NFL teams are not permitted to negotiate with other clubs' pending free agents until March 11, but Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O'Connell recently suggested that Kirk Cousins, their soon-to-be free-agent quarterback, has already drawn inquiries from around the league. Not only that, but O'Connell indicated that Cousins' departure may well be on the horizon.

"Yeah, I think the (scouting) combine just kinda gave everybody else an opportunity -- even whether they're supposed to be or not -- to maybe have some conversations," O'Connell told NFL Network when asked where contract talks stand with Cousins. "But I've been having the dialogue that you have with a player like Kirk Cousins ... I know Kirk, where he's at in this whole process. He's earned the right to be a free agent. He's played really good football.

"I've had a blast coaching him, his fit in the offense," O'Connell continued. "I know Kirk's gonna go through a full process. He is a process guy. And hopefully, we continue to be a strong part in that process and we figure out a way to keep him a Minnesota Viking. But my expectation is we're not gonna be the only ones that would like Kirk Cousins to be the quarterback of our team in 2024.

If other teams have actually had "conversations" with Cousins or his representation, as O'Connell hinted, they would be in violation of the NFL's tampering rules regarding free-agent talks, and it's possible the Vikings could be compensated. Even if that hasn't occurred, Cousins seems like an increasingly safe bet to test the open market. Both he and Vikings brass have repeatedly expressed an interest in staying together, but there's been no apparent progress in any contract talks since the quarterback entered 2023 without an extension. And other quarterback-needy teams, namely the Atlanta Falcons, could make a lucrative play for his services.

Cousins will officially be free to speak with other teams starting at 12 p.m. Eastern on March 11, while free-agent signings and trades can be finalized starting at 4 p.m. on March 13.