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Vikings' Cousins ready to face team he spurned

Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) looks to throw a pass under pressure from Minnesota Green Bay Packers Jaire Alexander (23) during the first quarter at Lambeau Field. Jeff Hanisch / USA TODAY Sports

EAGAN, Minn. — Last May, Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan signed a contract extension that will make him the first NFL player to earn $30 million in a season. In August, Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers got an extension that will pay him even more.

Kirk Cousins would have beaten them to it had he agreed to a deal with the New York Jets in March.

Instead, Cousins turned down a three-year, $90 million offer to play for the Jets and signed a three-year, $84 million deal with the Vikings after six years with Washington. On Sunday, Oct. 21, Cousins will face the Jets at Met Life Stadium.

"It was a process of really 2K months trying to research," Cousins said Wednesday. "Really, once I found out my former team, the Redskins, was out, it was probably a month and a half trying to gather information on all those teams that were still looking for a quarterback.''

In August, the Vikings posted a video Cousins put together about his free agency journey. On it, Cousins is shown talking about getting the big offer from the Jets and whether his agent, Mike McCartney, could get the Vikings to raise their offer from $25 million to $28 million annually.

"So, now you have what we wanted,'' Cousins tells his wife Julie in the video. "Mike, he's just got to do the same thing with the Vikings because he's got to get them from 25 to a number that is competitive with the Jets' offer. But the fact that we have the Jets offer is huge because now it gives the other teams a reason to come up."

On Tuesday, New York Post columnist Mark Cannizzaro slammed Cousins under the headline, "How sweet it will be for Jets to shut up classless Kirk Cousins."

Cousins, Cannizzaro wrote, was simply using the Jets as leverage to get the Vikings to raise their offer. The video, he said, "contained information from confidential conversations that would be embarrassing to the Jets."

"Criticism is going to be a part, especially when you're going into an opposing team's media climate," Cousins said. "They're going to find ways to criticize."

Cousins' only free agent visit was to Minnesota, where he signed a deal that made him the NFL's highest-paid player based on average annual salary. He said he meant no disrespect to the Jets when he made the video public.

"That show was meant to show the journey and meant to show how impressed I've been with the Minnesota Vikings," he said. 'It was not meant to be a slight to anybody else. ... I have tremendous respect for (Jets) coach (Todd) Bowles. ... It was really meant to show the Vikings as a great fit for us and nothing more."

After losing out on Cousins, the Jets signed free agent Teddy Bridgewater away from the Vikings and made a deal with Indianapolis to move up in the draft from No. 6 to No. 3 so they could select USC quarterback Sam Darnold. Bridgewater was traded to New Orleans; Darnold has been the Jets' starting quarterback since Week 1 and has played well.

"You go into free agency every year and you have certain guys on your list and you get some and you don't get some," Bowles said Wednesday. "We know (Cousins) is a good quarterback and we're happy with Sam. I'm sure they're happy with Kirk, and things just worked out the right way, anyway."

Darnold has thrown for 1,346 yards with nine touchdown passes and seven interceptions and has a passer rating of 83.7 for the Jets (3-3). Cousins has thrown for 1,921 yards with 12 touchdowns and three interceptions and has a 102.7 passer rating for the Vikings (3-2-1).

Their duel will be a primary storyline in Sunday's game.

"He's off a really impressive start for this league, and I'm sure he's got a lot of great days ahead of him," Cousins said. "And hopefully our defense can contain him well this weekend, and that would give us a great chance to come out of there with a win."