If Vikings Don’t Draft QB — Then What?

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The Minnesota Vikings are at a quarterback crossroads, with the rare opportunity to employ one of the NFL’s most productive passers while plotting for the QB era around the bend.

It isn’t much different than the 2016-2017 Kansas City Chiefs — a team content with Alex Smith until it was not.

If Vikings Don’t Draft QB — Then What?

The major signal arrived last month when general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah opted to convert a chunk of Kirk Cousins’ 2023 salary to 2024+ dead cap hit instead of adding more years onto the deal. Some believed Cousins would receive another contract extension, but he did not. For now, he’s committed to the Vikings for just one more season.

Minnesota can “get out in front” of the post-Cousins era by drafting a quarterback in three weeks during the 2023 NFL Draft. The No. 23 pick isn’t ideal for the process, but Adofo-Mensah could hope a Will Levis-type falls to him on draft night, trade up for his current spot, or explore mid-to-late round options involving Hendon Hooker, Dorian Thompson-Robinson, or Clayton Tune.

But what if the Vikings do nothing of the sort on draft night?

This is the then what.

More Cousins

If Vikings
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports.

Here’s the deal: the Vikings digital community is taking Cousins’ non-extension as absolute gospel that “this is it” for the 34-year-old in Minneapolis.

That may not be right and could merely be confused with what some folks want to happen. If the Vikings exit the 2023 NFL Draft with no QB heir apparent to Cousins, there’s a reasonable chance they fire up an extra-year extension and take a stab at this develop the next guy with Cousins still on the team plan next year. No rule anywhere states that Minnesota cannot extend Cousins like right, tomorrow, June, October, or next February. It’s all fluid.

Folks fear Cousins will encounter an age-related decline as he approaches age 35, but what if he doesn’t? He could thrive with the same playcaller in back-to-back seasons for the first time in years.

The tea leaves seem to indicate Cousins is nearing an exit ramp with the Vikings, but if the club has no one lined up by May or so, Cousins could still be extended — at any time.

Draft When It’s Urgent

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If the Vikings leave the 2023 NFL Draft with no young quarterback on the depth and don’t want to extend Cousins in any way, shape, or form, well, they’ll face a sense of urgency next offseason. Adofo-Mensah will glance at the depth chart and see one name — Nick Mullens. And Mullens isn’t the plan for the future; he’s the QB2 for the next two years.

Unless the Vikings fire up a poor record in 2023, they won’t have some fancy draft pick necessary to draft Caleb Williams (USC) or Drake Maye (North Carolina). They’d be forced to execute a sizable trade up the draft board or explore one of these names:

  • Caleb Williams (USC)
  • Drake Maye (North Carolina)
  • Michael Pratt (Tulane)
  • Quinn Ewers (Texas)
  • Jordan Davis (Florida State)
  • Shedeur Sanders (Colorado)
  • Michael Penix (Washington)
  • Jayden Daniels (LSU)
  • Bo Nix (Oregon)
  • Spencer Rattler (South Carolina)
  • Cameron Ward (Washington State)

This can be reasonably be coined The Procrastination Route.

A Trade in 11 Months

Expect from Brian Flores
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports.

It gets even funkier for Option No. 3.

Assume Minnesota is close to done-done with Cousins, doesn’t want to draft a quarterback in 2023 or 2024, and won’t sign a Cousins-lite free agent next March. Then, it’s trade or bust.

Adofo-Mensah could examine the quarterback market and make his splash via trade. It’s tricky to spitball who might be available without watching the 2023 regular season and playoffs, but this broad list contains possible trade candidates:

  • Jimmy Garoppolo (Raiders)
  • Lamar Jackson (Ravens)
  • Mac Jones (Patriots)
  • Trey Lance (49ers)
  • Davis Mills (Texans)
  • Kyler Murray (Cardinals)
  • Dak Prescott (Cowboys)
  • Brock Purdy (49ers)
  • Aaron Rodgers (Packers)
  • Geno Smith (Seahawks)
  • Matthew Stafford (Rams)
  • Tua Tagovailoa (Dolphins)
  • Russell Wilson (Broncos)
  • Zach Wilson (Jets)
  • Bailey Zappe (Patriots)

The totality of the list won’t inspire everyone, but many could be available depending on the 2023 season’s outcome.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by OverTheCap.com.