Vikings May Face Stiff Competition for J.J. McCarthy — from 1 Team

Vikings Trade
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports.

The Minnesota Vikings may find themselves QB1-less in about three days when the NFL’s “legal tampering” phase begins Monday. Kirk Cousins is scheduled to hit free agency, and if he signs elsewhere, perhaps with the Atlanta Falcons, Minnesota will need a replacement quarterback. With the draft less than seven weeks away, Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy is the Vegas frontrunner for the gig.

Vikings May Face Stiff Competition for JJ McCarthy — from 1 Team

But the Vikings won’t be alone in the pursuit of his services.

JJ McCarthy
Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports.

Sportsbooks still list Minnesota as the leader of the pack to draft McCarthy, with a +300 moneyline. One team, though, lurks right behind the Vikings: the Denver Broncos (+350).

Denver recently cut ties with Russell Wilson, an utterly failed experiment that began via trade two years ago. At the time, most NFL pundits — and this website — applauded the acquisition of Wilson for a king’s ransom from the Seattle Seahawks. Yet, Wilson’s lofty career resume didn’t translate to Colorado — at all — and now the Broncos are on the hook for $85 million in dead cap over the next two years with Wilson’s bloated contract.

Vikings Mock Draft
Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy looks to pass against Iowa during the first half of the Big Ten championship game at Luca Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Ind. on Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023.

To offset that pain, Denver may seek a rookie quarterback, and living at the draft’s No. 12 spot, McCarthy to Denver makes sense. It’s just that the Vikings, too, need a quarterback and stand in the Broncos’ way.

Ergo, based on QB1 necessity, a bidding war may arise between Minnesota and Denver, suggesting the two franchises could jockey somewhere into the Top 10 via trade for the position to draft McCarthy. Think of it this way: before free agency, the Vikings QB1 is Nick Mullens, and Denver’s is Jarrett Stidham. Which team wants McCarthy to improve over Mullens or Stidham?

Forced by Broncos
Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy celebrates after the 34-13 win over Washington to win the national championship game at NRG Stadium in Houston on Monday, Jan. 8, 2024.

KFAN’s Paul Allen lifted up the Denver Broncos as a possible McCarthy suitor last month, as well, meaning the Vikings would have to snatch the Wolverine with its 11th pick and cancel any idea of trading back while still hoping to draft the young quarterback. Either that or the aforementioned trade up the board.

Allen said on the Broncos’ ardor for McCarthy a few weeks ago, “There is just a little bit of steam that is beginning to emerge locally that Sean Payton loves J.J. McCarthy … [Payton] covets the next Drew Brees. So just keep that in mind, ya know, when you’re thinking 11.”

“If you’re thinking J.J. McCarthy at 11 just know behind you have the desperate [Payton] who basically will beg, borrow, and steal to get exactly what he wants from this draft from a QB standpoint. A pretty reliable individual informed me over the weekend that Payton is quite enamored with J.J. McCarthy,” Allen added.

from Vikings End
Kwesi Adofo-Mensah & Kevin O’Connell Talk Free Agent Moves, Future at Quarterback & 2023 NFL Draft in Eagan, Minnesota, on April 13th, 2023. Adofo-Mensah and O’Connell joined the organization in January and February 2022, respectively.

McCarthy just turned 21 in January and checked in at 6’3″ + 219 pounds at the NFL Combine. He’s mobile, can make all the throws necessary to succeed in the NFL, and helped Michigan win a National Championship. He’s been all the rage for Vikings fans in the last month.

So, if Minnesota’s front office agrees with fans — that remains to be seen — it’ll have to fend off Sean Payton’s team for the young quarterback. Oddsmakers agree.

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