Vikings QB Could Be in Trouble

Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Devonte Wyatt (95) and cornerback Keisean Nixon (25) sack Minnesota Vikings quarterback Jaren Hall (16) during their football game Sunday, December 31, 2023, at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. © Dan Powers/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin / USA TODAY NETWORK.

General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has been active in free agency, signing many players. Some will fight for roster spots, like defensive end Jonah Williams, and others will battle for Pro Bowl consideration, like Jonathan Greenard. The quarterback position has been fascinating, as new arrival Sam Darnold is trying to get his career back on track.

Vikings QB Could Be in Trouble

vikings qb
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He has the advantage of playing in the best offense he’s been in so far, at least in his career as a starter. Spending three years with the dysfunctional New York Jets and two more in Carolina, the 2023 campaign as a backup for Brock Purdy was the first time he had a comfortable situation. Throwing to Justin Jefferson, Jordan Addison, and T.J. Hockenson while listening to coaches Kevin O’Connell and Josh McCown is why many envision Darnold to look vastly different in the upcoming season.

In addition to Darnold, the Vikings employ two more quarterbacks: Nick Mullens and Jaren Hall. Mullens is a veteran in the league and a solid backup for the Vikings because he is not afraid to pull the trigger down the field, which is the most significant aspect of keeping O’Connell’s offense afloat. Hall, meanwhile, was drafted in the fifth round last year and was supposed to be the emergency QB. He was suddenly asked to step up because of multiple injuries in Week 9 and struggling QB play later in the season.

Lining Takeaway about
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If the Vikings indeed select a passer in the upcoming draft, those two guys will encounter a problem soon. That new signal-caller and Darnold are guaranteed two roster slots, leaving, at best, one spot for Mullens and Hall.

Many NFL teams used to carry only two passers—the starter and his backup. For many years, Kirk Cousins shared the position room with Sean Mannion and possibly a practice squad player. In 2023, however, the NFL installed the emergency QB rule, allowing teams to have a third QB active on gameday without wasting one of the valuable active spots. Suddenly, having another often young passer made sense to prevent ending up in a situation like the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game versus the Eagles when they had nobody left who could throw a pass.

Kirk Cousins
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In Minnesota, the hierarchy was clear. Cousins was QB1, Mullens QB2, and Hall earned a roster spot but was nothing more than the emergency quarterback. The rookie was not ready to be the full-time backup. Mullens got hurt with a back injury, Cousins suffered his season-ending Achilles injury, and voila, Hall started Week 9’s contest in Atlanta. A concussion knocked him out, and Dobbs-mania took off.

After Dobbs and Mullens couldn’t hang on to the football, O’Connell benched them to start Hall in Week 17, a home game against the Packers. The lights were clearly too bright for the 26-year-old, and Mullens replaced him in the second half.

Fast-forward a few months, and the Vikings could be forced to decide between those two guys again. Mullens has shown he can run an O’Connell offense at an explosive level despite committing too many turnovers. Hall couldn’t do that, although there might still be some potential as he is only entering his second season. At the end of the day, Hall wasn’t an expensive draft choice; he was a fifth-rounder and didn’t look promising in the preseason or his regular-season opportunities.

Vikings Fans Want Jaren
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If the decision-makers aren’t satisfied with his development, he is in serious jeopardy of losing his job. The decision would be about their level of play and the team’s philosophy. Do the Vikings want to have two guys (a rookie and Hall) that require a ton of reps to develop behind planned starter Darnold, who surely needs reps to get comfortable in the new system, or do they want to have Mullens who could spare some reps in training camp and the preseason, which would benefit the rookie and still be ready to play if asked to?

The latter seems like a better solution for the incoming prospect. If the Vikings care about the salary cap, releasing Mullens after training camp would save roughly $1.8 million, releasing Hall about half of that.

The goal could be to place Hall on the practice squad and keep all four, while another alternative is to ship Mullens to a team that needs a veteran backup for a late-round pick—which is how Mullens arrived in Minnesota in the first place.

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Multiple options are available, but one thing is clear: If a rookie arrives on April 25, whether that is Drake Maye, J.J. McCarthy, Jayden Daniels, or someone else, one of Mullens and Hall will not be on the 53-man roster in September.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt