Here’s Why a Rookie QB Is on the Way for the Vikings

Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports | Sep 16, 2023; Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Drake Maye (10) passes the ball as Minnesota Golden Gophers linebacker Maverick Baranowski (6) pressures in the fourth quarter at Kenan Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports.

The 2024 NFL Draft is 18 days, and fans will likely learn the identity of the Minnesota Vikings’ quarterback of the future for life after Kirk Cousins.

Here’s Why a Rookie QB Is on the Way for the Vikings

To be clear, the Vikings could swerve and hold off on a quarterback, instead banking all hope on Sam Darnold, though that feels unlikely. Not every passer features a Baker Mayfield-like story from 2023.

If you’re not quite sold on Minnesota drafting a rookie quarterback — probably trading up the board to do so — these are eight reasons to change your mind. They’re ranked in ascending order (No. 1 = most convincing selling point).

8. They’re Overdue to Draft a QB

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Minnesota hasn’t drafted a rookie quarterback from Rounds 1 or 2 since Teddy Bridgewater — 10 years ago. And if the franchise trades up in the draft — most expect as such — well, the Vikings have never used a Top 10 pick on a quarterback.

It’s time to be different.

Kirk Cousins afforded the utmost consistency for six seasons, and that will be missed. However, on his watch, Minnesota reached the playoffs twice in six years. That’s lousy, and Cousins’ loudest fans might even admit it.

The purple team is overdue to draft a rookie quarterback in Round 1. Severely overdue.

7. Cousins Is Gone

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Ben Ludeman-USA TODAY Sports.

Cousins chased the largest bag of money available on the open market, while Minnesota now employs Sam Darnold and a young quarterback to be named later. Scheduling Cousins’ exit in 2024 is the natural pivot point to “the new guy.” It just is.

This was likely the plan all along from the moment general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah took over. Out with the vet; in with the rook.

6. Cap Space in 2025 and Beyond

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If you’re worried about the Vikings trading “too much” for Drake Maye or J.J. McCarthy, for example, a brand new era of plentiful cap space is on the way. That’s the perk of letting Cousins walk. Paying a single player north of $40 million is no longer in the team’s equation until it determines if the new quarterback is worth it — five years from now.

Minnesota will likely have to sell multiple 1st-Round picks to an unknown trade partner, but starting in 2025 — even with Justin Jefferson’s extension upcoming — it will have oodles of cap space to sign free agents and cancel the pain of missing 1st-Round players. The trajectory right now is over $100 million.

5. If Not Now for a Rookie QB — When?

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Listen, if Adofo-Mensah doesn’t intend to draft a rookie quarterback now, when the hell will he do it? Thank God he held off on a rookie passer in 2022, as the only viable option from that draft turned out to be Brock Purdy.

Last year, he couldn’t find the capital to move up the board for Anthony Richardson. So, apart from Jaren Hall, Minnesota sat the previous two drafts out in finding a quarterback.

If he doesn’t grab one on April 25th, what’s he waiting for? His job security is attached to the eventual selection.

4. Rookie QB’s Salary Will Offset Jefferson’s Contract

The Vikings 2022 Offense by the Numbers: After Week 14
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Justin Jefferson’s extension will be mammoth, probably making him the wealthiest non-quarterback in the history of football. The Vikings can afford to finalize this arrangement because Cousins is gone. They will not have a Patrick Mahomes + Tyreek Hll situation where it’s too spendy to pay both.

Minnesota has a precious opportunity to pay Jefferson megabucks and the rookie quarterback his smaller fees. More on that later.

3. This QB Draft Is Deep; Many Are Not

Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports | Jan 8, 2024; Houston, TX, USA; Michigan Wolverines quarterback J.J. McCarthy (9) celebrates after winning 2024 College Football Playoff national championship game against the Washington Huskies at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports.

Quarterback classes like 2024 aren’t standard. The 2022 class can tell you all about it. Minnesota just so happens to need a quarterback — inside a really, really deep quarterback draft. This isn’t a coincidence. Adofo-Mensah has planned for it.

In theory, the Vikings could “wait until next year” and explore players like Shadeur Sanders or Quinn Ewers, but next year’s crop doesn’t have the oomph like this one.

Strike while the options are vast.

2. Competitive Rebuild Nearing an End

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Adofo-Mensah, along with head coach Kevin O’Connell, spoke to reporters in January at an end-of-season press conference, and the tandem was asked where the team is right now in the competitive rebuild. The answer? Well, the rebuild noun could soon drop from the team’s storefront. With an efficacious offseason, Minnesota could be simply competitive by September.

“The point of that was to still provide ourselves a chance in the tournament every year while regaining financial flexibility, finding the next generation of great Vikings players, incorporating our systems that we value so much. I think when you look back at it, I think we’ve done a lot of positives. We gained some of our financial flexibility, we have competed to be in the tournament last year as the division champions, and this year, through adversity, we had a lot of meaningful games late,” Adofo-Mensah explained with O’Connell at his side.

He added, “And there are some things we need to be better at, no question. I think you want to get to a point, from a depth, from a top-end standpoint, where you can overcome the adversity. Right now in the competitive rebuild, we want to get to a place where there’s no rebuild. It’s just competitive in a window. And I think we’re close to that, it’s gonna take a big offseason, it’s why we’re gonna be here a lot. I think it’s important, it’s key, and I’m excited for the challenge.”

The duo pointedly told fans that this offseason is the climax of the competitive rebuild. A club can’t really have a rebuild without a fresh option at quarterback. Cousins left, and his replacement is on the way.

1. Starting “The Window” — Time Is of the Essence

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Depending on the outcome of Jefferson’s upcoming extension, the Vikings will have about four years to pair him, Jordan Addison, T.J. Hockenson, and Christian Darrisaw together with a rookie quarterback. Assuming the unknown young quarterback is any good, he’ll get a fat contract soon after Addison’s expires.

Why not rip off the gauze and let the rookie quarterback grow and mature now — instead of two years from now (2026-2027) when Jefferson-Addison-Hockenson-Darrisaw could come to an end?

If Adofo-Mensah declines to draft a rookie quarterback, the unnamed eventual rookie quarterback will have less than four years to mature inside the current system with Jefferson, Addison, Hockenson, and Darrisaw. But if that hypothetical rookie starts developing on the field in 2024, well, 2025, 2026, and 2027 can be the golden opportunity years to win the Super Bowl while the quarterback is still inexpensive.

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).

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