Vikings Fill Vacant QB Slot

Vikings Can Buy
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

The major domino fell. Kirk Cousins will head to Atlanta and try to help them win the NFC South after three consecutive 7-10 seasons. On paper, the Falcons have the best team in the division. Meanwhile, Minnesota is planning for the future that will not include the longtime passer. Cousins ranks second in all-time passing touchdowns in franchise history.

Vikings Fill Vacant QB Slot

Vikings Bridge QB -- All Signs Point to This Guy
Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports.

Six years after signing him, the veteran quarterback exits the franchise. Limited team success but excellent individual numbers highlight the team aspect of the sport. Something always went wrong; either he had a bad stretch, or the defense fell apart. Last season, when everything started to click, and the team appeared to be genuine contenders for a few weeks, his Achilles injury ended his and, ultimately, Minnesota’s season.

Cousins moves on, and so does Minnesota, but who will be his successor? Nick Mullens and Jaren Hall are under contract. Joshua Dobbs is also a free agent. Mullens guided the offense at an explosive level, but his outrageous interception numbers led to his benching, and Hall received a chance. He didn’t look the part, and after only two quarters, Mullens returned. However, the confidence his coaching staff has in him can be questioned.

One guy, though, remained on the board, and the Vikings agreed to terms with him. Sam Darnold, former third overall choice and last year’s backup of Brock Purdy in San Francisco, was strongly considered Minnesota’s new QB1 and eventually signed. According to Ian Rapoport on X: “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.”

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports.

Obviously, the goal must be to find a franchise quarterback in the draft, but the Vikings need a short-term stopgap in case they miss out on the quarterbacks they consider to be their guy. A player with starting experience can take over the QB1 duties for a year or even just a few weeks until a rookie is ready to take the reigns.

Some of those players had already found new franchises. Russell Wilson heads to Pittsburgh, Gardner Minshew signed with the Raiders, and Jacoby Brissett returns to New England.

Super Bowl Sunday
Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports.

On Darnold, Ben Volin from the Boston Globe previously reported on X about Minnesota’s interest: “Some other QB buzz I’m hearing: Sam Darnold is weighing offers between the Vikings and Broncos.”

Denver was also looking for a new passer after releasing Wilson. Jarrett Stidham is currently their top passer on the depth chart. Sean Payton’s enterprise holds the 13th overall pick, two picks later than the Vikings.

Benjamin Allbright, a Denver reporter, confirmed the rumor. On Sunday, NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport name-dropped Darnold as a potential successor for Cousins.

Darnold came into the league with a ton of talent and became the youngest starter in NFL history. Unfortunately, he joined a dysfunctional New York Jets team with questionable surroundings and coaching. Three years later, they shipped him to Carolina, where the situation was similar.

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Last year, the 49ers signed Darnold to compete for the starting gig in case Purdy wasn’t healthy after his elbow surgery. He sat in San Francisco and learned from offensive mastermind Kyle Shanahan. The Vikings run an offense with many similarities, and he has the talent to get his career back on track once he is inserted in Minnesota’s wonderful surroundings, which include Justin Jefferson, his former teammate Josh McCown as the QB coach, and head coach and play-caller Kevin O’Connell would also be in his corner.

Darnold is unlikely to be a long-term solution, but considering the available candidates, he offered the highest upside.

The signal-caller is still only 26 years old.

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