With Kirk Cousins Gone and a New Player on the Team, the Vikings Have 3 Pathways Towards Finding Their QB1

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Minnesota Vikings
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings will have a new starting quarterback in 2024.

News broke on Monday that Kirk Cousins has reached an agreement with the Atlanta Falcons. The deal is reportedly a four-year pact worth $180 million with a whopping $100 million guaranteed. The Vikings will have to eat $28.5 million in dead money that was left on Cousins’ prior deal.

This news puts to rest months of rumors and speculations about the veteran, and the Vikings will have to figure out the best path forward at the game’s most important position. Luckily, there are several quality free agent options available. The Vikings also own the No. 11 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, and they could be in the mix to select a quarterback this spring.

Then, while many Vikings fans were sound asleep, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah struck again late in the night by signing Sam Darnold to a one-year, $10 million contract. Some have immediately pegged Darnold as the replacement for Cousins, but in reality, the Vikings have three paths towards finding their QB1 in 2024.

2024 NFL Draft

Kirk Cousins
Sep 16, 2023; Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA; Michigan Wolverines quarterback J.J. McCarthy (9) throws against the Bowling Green Falcons in the first half at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

J.J. McCarthy had a historic career with the Michigan Wolverines. The QB led the team to a National Championship and was an effective passer. McCarthy threw for 2,991 yards with 22 touchdowns and just four interceptions in 2023 with the Wolverines.

McCarthy has prototypical QB size, standing at 6’3 and weighing in around 200 pounds. The QB is big game tested and can make plays with his legs if he has to. With the Vikings at pick 11, the top QBs like Caleb Williams, Drake Maye, and Jayden Daniels likely will be off the board unless Minnesota finds a way to trade up.

If the Vikings decide to stay at 11, McCarthy could be available, especially with the Falcons, who are at No. 8, landing Cousins. However, the Vikings could decide to trade up with a team like the Titans, who is sitting at No. 7, and unlikely to take a QB.

Either way, McCarthy seems like the most likely rookie passer to end up in Minnesota.

Sam Darnold

Jan 7, 2024; Santa Clara, California, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Sam Darnold (14) and wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk (11) look on during the second quarter against the Los Angeles Rams at Levi’s Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

After signing with the Vikings, Darnold could be another reclamation project for the Minnesota Vikings. The former third overall pick’s career has not gone as planned, but he is still just 26 years old. Through 56 career starts, Darnold has thrown for 12,064 yards, 63 TDs, and 56 INTs, while completing 59.7% of his passes.

As a starter with the New York Jets, Carolina Panthers, and San Francisco 49ers, Darnold has compiled a 21-35 record. None of these numbers are exciting, but his youth and the ability to work with Kevin O’Connell make it seem like a low-risk, high-reward proposition.

O’Connell got the best out of Cousins and made Joshua Dobbs look like a serviceable NFL QB. Is it really hard to believe that Darnold could thrive in Minnesota?

Nick Mullens/Joshua Dobbs/Jaren Hall

Aug 19, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Nick Mullens (12) drops back to throw a pass during the first quarter against the Tennessee Titans at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

There is a scenario, albeit an unlikely one, where the Vikings decide to stick with an incumbent. Nick Mullens, Joshua Dobbs, and Jaren Hall all received starts in 2023, and all of them delivered mixed results. Dobbs would have to be re-signed, but Mullens and Hall are under contract.

Hall is obviously the most intriguing option here. The former BYU product was a rookie in 2023 and was thrust into action after Cousins’ season-ending injury. Hall would unfortunately be injured himself, and Joshua Dobbs Mania took over the league.

Dobbs had a fantastic run, but would eventually be benched in favor of Mullens. Would Dobbs want to re-sign in Minnesota after being benched? Mullens went 0-3 as the starter in 2023 and threw more INTs than TDs. It seems unlikely that Mullens would be relied upon in 2024.

Hall can make the best case for a starting gig in 2024. The young QB could blossom into a serviceable passer under the tutelage of O’Connell. Still, it seems unlikely that any of the incumbents will factor seriously into the competition.

Editor’s Note: Statistics for this article were found via Pro Football Reference.