Prolific Passer Pitched as Successor to Vikings QB Kirk Cousins

Kevin O'Connell, Vikings

Getty Head coach Kevin O'Connell of the Minnesota Vikings.

The 2024 NFL Draft is full of quality quarterback prospects and the Minnesota Vikings figure to be in the mix for at least one of them.

After a 1-4 start, Minnesota has won its way out of contention for one of the so-called “can’t miss” QBs — namely Caleb Williams of USC and Drake Maye of North Carolina, who are likely to come off the board in the top two or three spots. Jayden Daniels of LSU was also a potential candidate for the Vikings, though his run to the Heisman Trophy may result in commissioner Roger Goodell calling his name well before Minnesota gets its turn to choose.

However, Michael Penix Jr. of the undefeated Washington Huskies could be both a great fit for the Vikings’ system/coaching staff as well as available in the late first round, where the team’s pick is most likely to fall. As such, Brent Sobleski of Bleacher Report on Friday, December 22, pitched Minnesota as a sensible landing spot for Penix next April.

Penix will turn 24 shortly after next year’s draft. Much like with Bo Nix, that can be viewed as a positive, particularly in this situation. With Kirk Cousins set to enter free agency and Joshua Dobbs benched, Minnesota doesn’t have a ready-made solution behind center. A more experienced signal-caller may be able to step in and claim the job sooner than later.

Finally, the quarterback’s touch can be erratic based on poor mechanics. Too often, Penix can be seen throwing off his back foot, which creates less variability in the throws he makes. Fortunately, Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell is a former NFL quarterback, personal quarterback coach, NFL quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator. The head coach also calls the plays in Minnesota. He can build a scheme around an incoming rookie and potentially mask any weaknesses.

Michael Penix Jr. Produced Prolific Stats in Final Collegiate Season

UW vs Oregon State Live Stream

GettyQuarterback Michael Penix Jr. of the Washington Huskies will enter the NFL Draft in 2024.

Aside from his age potentially shaving years off the back end of his NFL career, Penix’s health issues during his time at the University of Indiana could give Minnesota pause.

The quarterback has suffered through two ACL tears during his six years at the collegiate level. However, he has overcome those problems to lead the Huskies to the No. 2 seed in the upcoming College Football Playoff.

Penix has tallied 4,218 passing yards, 33 touchdowns and 9 interceptions across 13 starts in the 2023 campaign, per Football Reference, earning himself second place in the Heisman race to Daniels. Penix also tallied 4,641 yards, 31 touchdowns and 8 interceptions in 13 games last season — his first in the Pac 12 Conference.

Kirk Cousins Appears Best QB Option for Vikings Next Year

Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings

GettyQuarterback Kirk Cousins of the Minnesota Vikings.

While O’Connell’s experience and track record bode well for whomever the next young Vikings quarterback might be, the presence of Cousins at the top of the position group for the next year or two could also do wonders.

Rookie Jaren Hall, a fifth-round draft pick in 2023, is on the roster but the team is hesitant to play him while it remains in the hunt for an NFC Wildcard Playoff berth. O’Connell already benched Dobbs, and Nick Mullens is a quintessential career backup.

Because of the quarterback situation behind Cousins, as well as his stated desire to return to Minnesota next season, the likelihood is that the 12-year veteran will be back in purple and gold once he finishes rehabilitating his torn Achilles tendon.

“Will I ever play football again?” Cousins told ESPN’s Adam Schefter on the December 19 episode of his podcast. “You know, I’m an older guy, free agent, is there a market? I didn’t know. I believe I will, and I believe it will be [in Minnesota], but you wonder.”

ESPN’s Bill Barnwell on December 21 authored a deep dive into the Vikings’ QB situation heading into 2024 and concluded that bringing Cousins back on a two-year deal is the smartest play.

“A reunion with Cousins makes the most sense,” Barnwell wrote. “The defense has taken enough of a leap forward to compete immediately, and the passing attack was absolutely humming before Cousins went down injured. With Cousins’ path to a Kyle Shanahan reunion blocked by Brock Purdy in San Francisco and the Vikings not really in position to ensure landing a top quarterback prospect in the draft, a two-year deal with void seasons for cap purposes would make sense for the Vikings.”

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