Vikings Part Ways With Former 1st-Round QB

Kirk Cousins, Vikings

Getty Kirk Cousins talks with head coach Kevin O'Connell of the Minnesota Vikings prior to the game against the Washington Commanders at FedExField on November 06, 2022 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

The Minnesota Vikings will add at least one new quarterback for the 2023 season after deciding to not re-sign former first-round pick Josh Rosen.

Minnesota allowed Rosen’s contract to expire on January 23 along with six other practice-squad players. He was a late addition to the roster after David Blough was signed off the practice squad in December by the Arizona Cardinals.

Rosen’s departure leaves Nick Mullens as the only backup behind Kirk Cousins, who is entering the final year of his current contract. However, Mullens is a pending free agent.

The following practice-squad players also reached free agency: wide receiver Dan Chisena (signed with Pittsburgh Steelers), linebacker Ryan Connelly ( an Eden Prairie, Minnesota, native), offensive tackle Bobby Evans, running back Bryant Koback, cornerback Parry Nickerson and tight end James O’Shaughnessy.

Vikings Must Decide Kirk Cousins’ Future This Offseason

The Vikings are approaching a crossroads with Cousins this offseason that will have significant ramifications for the franchise’s future.

The new regime opted to run it back with the roster that Rick Spielman kept largely intact to keep Minnesota’s Super Bowl window open after the 2017 season. Cousins was the final piece to that team that has since atrophied as veteran stars have aged out.

But the Vikings have not drafted well on that side of the ball since and have been left making bandage repairs to a unit that ranked 31st in yards and 28th in points allowed last season. The defense proved to be the demise of Minnesota’s Super Bowl ambitions after surrendering 431 yards of total offense in a 31-24 playoff loss to a New York Giants that was stomped in the following round by the No. 1-seeded Philadelphia Eagles.

With four defensive starters expected to reach free agency and several veterans on the chopping block, the Vikings are tasked with rebuilding the defense to be at the very least serviceable enough to complement an offense that finished top 10 in points and yards for the first time since 2009.

The defensive rebuild will be difficult with Minnesota currently $24.5 million over the expected salary cap. The Vikings are looking at cutting two or three more veteran starters from the defense and would just be over the salary cap, leaving roughly half of the defense’s starting spots vacant and no proven talent ready to take over. This is the dilemma that comes with not drafting well with a veteran quarterback contract on the cap sheet.

The remedy would be allowing Cousins to play out the final year of his contract and either selecting a quarterback in the upcoming draft or plan to sign a bridge veteran quarterback next offseason, leaving significantly more cap space in the 2024 offseason to sign prime veteran defenders and supplement through the draft.

The bandage solution would be to extend Cousins again, push his earnings down the road and hope for a turnaround on defense that includes the 2022 draft class reversing their trend in their second year, hitting on talented players in the upcoming draft and finding a few key free-agent additions — all of which needs to be orchestrated by a transformative new defensive coordinator.

That’s a lot to bank on.

Vikings Linked to 2 Quarterbacks in 2023 NFL Draft

Allowing Cousins to play out the final year of his contract and giving a rookie quarterback a Patrick Mahomes year to be an understudy would be the ideal route for development at the position.

The Vikings have an ideal situation for a young quarterback two with a pair of Pro Bowl tackles, Pro Bowl tight end T.J. Hockenson and a superstar wide receiver in Justin Jefferson. Other holes on the roster would be significantly easier to fill with a rookie-scale contract at quarterback. The final four teams in this year’s playoffs all have quarterbacks on rookie contracts.

Looking ahead, Minnesota has been linked to two quarterbacks in recent mock drafts.

Pro Football Focus draft analyst Mike Renner penned Stanford quarterback Tanner McKee as a potential successor to Cousins, selecting him with the 28th overall pick in the upcoming draft, which could allow Minnesota to get their guy and trade back from the 24th spot and acquire more draft capital.

“General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah is tied to Kirk Cousins for only one more season, and the Vikings’ roster is too good to where they won’t be getting the pick of the litter in a draft anytime soon,” Renner wrote. “That could mean taking advantage of a deep quarterback class to start a year early on developing Cousins’ successor. McKee is one of the most accurate quarterbacks in the draft class but was put in a lot of unwinnable situations on tape at Stanford.”

Sports Illustrated mocked Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson to the Vikings, although Richardson’s physical tools could make his draft stock skyrocket after the combine.

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