Vikings Linked to ‘Freak’ Athlete QB as Successor to Kirk Cousins

O'Connell, Cousins, Vikings

Getty Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O'Connell (left) talks with quarterback Kirk Cousins (right) during the NFC Wild Card Playoff Game against the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium on January 15, 2023 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

The new Minnesota Vikings regime maximized the franchise’s ongoing investment into Kirk Cousins, securing 13 wins for the first time since the 2017 season that prompted the Vikings to sign Cousins as the final piece of a championship-caliber roster.

Despite the first-year success, general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and head coach Kevin O’Connell will have to consider who their quarterback will be after inheriting Cousins from the past regime — ideally a young quarterback who can develop under Cousins for at least a year.

Sports Illustrated insider Albert Breer answered a recent mailbag question regarding the perennial question of when Minnesota may move on from Cousins. Breer offered an interesting insight into the Vikings’ future at quarterback — calling Minnesota a “quiet contender” to draft Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson.

From Breer:

I think Kirk Cousins will be the Vikings’ quarterback in 2023, and I think, certainly, they’d consider doing another one-year extension with him this offseason (they’d have $12.5 million in dead money to deal with after next year if they walked away). But I also believe that Cousins’s age (he’ll be 35 in Week 1) and contract situation make the Vikings a quiet contender to take a quarterback in April.

Minnesota’s been here before, and recently. Had Justin Fields slipped to where the team was initially picking in 2021 (No. 14), before dealing down and taking Christian Darrisaw with the 23rd pick, the now-Bears quarterback would’ve been a serious consideration. So if, say, Florida’s Anthony Richardson were to fall into their laps at 24, it’s easy for me to see the Vikings seeing a raw prospect who could develop for a year behind Cousins and wind up being a monster for them a few years down the line (physically, he’s off the charts).

Anthony Richardson’s ‘Freak’ Athleticism Makes Him a Once-a-Decade Prospect

Anthony Richardson: Playing The QB Lottery | 2023 NFL Draft Report & ProfileAnthony Richardson is the ultimate QB coin toss. He could be a star, he could never develop and just be a toolsy headache at the position, or maybe somewhere in between. However, NFL teams don't get the luxury of waiting and seeing, they have to decide in April. Join NFL Draft Analyst Michael Rochman as…2023-01-19T22:00:23Z

Richardson’s raw athleticism catapulted him into top-15 terrain in the upcoming draft despite some considerable shortcomings as a passer.

The 21-year-old started just 13 games in three years with the Gators. However, his draft stock will likely stay on the rise when he displays his physical tools at the NFL combine later this month.

Richardson has been critiqued for his accuracy, mechanics and decision-making, however, Pro Football Focus sees those elements of his game as correctable, while his athleticism is something that can’t be taught.

“Calling Richardson a ‘freak’ wouldn’t really do him justice with how frequently that word gets tossed around. When your closest physical comparison is someone like Cam Newton, you’re operating on a different plane than most quarterbacks. Richardson broke 39 tackles on 97 carries this season for 713 yards. He likely possesses the strongest arm and the best rushing ability of any quarterback in the class,” PFF lead draft analyst Mike Renner wrote. “Don’t assume that he’s just some complete project, either. Richardson’s attention to detail is on point already, as his footwork is consistent, which enables him to navigate a tight pocket exceptionally well. He’s not too far off from being able to start in the league.”

 Vikings Have an Ideal Situation for Anthony Richardson

Considering Richardson projects as a developmental project in the league, Minnesota has one of the best situations for the young quarterback.

Head coach Kevin O’Connell is a cerebral quarterback whisperer who helped elevate Cousins to playing winning football — clinching a league-high eight game-winning drives last season.

Cousins has also proven to be a willing mentor to other quarterbacks. He’s been one of the most accurate throwers of the past decade and could offer Richardson insight into developing a steady aim.

Cousins has one more year on his current contract but has a pair of $6.25 million bonuses that were placed on void years in 2024 and 2025 — meaning the Vikings are on the hook to pay Cousins those bonuses whether he is rostered or not.

Extending Cousins for at least another year through the 2024 season would ensure that money doesn’t go to waste against the cap and also offer a developmental quarterback like Richardson two years of learning under Cousins before taking the starting reigns.

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