The Minnesota Vikings brass knows it must figure out a long-term answer at quarterback, and that the solution needs to arrive sooner than later.
General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and head coach Kevin O’Connell convened a media session on Thursday, April 13, during which they discussed exactly that. Reporters inquired as to whether the team has plans to select a QB in the first round, or any other stage of the 2023 NFL Draft, when the opportunity presents itself at the end of this month.
What Adofo-Mensah included in response wasn’t nearly as telling as what he chose not to say, specifically the name of current Vikings signal-caller Kirk Cousins.
“Quarterback is the most important position in our sport. Ultimately Kevin and I, these aren’t things you just kind of decide in the moment. You have to have plans, you have to have strategies, you have to have different ways of getting to that answer,” Adofo-Mensah said. “We’ve had these conversations, they’re ongoing. There’s lots of different avenues in terms of addressing that position. I wouldn’t necessarily box us into just one. But again, we do know that it’s the most important position in the sport, and we’ll treat it with that kind of importance.”
Cousins Appears on Way Out of Minnesota After 2023 Season
Adofo-Mensah didn’t say the Vikings were going to draft a quarterback to replace Cousins, but he was also careful not to mention Cousins in any way, particularly as the team’s future under center. In the context of actions speaking louder than words, Minnesota has made it clear for more than a year that the Cousins era is approaching its end.
The quarterback’s representatives came to the organization in March with a proposed three-year extension at what was described as a “discount” rate, per the Star Tribune’s Ben Goessling and Andrew Krammer via the March 20 edition of the Access Vikings podcast. The Vikings declined that offer, opting instead to restructure Cousins’ deal and knock $16 million off his salary cap number in 2023 to allow for more offseason maneuverability.
Cousins is under contract for just one more season after signing a one-year extension last spring, a deal that closed shortly after Adofo-Mensah came on as general manager. At any point from those negotiations up until today, Adofo-Mensah could have locked Cousins in long-term. He hasn’t yet, and there are no reports of meaningful discussions toward that end.
Adofo-Mensah’s actions, coupled with his carefully chosen words about the position at the press conference Thursday, make clear that Minnesota is in the market for a new quarterback. The only question remaining is how the team will try and procure one.
NFL Draft is Best, Perhaps Only Option For Vikings to Acquire New QB
If Adofo-Mensah and O’Connell liked any of the free agent options this offseason, the Vikings faithful would have heard about it. Three-time Pro Bowler Derek Carr was on the market as was former NFC champion Jimmy Garoppolo. The Vikings pursued neither.
The crop of free agents has now thinned to the point that there is next to no chance Minnesota makes a play to replace Cousins via that avenue. And if the Vikings didn’t like Carr or Garoppolo enough to utilize as a replacement for Cousins, the suspected group of free agents in 2024 is unlikely to produce a suitable answer. The team can’t look to its current roster either, as Nick Mullens is the only other quarterback under contract.
Adofo-Mensah could try and trade with the Baltimore Ravens for former MVP Lamar Jackson, but he’s an injury risk who is going to cost at least two first-round picks before he signs one of the most expensive contracts in NFL history.
The most feasible option is the draft. Most great teams start with a young quarterback on a rookie contract — a situation that offers value at the sport’s most expensive position for a four- or five-year window and affords a franchise the opportunity to spend at surrounding positions in a real way. The problem for the Vikings is that they pick all the way back at No. 23 and several draft experts believe there’s a good chance that the first four picks this year will all be quarterbacks.
Minnesota has two choices then, trade up into the top 10 and try to ensure they get one of the seemingly sure-fire prospects in this draft, or rely heavily on their evaluations and expertise to select a sleeper candidate of sorts late in the first round or later on in the draft. Hendon Hooker of Tennessee is one name that has been bandied about in connection to the Vikings, as has Dorian Thompson-Robinson of UCLA.
Whichever way the Vikings ultimately decide to go at quarterback, one thing is certain: this will be the biggest and most important decision of Adofo-Mensah’s time as GM in Minnesota and could well determine how long he holds onto the job.