Vikings Rumors: Veteran Corners Aplenty, The Fields Fail, and O’Connell (Sort of) on McCarthy

NFL: Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Since we’re officially into the portion of the year when Vikings rumors are arriving fast and furious, we’ll be highlighting some of the purple rumblings.

The “Vikings Rumor Wrangle” is a series that keeps readers informed on what’s being whispered about in Vikings Land. In this iteration, we discuss the plethora of free agent veterans at corner, Minnesota failing to trade for Justin Fields, and Kevin O’Connell (sort of) commenting on J.J. McCarthy.

Vikings Rumors: 04.03.2024

Rumor #1 — The NFL is Offering Plenty of Veteran Corners in Free Agency

Already, the Vikings have brought in some veteran talent to help at corner with the addition of Shaq Griffin. Does Minnesota have any interest in adding someone else?

Consider some of the veteran CBs who are still out there (courtesy of the FA tracker on Spotrac):

  • Patrick Peterson
  • Stephon Gilmore
  • Xavien Howard
  • J.C. Jackson
  • Rock-Ya Sin
Dec 25, 2022; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Miami Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard (25) takes to the field prior to the game against the Green Bay Packers at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

The sampling of corners features some notable names. Peterson jumps out since he was recently playing pretty solid football for the Vikings, bridging the gap from the Mike Zimmer era to the Kevin O’Connell era.

But then plenty will zero in on Howard, who has a history of playing at a high level and who has a history of playing for Flores. In 2020, Howard put together a first-team All Pro season and finished 3rd in Defensive Player of the Year voting (slotting in behind Aaron Donald and T.J. Watt; no shame in snagging bronze when Donald gets gold and Watt silver). Howard’s resume also features a second-team All Pro nod to stand alongside four trips to the Pro Bowl.

Approaching his 31st birthday, Howard’s best days are likely behind him. He was down to 13 games and 745 snaps last season, but he logged some major playing time from 2020-2022. Does a change of scenery help rejuvenate Mr. Howard, someone who has spent his entire career in Miami? Does the Flores appeal lead to a deal in Minnesota?

Minnesota currently has roughly $16.8 million in cap space.

Rumor #2 — Minnesota was Among the Justin Fields Trade Possibilities

Apparently, Justin Fields had some interest in hopping over to Minnesota.

ESPN’s Brooke Pryor offered the update: “Chicago, intending to move the three-year starter as it prepared to select a quarterback with the No. 1 pick in April’s draft, was willing to give Fields some say in his next destination. The Steelers were one of four teams on Fields’ radar prior to the start of free agency, along with the Vikings, Raiders and Falcons, a source familiar with Fields’ thinking said.”

Nov 27, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields (1) scrambles against the Minnesota Vikings in the second quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

In the end, Pittsburgh snagged the upside passer, meaning the Steelers will be moving ahead with a brand new QB hierarchy that puts Russell Wilson into the QB1 opening and then Justin Fields into the QB2 opening (seeing that hierarchy flip around in 2024 won’t be surprising).

The Steelers didn’t need to send over too much to secure Mr. Fields’ services: a conditional 6th that can turn into a 4th. In all likelihood, Chicago wasn’t super keen about trading Fields within the NFC North. Maybe Kwesi Adofo-Mensah would have paid more but didn’t get the chance from Ryan Poles.

Regardless, Pittsburgh now has Fields in their QB room. Any chance the Vikings have their eye on the former Bear for free agency in 2025?

Rumor #3 — Kevin O’Connell Offered Some Comments on J.J. McCarthy … Sort Of

Lately, there has been no shortage of digital ink spilled on J.J. McCarthy becoming a Viking. He’s very young and very athletic. Partner those attributes with his history of winning at a major college program alongside some excellent accuracy and it’s not difficult to see why Minnesota could have interest.

At the Annual League Meeting, Kevin O’Connell was asked about the soon-to-be rookie passer. How did the topic come up? Well, former Vikings beat writer Chris Tomasson put the question in front of the Vikings’ head coach. More specifically, Tomasson wanted to know if O’Connell felt any pressure given that Denver has demonstrated some interest in the Michigan passer and is sitting a single slot behind Minnesota.

Nov 5, 2023; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell on the sideline against the Atlanta Falcons in the second half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

“I just think there’s a lot of really, really interesting quarterbacks to take a look at,” O’Connell opines, “guys that had great college careers.” As he continues, O’Connell relies on a vague evasiveness that would make a politician proud: “Some really exciting guys to study and evaluate. I think there’s probably multiple teams that are all looking to add a player at the position. And how you do that and where you do that is going to be all part of the fun of what the draft’s all about.”

So, O’Connell said a lot without saying anything. McCarthy does look like a promising passer and McCarthy does look like a good fit for Minnesota. Whether that involves the Vikings feeling the heat to box out teams below them on the draft board — something Dustin Baker has discussed over at VT — remains to be seen.

Editor’s Note: Information from Pro Football Reference, Spotrac, 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.