Former 49ers Starting QB Poised For Return to Vikings

O'Connell, Cousins, Vikings

Getty Head coach Kevin O'Connell of the Minnesota Vikings watches during warmups alongside quarterback Kirk Cousins prior to a game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on January 8, 2023 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)

The Minnesota Vikings are projected to bring back more than one familiar face at the quarterback position next season.

The most recent indication of the team’s trajectory under center comes from Tyler Forness of USA Today’s Vikings Wire who posited on Tuesday that quarterback Nick Mullens will return to the roster in 2023 to reprise his role as backup to resident starter Kirk Cousins.

“As long as Kirk Cousins is playing quarterback for the Vikings, the backup isn’t likely to get much playing time,” Forness wrote on February 7. “Regardless, having a capable backup like Mullens on the roster [makes sense].”

Vikings Have Among Best Backup QB Situations in NFL With Mullens

Mullens, Cousins, Vikings

GettyQuarterbacks Nick Mullens (left) and Kirk Cousins (right) of the Minnesota Vikings prepare to take the field prior to 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)

Bringing back Mullens would secure for Minnesota one of the more favorable backup quarterback situations in the entire league.

The Vikings didn’t need a ton from Mullens in 2022, who appeared in four games across his first season with the team. However, when he did play, Mullens offered strong showings. He finished the year 21-of-25 passing for 224 yards, one touchdown and one interception while producing a quarterback rating of 100.7, per Pro Football Reference.

Mullens also boasts extensive starting experience in the NFL prior to his time with the Vikings. The quarterback has started a total of 17 games as a professional, 16 of them with the San Francisco 49ers across four seasons between 2018-21 and one game with the Cleveland Browns. His overall record is a mere 5-12, though Mullens has produced career numbers of 5,085 passing yards on a 65.3% completion rate with 27 touchdowns and 23 interceptions. His career quarterback rating is 88.0.

Re-signing Mullens in Minnesota would also make sense as an investment strategy after the Vikings sent the Las Vegas Raiders a conditional 2024 seventh-round draft pick in exchange for the QB last August. Minnesota made the move just ahead of decisions by head coach Kevin O’Connell to cut ties with both QB Sean Mannion and QB Kellen Mond after each toiled through poor preseasons.

Mullens signed a one-year deal worth up to $2 million, including $1 million guaranteed, with the Raiders ahead of the 2022 campaign. A similar contract offer would probably keep Mullens in Minnesota through 2023 and would be money well spent for a Vikings team that currently faces a $23.4 million salary cap deficit.

Vikings ‘Expect’ Cousins to Play Quarterback in Minnesota Next Year

Kirk Cousins

GettyQuarterback Kirk Cousins of the Minnesota Vikings warms up prior to a game against the Indianapolis Colts at U.S. Bank Stadium on December 17, 2022 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

As far as Cousins remaining the starter in Minnesota, that appears to be the case — at least for now.

General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah said during a press conference on January 18 that the franchise “expects” Cousins to be its quarterback next season, though fell short of deeming that outcome a certainty.

“It’s our expectation that he’ll be our quarterback,” Adofo-Mensah said, sidestepping a direct question about whether the team will offer Cousins a contract extension ahead of the 2023 campaign. “I can’t say exactly how that would look. We have everything at our disposal, we’ll consider all those things, just like we will with everyone else on the roster.”

Cousins is set to earn his age in salary next year, as the 35-year-old will play on a one-year deal worth $35 million. He will hit unrestricted free agency in 2024 and can walk then for nothing if the Vikings don’t either extend him or find a suitable trade partner in the interim.

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