As the Kirk Cousins News Sinks In, the Vikings Need to Pivot Toward the Trade & Free Agency Markets for QB Help

Syndication: The Post-Crescent

Very few in Minnesota want to see a Vikings game where Sean Mannion is getting the start. Far more preferable would be Jaren Hall, Nick Mullens, or a new addition.

Yes, the incredibly discouraging Kirk Cousins injury has quickly given way to a cruel reality of NFL football: the game keeps moving forward, so the Vikings need to find help for the game’s most important position.

Unfortunately, the team’s QB2 — Mr. Mullens — is still recovering while on the IR. The end result will almost certainly be a start for Mr. Hall, the 5th-round rookie who saw his first NFL action in Week 8 after Cousins missed the remainder of the game with his Achilles injury. And, to be clear, the baton should be handed off to Hall. After all, he has been the one who has helped Minnesota get to a 4-4 record, doing nothing but impress as a backup.

Aug 26, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Jaren Hall (16) throws a pass against the Arizona Cardinals during the third quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Safe to say, though, that Minnesota will look to add someone else to their QB room over the next week. Going into a pivotal Week 9 game — on the road against Atlanta — with just Hall and Mannion around the roster seems foolish.

And while a free agent is certainly possible (Dustin Baker suggests Colt McCoy on Vikings Territory), we all know that it’s trading season. GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, as you may have heard, has an affinity for pulling off trades.

Kirk Cousins, Jaren Hall, and the Suddenly Skimpy QB Room

Tennessee employs Malik Willis, but there are questions about whether the partnership will continue (a topic explored during the offseason).

Aug 19, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings defensive end Esezi Otomewo (90) and cornerback Andrew Booth Jr. (23) and linebacker Luiji Vilain (43) prepare to tackle Tennessee Titans quarterback Malik Willis (7) during the first quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The appeal with Willis is that he’s a still-young QB who was highly regarded heading into the 2022 NFL Draft. He struggled as a rookie, finishing his year having gone 1-2 while completing 50.8% of his passes for 276 yards, 0 TDs, and 3 INTs. No sugarcoating it: those are ugly stats.

Kevin O’Connell — who, like Willis, was a 3rd-round selection — may welcome the chance to work alongside the young passer. Lots of coaches enjoy thinking they have what it takes to let a player shine, but perhaps O’Connell (the QB-turned-coach) is the one who is actually capable of doing so with Willis. Plus, Kwesi has shown with several of his trades that he likes bringing in young, upside players who are still on their rookie deals. Willis fits the bill.

And, let’s not forget, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah is friends with Ran Carthon, the new GM of the Titans who wasn’t responsible for bringing Willis to town in the first place. The task for Willis would be to function as the QB2/3 for the remainder of the year while continuing to refine his craft.

Minnesota got the chance to practice against him during the leadup to the Minnesota/Tennessee preseason game. Everyone in Minnesota will have a strong understanding of the QB’s abilities.

Tennessee Titans general manager Ran Carthon chats with Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah during practice in Eagan, Minn., Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2023.

One also thinks of the Los Angeles Rams. O’Connell’s former employer already shipped Cam Akers to the Midwest; would they be willing to do something similar for one of their depth QBs? The theory is simply that one of the QBs would acclimate relatively easily since O’Connell leans on similar ideas to Sean McVay.

Tom Brady’s name is being floated — on VT but then also by Pro Football Talk — but that’s a possibility that’s difficult to take too seriously. At 46, Brady is older than Kevin O’Connell, Brian Flores, Matt Daniels, and, well, you see the point.

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Atlanta Falcons
Jan 8, 2023; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Kyle Rudolph (8) and quarterback Tom Brady (12) celebrate after a touchdown pass against the Atlanta Falcons in the first quarter at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Of course, any number of other possibilities exist, ones that are far too numerous to count in this humble piece. The point is simply that there are players out there for Adofo-Mensah to think long and hard about adding. A Hall/Mannion twosome moving forward isn’t going to inspire too much hope, even if the rookie has legitimate upside.

Internally, the Vikings will have a good grasp of where Nick Mullens is at in his recovery.

The 28-year-old QB has played in 24 games in his career, starting 17. His 65.3 career completion percentage is commendable, and his 27/23 TD-to-INT ratio suggests he’s willing to give his playmakers a shot. If he’s looking healthy before too long, then the Vikings may stay the course with Hall and Mannion before Mullens arrives.

Don’t be too surprised, though, if Adofo-Mensah makes a move to bring someone in to add extra security and competition for the QB2/3 spot. Someone like Malik Willis makes sense as someone who is operating on a cost-controlled deal and who could likely be acquired for cheap. Moreover, Colt McCoy and other similarly accomplished FA QBs are names to monitor in the coming days.

The Vikings are sitting on roughly $7.5 million in cap space.

Editor’s Note: Information from Pro Football Reference and Over the Cap helped with this piece.

K. Joudry is the Senior Editor for Vikings Territory and PurplePTSD. He has been covering the Vikings full time since the summer of 2021. He can be found on Twitter and as a co-host for Notes from the North, a humble Vikings podcast.