The Case for Nick Mullens as the Vikings’ QB1 in 2024

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Kirk Cousins has often affirmed his desire to stick around Minnesota. If he does, then the Vikings’ QB1 hierarchy will remain in place. Cousins gets to reclaim the throne while Nick Mullens and Jaren Hall maintain their spots as valuable depth (which is to say nothing of what could occur in the draft).

Not to be outdone, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah articulated a reciprocal desire, even going so far as to say that his intention is to re-sign the passer. Even reaching back into past comments from the GM would paint a similar picture. Yes, there has been longstanding worries about money — on both sides, for that matter — but Adofo-Mensah has always been complimentary of his QB’s talents and abilities, preparedness and work habits.

Aug 3, 2023; Eagan, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterbacks Nick Mullens (12) and Kirk Cousins (8) talk during warm ups at TCO Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Roughly a month has passed since then and things look a bit more uncertain.

The QB has been marching through the media, discussing the patience that’s needed to get clarity on where he’ll end up playing. Even the man himself must wait until March to get the contract talks going.

Meanwhile, there have been some rumblings about the Vikings being willing to move heaven and earth, so to speak, to jump into the top of the draft. Still other rumors are suggesting Cousins is taking aim at a whopping $45 million per year over a pair of seasons. If true, those combined rumors point toward a future where the team will be moving on.

Lingering behind all of this is Nick Mullens. Very quietly, the long-time backup may be inching closer to a scenario where he’s leaned on as the Vikings’ QB1.

Kirk Cousins, Nick Mullens, & The QB Conundrum That’s Playing Out in Real Time

Begin with his teammates.

Nick Mullens’ teammates like playing for and with him. Can you blame them? Mullens gives his guys a chance to make a play. In football, very little is worse than tremendous skill being tamed by a QB who can’t get the ball down the field.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Las Vegas Raiders
Dec 10, 2023; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Nick Mullens (12) makes a pass attempt against the Las Vegas Raiders during the fourth quarter at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Take a look at Mullens’ stats over these past couple seasons with the Vikings:

YearComp. %Y/AYardsTD/INT

The above statistical account is rudimentary, offering just the most basic facts. What stands out, though? The completion percentage is strong and so too are the air yards. The man can push the ball downfield. Last year’s 8.8 yards-per-attempt average surpasses Cousins’ number (7.5) by a decent bit.

More concerning, of course, are the interceptions. The turnovers are Mullens’ great flaw and the main argument against him seeing the field more.

Jan 7, 2024; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Nick Mullens (12) gets ready to hand off the ball during second quarter against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports

And while the interceptions can be backbreaking, the magical moments can be abundant. He can be evading pressure and then toss a touchdown pass through crowded coverage to Jordan Addison. He can face a 3rd & 30 and pickup the first by tossing the ball to Johnny Mundt. He can ignite the team’s most dangerous playmaker by making bold passes to Justin Jefferson.

Understand that the recklessness that leads to those brutal interceptions walks hand-in-hand with the magnificence that leads to those remarkable plays. It’s the same spirit and the same arm, folks.

Possibilities Aplenty with Nick Mullens

Truth be told, anything could happen with Mr. Mullens. Maybe he gets cut. A trade is possible since teams always want strong depth at quarterback. The Vikings could retain him as their QB2. And, as wild as it seems, maybe Mullens remains as the QB1.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Las Vegas Raiders
Dec 10, 2023; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Nick Mullens (12) celebrates after the game against the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The thinking is simply that he offers the chance to be competitive while Minnesota moves further into rebuilding the quarterback position. Indeed, a world where Mullens is the top option going into 2024 is a world where Minnesota has made a major decision to onboard a youngster at QB.

More specifically, the Vikings would sink a high selection into a young quarterback and then entrust Mullens to shield the rookie from needing to start immediately. Doing so would help ensure that games are kept competitive and that the skill players get fed. Behind the scenes, the rookie would be picking up valuable wisdom, practice reps, and coaching.

NFL: Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings
Dec 24, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell celebrates after Minnesota Vikings running back Ty Chandlers (32) touchdown against the Detroit Lions during the first quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Seeing Kirk Cousins officially head elsewhere would mean needing to digest the $28.5 million dead cap charge. The Vikings would almost certainly gain a 3rd-round compensatory pick (for 2025, not the upcoming draft). Would they then pivot to use some of their cap space to improve the running game? Names like Derrick Henry, Saquon Barkley, and many others are scheduled to hit free agency. Whoever is throwing the pigskin would majorly benefit from a competent running game.

How does Mullens alongside a true RB1 and then the terrifying trio — Jefferson, Addison, Hockenson — sound? What if the defense gets the expected reinforcements as the Flores Fiends shift from a bit above average to very good? All of that while getting the finances in a better spot while also drafting and developing a RD1 QB.

Is that a path that’s worth exploring? Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, Kevin O’Connell, and the other main decision makers in Eagan are working through all of these scenarios as they continue working through the calm before the offseason storm.

Nick Mullens, 29 in March, is entering the second year of his contract and third overall in Minnesota. He’ll be carrying a $2.23 million cap charge into the season, meaning he’s among the best value QBs in the NFL.

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.