Vikings Positioned to Land Dual-Threat QB as Cousins’ Successor

Kirk Cousins

Getty Kirk Cousins looks on during a 2022 Vikings game vs. Dallas.

The Minnesota Vikings have long-term questions under center and only short-term answers.

Quarterback Kirk Cousins has been solid again in 2022, playing big in most of the team’s big moments and leading the Vikings to a 13-4 record, an NFC North Division title and their first trip to the playoffs since 2019. But should Minnesota fall short of the Super Bowl yet again this postseason, it may be time to entertain the possibility that Cousins, while above average at the position, isn’t a championship-level signal caller.

Should the front office come to that conclusion, there is value in looking at a young successor late in the first round of the upcoming NFL Draft. A handful of options could be in play there, but the one with the most upside is probably Anthony Richardson out of the University of Florida.

Richardson Has High Upside For Vikings as Dual-Threat QB Option

Anthony Richardson

GettyQuarterback Anthony Richardson of the Florida Gators throws a pass during a game against the Kentucky Wildcats at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on September 10, 2022 in Gainesville, Florida. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

Richardson is the rated the 19th-best prospect overall and the fourth-best QB on the most recent big board of ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr., which was updated on December 29.

You can’t coach [Richardson’s] talent and physical ability, and NFL coaches will see the tools and try to develop him now that he has decided to enter the draft. He had an up-and-down season, throwing 17 touchdown passes and nine interceptions while running for nine scores. His 70.6 QBR ranked 35th in the country.

Richardson is still very raw — his mechanics and footwork need a lot of work. He has accuracy issues on shorter throws that should be easier. And yet, the arm strength and the dual-threat ability are so intriguing that a team near the end of Round 1 absolutely could take him and let him develop. What I say about the draft is that we’re trying to project who a prospect could be, not evaluate exactly what he is right now. Richardson hasn’t come close to his ceiling. He’s going to be a polarizing prospect for the next few months.

Vikings Offer Perfect Landing Spot For Richardson to Develop

Kevin O'Connell

GettyHead coach Kevin O’Connell of the Minnesota Vikings.

The Vikings make sense as a destination for a player like Richardson. Head coach Kevin O’Connell is one of the more respected offensive minds in the league and comes from the new-school coaching circle of Los Angeles Rams football savant Sean McVay. At 37 years old, O’Connell speaks the language of today’s younger, dual-threat quarterbacks and has a better chance of helping Richardson reach his full potential than most head coaches in the NFL.

Furthermore, Cousins remains under contract through 2023, which affords Richardson a full year to sit on the bench and learn. There is no competition for the spot behind Cousins either, after the Vikings parted ways with Kellen Mond prior to the start of the year.

Cousins, who will be 36 following next season, will likely be looking for a multiyear deal. If Minnesota general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah was inclined to give him one, doing so would have made more sense before extending him on a one-year contract that carries a salary cap hit north of $36 million. In other words, Super Bowl or not, there is a good chance that 2023 is Cousins’ last year in a Vikings uniform, unless he’s willing to take a significant pay cut.

The Vikings could look to the free agent market for a more experienced and game-ready option to succeed Cousins, but the way the franchise structured his contract will cost Minnesota $12.5 million against the cap in 2024 and $6.25 million in 2025, even if he’s not on the roster.

Thus, the financial situation makes a young QB with high upside on a rookie contract the most sensical option for the Vikings moving forward. Where Minnesota’s draft pick ends up has yet to be determined, though it is likely to fall somewhere in the 20s. The Vikings may need to move up a handful of spots to secure Richardson, though they should be able to do so at a reasonable cost late in the first round.

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