Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins has never missed a professional football game to injury. That’s either an almighty jinx or a mammoth testament to his durability, depending on one’s perspective.
During Cousins’ first campaign with the Vikings, 2018, the team employed Trevor Siemian, a former Denver Broncos quarterback tapped to lead life after Peyton Manning in Colorado. He didn’t take off out in the mountains, moved on to Minnesota for a single season, and now hangs out on the practice squad for the New Orleans Saints.
Then, Minnesota transitioned to Sean Mannion. He joined the NFL in 2015 with the Los Angeles [then St. Louis] Rams. Mannion was the reservist option to Cousins during 2019 and 2020 and saw limited time in a meaningless 2019 game during Week 17 versus the Chicago Bears.
As of now, Mannion has not been re-signed by the Vikings for 2021.
And that leaves young signal-callers Nate Stanley and Jake Browning on the active roster. Neither man has played a regular-season snap in the NFL, so it is unclear if general manager Rick Spielman would trust one of them as a bonafide backup to Cousins this September.
That begs the question: What is the plan for backup quarterback in 2021?
A team that trusted its fate to Sean Mannion for two consecutive seasons — each year holding Super-Bowl-or-bust expectations — probably isn’t too concerned about QB2 in early April. However, had Spielman already re-signed Mannion for 2021, then the “need” for a QB2 is effectively vanquished — particularly if one seeks clues about the Vikings 2021 NFL Draft plans.
Minnesota could feasibly pluck its backup quarterback out of the upcoming draft. For the anti-Cousins crowd — a club with boisterous membership — the 14th overall pick is the perfect spot to prepare for post-Cousins dealings.
All it will take in less than three weeks for a highly-touted quarterback to fall to the Vikings — is one or two curious draft choices by the Top 13 teams on the board. The pecking order is well established at #1 and #2 with Trevor Lawrence to Jacksonville and Zack Wilson the to New York Jets, but after that — stuff could get funky. The San Francisco 49ers will get somebody at quarterback after the Godfather deal they conducted with the Miami Dolphins. A pick later, the Atlanta Falcons have the power to effectuate the funk in funky.
Allegedly-generational tight end Kyle Pitts will be too irresistible for some team to take in the Top 10. That might be the Falcons — or Atlanta may trade out of the spot altogether. But Atlanta is the hinge in the draft early on Thursday evening. Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot is even rumored to be fielding trade offers,
Should players like Trey Lance and Mac Jones “get past” the Detroit Lions at the 7th pick, well, one of those men will probably be available to the Vikings. Play around with some mock drafts to test this theory.
Head coach Mike Zimmer is on record in mentioning that his team should be in the camp to select the best player available on April 29th.
#Vikings coach Mike Zimmer on the draft: "I think what we’ve done in free agency so far has allowed us to be able to take the best player available, wherever he is.’’
— Chris Tomasson (@christomasson) March 31, 2021
If he’s a man of his word, that would arguably be Trey Lance or Mac Jones at #14 if they scoot past the Lions.
Instantly, Spielman and Zimmer would have their QB2 — one that is leaps and bounds more exciting than Mannion — and a contingency plan for Cousins’ remaining two years with the Vikings.
The likelihood of Lance or Jones plunging down the board is debatable. If they do not, Minnesota can pursue later-round prospects such as Kyle Trask (Florida), Kellen Mond (Texas A&M), or Davis Mills (Stanford). All of those rookies will be available to the Vikings in some capacity.
For now, the only QB2s on the roster are wildly unproven, and they probably aren’t QB2s at all. Indeed, Spielman can sign an “old” backup quarterback after the draft hubbub dies down. But the current state of the quarterback room is one that welcomes a watch-and-learn rookie quarterback if Spielman so desires.