ESPN Sheds Light on Sam Darnold’s Role in 2024

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In the span of about 12 hours on March 11th into March 12th, former Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins vamoosed for the Atlanta Falcons via free agency, and the purple team signed Sam Darnold.

ESPN Sheds Light on Sam Darnold’s Role in 2024

Like the irresistible trail of bees to honey, NFL fans were giddy to point and say, “The Vikings really replaced Kirk Cousins with Sam Darnold.”

Sam Darnold
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Except that was never really true or at least didn’t portray full context. Nuanced thinking suggested Minnesota would partner Darnold as a patchover quarterback in 2024 with a rookie passer. Two days after Cousins to Atlanta became official, Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah pulled off a pre-draft trade, grabbing an additional 1st-Round pick from the Houston Texans while offloading two 2nd-Rounders in the deal, plus a late-round pick swap. 

And that plan made more sense than Darnold as the end-all savior. Between now and April 25th, Adofo-Mensah is expected to trade up again, probably to draft a quarterback like Drake Maye of North Carolina or J.J. McCarthy from Michigan.

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This week, ESPN shed more light on Darnold’s role in 2024, and — you guessed it — he’s viewed around the league in a “bridge” capacity. Jordan Reid explained, “The Vikings’ offseason intent is clear — they want a long-term replacement for former starter Kirk Cousins. This has been a three-year project for general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and coach Kevin O’Connell, loosely targeted at the 2024 class. Newly acquired Sam Darnold is best viewed as a bridge despite his youth and potential upside.”

Incidentally, Reid uplifted three draft needs for the Vikings: quarterback, cornerback, and defensive tackle.

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Some prominent voices were outwardly upset by the Darnold acquisition. Founder of GuillotineLeagues.com, a forefather of fantasy football, and Vikings fan Paul Charchian was particularly confounded and upset about the Darnold acquisition, using the X app, formerly known as Twitter, to post a scathing indictment.

Charchian wrote on March 12th, “This is your new starting QB, Vikings fans. You don’t pay $10m to a backup — well, you shouldn’t, anyway. Funny how inexpensive the QB position can be when you sign a player nobody else would dare put under center. I’ve been told one thousand times, ‘Wins are a quarterback stat,’ so here you go: 56 career starts, 21 wins. We’re back to the days of starting washed-up journeymen retreads. And that’s how we like it in Minnesota. Sleep easy, Vikings fans. You’ve got the quarterback you wanted. And deserved.”

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Similar sentiments ran wild on the internet in March regarding Darnold to Vikings. Mark Schipper of 5th Down CFB posted on X, “Not markedly better than Nicky Mullens. His name and the reputation he brings w/him is depressing b/c it makes one feel that one’s team is rinky dink & unserious. Huge downgrade from Kirk Cousins. Vikings are all in on the QB of the future in a draft that might produce one serious, long-term starter. Vikings probably embarking on an extended downturn caused by absence of a star QB.”

As it turned out — like many knew all along — Darnold isn’t viewed as the Vikings’ salvation. He’s a patchover option. An insurance policy in case the draft goes pear-shaped and Minnesota misses out on its top quarterback prospect(s).


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,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

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

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