But the Vikings do still need to prepare for the future beyond Cousins. While Minnesota’s chances at securing one of the highly-touted quarterback talents in the 2021 NFL Draft are likely out of reach with the No. 14 overall pick, an emerging prospect has carved a name for himself in the Vikings’ lexicon.
Fansided’s Brad Berreman detailed the reasons Minnesota needs to start looking for its future at quarterback and named Alabama QB Mac Jones as a potential prospect to consider in the first round.
Jones has been drafted as high as No. 6 overall in CBS Sports’ mock draft but has seen a wide variance of his potential value in the NFL with some scouts considering him a mid-round talent.
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Jones’ Ceiling Akin to Kirk Cousins
Jones led the Crimson Tide to a 52-24 rout of Ohio State in the NCAA national championship on Monday, completing 36 passes of 45 passes for 464 yards and five touchdowns. He set an Alabama single-season record for passing yards (4,036), leads the nation in completion percentage (77%) and threw only four interceptions this season. He won the Davey O’Brien Award for the nation’s top QB and was a Heisman finalist.
Jones checks all the boxes of a first-round quarterback prospect. But what’s made Jones difficult to discern is separating his success from the pieces around him. Scouts aren’t nearly as high on Jones the individual.
Regarded as a game manager, Jones has garnered a reputation as a game manager and comparisons to Teddy Bridgewater and Jared Goff. Walter Football reported that a team sources have graded him as a fourth-round talent, saying he has done a good job of getting the ball to his playmakers but lacks the arm strength and athleticism akin to young superstar quarterbacks like Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, Russell Wilson, etc…
Walter Football pegged Jones as a second-day pick who will be a solid backup in the league. His ceiling?
“He may be able to top out as a mid-level starter, like Kirk Cousins.”
Vikings Need a Rookie… Contract
The Vikings’ 7-9 season was a culmination of several factors that had been brewing beneath the surface of the franchise. Minnesota’s offense was top 10 in yards for the first time since 2009. Cousins isn’t the problem, but his contract is.
Cousins is slated to be the ninth highest-paid quarterback in 2021 — a figure that will change in the offseason as several QBs around the league will receive new deals. His contract extension last offseason spelled the exodus that followed as the defense saw five starters leave along with Stefon Diggs traded away to the Buffalo Bills.
Minnesota is still in a tight spot financially and will likely not have a flashy offseason in free agency. The Vikings, who enjoyed a top defensive unit for half a decade, began to see diminishing returns for the money those defensive veterans commanded and are now in the midst of rebuilding the defense once again.
Meanwhile, Cousins has kept the Vikings afloat as a serviceable game manager with several of the league’s best weapons around him in Dalvin Cook, Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen and Irv Smith Jr.
When identifying what’s missing from this team, a franchise quarterback isn’t the concern. The offensive and defensive interior seem to be the few positions with little promise and will likely be addressed in the draft.
The final piece to the puzzle will be a young quarterback to learn behind Cousins. When Cousins’ contract expires, it will leave an opportunity to address quarterback at an affordable price, likely a rookie deal to whomever Cousins’ understudy will be.
Dependent on his performance the next two seasons, Cousins could also present a case to be re-signed, however, it will need to be a deal that does not crater the core of the team once again.
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Trevor Squire is a Heavy contributor covering the Minnesota Vikings and journalism graduate from the University of Minnesota — Twin Cities. Connect with him on Twitter @trevordsquire and join our Vikings community at Heavy on Vikings on Facebook.