Vikings Get New QB in the Middle of the Night

NFL: Preseason-Minnesota Vikings at Cincinnati Bengals
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Life after Kirk Cousins will involve Sam Darnold.

Vikings Get New QB in the Middle of the Night

In the middle of the night, about twelve hours removed from the start of free agency, the Minnesota Vikings added the veteran passer, presumably to serve as a patchover quarterback to Minnesota’s eventual rookie quarterback selection.

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NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport tweeted early Tuesday morning, “A new QB in Minnesota: The Vikings are expected to sign 49ers QB Sam Darnold, per me and Tom Pelissero. Darnold gets a 1-year deal worth $10M, sources say, and joins former teammate Josh McCown, who is Minnesota’s new QB coach. Kirk Cousins out, Darnold in.”

The Vikings’ quarterback room now consists of the following men, with the caveat that a rookie will likely be selected early in April’s draft:

  • Nick Mullens
  • Sam Darnold
  • Jaren Hall

The news arrives as the aforementioned Cousins joined the Atlanta Falcons on the first day of free agency, seizing a mammoth four-year contract and $180 million. Cousins told reporters in January, “At this stage in my career, the dollars are really not what it’s about.” But in the end, he indeed chased the money and Atlanta’s fancy contractual structure despite the aw-shucks comments two months ago.

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Darnold, meanwhile, may actually start some games for the 2024 Vikings, depending on the presumptive rookie passer selected in April. Caleb Williams (USC), Drake Maye (North Carolina), Jayden Daniels (LSU), Michael Penix Jr. (Washington), J.J. McCarthy (Michigan), and Bo Nix (Oregon) are expected to go off the board in Rounds 1 and 2, and if the man chosen by the Vikings isn’t ready Week 1, well, it would be Darnold or Mullens’ job. At least for a while.

The San Francisco 49ers employed Darnold as a QB2 in 2023, a contingency plan for Brock Purdy. Ultimately, the 49ers reached the Super Bowl with Purdy, and Darnold wasn’t much needed. He hit free agency a month later.

Teams led by Darnold are 21-35 (.375) in 56 career starts, mostly the New York Jets and Carolina Panthers. In six seasons, he’s banked 63 passing touchdowns and 56 interceptions, with 182.8 passing yards per game.

Sam Darnold & Danielle Hunter
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Vikings fans should embrace Darnold as a wise solution if a rookie accompanies his signing next month. For example, most would understand the strategy if Minnesota drafted Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy and inked Darnold as the patchover combo.

Otherwise, Darnold instead of Cousins — with no rookie — is a bit of a head-scratcher.

New Vikings quarterbacks coach Josh McCown was a teammate of Darnold with the New York Jets in 2018. There’s evidently a connection there.
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Darnold was the third overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft and has generally disappointed after lofty expectations followed him into the NFL. He’ll turn 27 in June.

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