It’s been a foregone conclusion that the Minnesota Vikings have no real options under center next season aside from Kirk Cousins, though that isn’t necessarily the case.
In order to land one of the four exciting quarterback prospects of the 2023 class, the Vikings will have to surrender much of this year’s and next year’s draft — though doing so might be worth it.
That is the perspective of Alec Lewis of The Athletic, who suggested on Tuesday, March 21, that Minnesota flip the No. 23 and No. 87 overall picks this year along with a 2024 first-rounder to the Las Vegas Raiders in order to move up 16 spots and draft Kentucky signal-caller Will Levis at No. 7.
Kirk Cousins remains under contract through 2023. The team has yet to extend him. Until they do, thinking about the team’s next thrower of the football is worthwhile. Though it might be tempting to save key 2024 draft capital, especially with the potential QBs in next year’s NFL Draft, the Vikings could benefit from adding a QB now. A season to learn head coach Kevin O’Connell’s system would be a boon. So would the opportunity to sit behind Cousins.
Levis, a strong-armed passer, played for Liam Coen in 2021 at Kentucky. Coen spent three years on the [Los Angeles] Rams staff with O’Connell from 2018 to 2020, then replaced him as L.A.’s offensive coordinator in 2022. Leaping to No. 7 would take some heavy lifting, but the time comes for every team to shoot its shot.
Vikings Need to Trade Into Top-4 to Ensure Levis, Other Top QB Remains Available
The biggest potential danger in such a trade proposal, other than all the draft capital being surrendered, is that all four of the premier quarterbacks in the draft could be off the board before the 7th pick is called.
Mel Kiper Jr. of ESPN predicts Levis will come off the board third to the Indianapolis Colts via a trade with the Arizona Cardinals to move up one spot from No. 4. Kiper projects that C.J. Stroud of Ohio State and Bryce Young of Alabama will be taken in the first two slots by the Carolina Panthers and the Houston Texans.
That leaves only hyper-athletic prospect Anthony Richardson of Florida on the board by the No. 4 overall selection. Kiper has the Seattle Seahawks picking Richardson up in the fifth slot to develop behind Geno Smith, who recently signed a three-year deal to stay in the Pacific Northwest.
If the Vikings plan to mortgage the top half of their next couple of drafts for one player, the team must ensure it trades into a position where it can draft its player of choice. With four quarterbacks worth a top-10 pick, the only way to guaranteeing one is for Minnesota to move up into the top four. That would entail a deal with the Cardinals to move up to No. 3 overall — as the other three teams in the top four are all predicted to select a quarterback — which is likely to cost even more than the king’s ransom it will take to elevate just to No. 7.
Vikings in Quarterback Conundrum With Kirk Cousins
The Vikings have other options than making a huge draft play or extending Cousins yet again, though none of them are ideal.
Minnesota chose not to pursue a younger QB in free agency as a long-term solution, as the available ones like Derek Carr and Jimmy Garoppolo are very much in the Cousins’ mold — good but not great, reliable but not spectacular, yet still very expensive.
The Vikings could also look to the middle of the draft for a QB, perhaps selecting one with the aforementioned 87th pick in the third round. But that buys Minnesota little more than a decent bet on the sport’s most important position. Meanwhile, the 34-year-old Cousins (soon to be 35) gains more leverage to negotiate a long-term deal, which the Vikings pretty clearly want to avoid.
Minnesota can also get into the game for former MVP Lamar Jackson, who is currently negotiating with other teams after the Baltimore Ravens applied the non-exclusive franchise tag to the quarterback this offseason. However, Jackson is at least a $250 million investment who has dealt recently with injury problems, and the Ravens retain the right to match any offer or claim two first-round picks in return for foregoing said match.
There is no great solution and sitting mired in indecision will allow Cousins to hit the free agent market following the 2023 season, potentially leaving the Vikings with no answers under center at all. Minnesota must pick a path soon, and taking a swing on a top-heavy QB class for a considerable price isn’t the worst choice the team could make.