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Kevin O'Connell hopes Kirk Cousins will return to Vikings in 2024: He 'knows how I feel about him'

Kirk Cousins' season is over following Sunday's Achilles injury, meaning the speculation about the quarterback's future starts early in Minnesota.

Cousins is due to become a free agent in the offseason, with the Vikings having no mechanism to keep him from reaching the market in March if he so chooses. The Pro Bowl quarterback repeatedly said he was waiting until after the season to think about his contract status. Now that his season is over early, all sides can begin to think about what the future holds.

Vikings coach Kevin O'Connell made it clear he'd prefer to find a way to keep Cousins in the building.  

"Yeah, you guys know how I feel about Kirk. Kirk knows how I feel about Kirk," he said Tuesday, via ESPN. "I think he was playing as well as anybody in the National Football League and one of the hardest parts about coping with this ... [is] the fact that he was experiencing his best season in the National Football League and where we could have gone as a team. Hopefully, we are still going to get to that place. But I know without Kirk Cousins and that high level quarterback play we were getting from him week in and week out, it's going a challenge, but one that we've got to accept and try to thrive."

Cousins, who underwent surgery to repair his Achilles on Wednesday morning, was having a sensational season despite Justin Jefferson missing some action. In eight games, the QB led the NFL with 18 touchdown passes and was tops in completions (216) and attempts (311). His 69.5 completion percentage ranks fifth among QBs, and his 2,331 yards second behind Tua Tagovailoa. There were a few blips on the radar, but on the whole, Cousins' second season under O'Connell was shaping up to be a career year.

Alas, the injury sideswipes the final nine games. The question is whether general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah saw enough promise to try to keep Cousins around for the long haul or if he'll seek out other options.

In the interim, the Vikings swung a deal for Joshua Dobbs ahead of Tuesday's trade deadline, bringing in a veteran QB with starting experience who's learned offenses on short notice in the past. It's a move to keep the 4-4 Vikings afloat in 2023 -- nothing that will change the calculus of the decision on Cousins' future.

"We talked about different things and had great dialogue internally," O'Connell said, "and just wanted to make sure that we gave ourselves the opportunity to really go in a lot of directions with the position, including [the fact that] Kirk Cousins is going to be healthy again. I know he's going to be a free agent after this season, but Kirk knows how I feel about him and that will be something that hopefully works itself out.

"This immediate solution that we found provides us with a really quality player at a time when we were able to go out and get that player without potentially leaving the world of the future and the now. We were able to accomplish the goal of both, and I think help our football team."

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