract and will now have him coming off his most effective season at a more cap-friendly price.

The return of DePaola and Joseph - a deal announced by his agent, Brett Tessler - will keep the team's kicking game specialist trio intact for once after several years of turnover. DePaola was an All-Pro last season. Rookie punter Ryan Wright also had a solid debut.

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