Vikings’ Pro Bowler Gets Honest About Kirk Cousins, Sam Darnold

Sam Darnold, Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings

Getty Sam Darnold #14 of the New York Jets and Kirk Cousins #8 of the Minnesota Vikings.

Things didn’t exactly go as Minnesota Vikings offensive lineman Brian O’Neill had hoped when the season first ended.

O’Neill, 28 years old and wrapping his sixth NFL season, was hopeful Kirk Cousins would return to the Vikings this offseason. Instead, Cousins signed a massive contract with the Atlanta Falcons in free agency.

That had a domino effect, which could very well still be occurring. But it won’t affect O’Neill.

“I have a job, and that’s not my job. My job is to block people,” O’Neill told reporters on April 15. “When that kind of stuff happens, it’s the same as any other teammate who signs somewhere else or goes on and moves on. You call them, you wish them well, and you hope they play really bad when they play us.”

The Vikings selected O’Neill in the second round (No. 62 overall) of the 2018 draft.

That is the same season the Vikings signed Cousins from the Washington Commanders organization in free agency. Cousins was the only starting quarterback O’Neill had known in the NFL before last season when the four-time Pro Bowler was lost for the year in Week 8.

“It’s no different than other teammates that I’ve been close with that had left. You give them a call, you check in on them in the offseason, and move on,” O’Neill said.

“I’ve talked to Alex Mattison a couple times through text in the offseason, and it’s no different. “Life moves on it’s a business and it’s time to get to work, and time to push this thing in the right direction.”

Brian O’Neill Talks Up Vikings’ System Around Sam Darnold

Kevin O'Connell, Minnesota Vikings

GettyHead coach Kevin O’Connell of the Minnesota Vikings.

As for Cousins’ replacement, Sam Darnold, O’Neill doesn’t expect too much of an issue for his 2018 draft classmate in his debut season with the Vikings.

“I think it sets up well,” O’Neill said. “I think we have a ton of talent across the board, I think our coaching staff is going to do a great job with Sam or whoever and do a great job getting whoever it is ready to go. And it won’t be for a lack of preparation or a lack of knowledge on the offense. There’s some really bright minds here.”

O’Neill put the onus on those incumbent mids to step their respective games up so the team can hit the ground running for the 2024 season.

The Vikings started 0-3 last season.

O’Neill was effusive with praise for Mattison’s replacement, Aaron Jones, raving about his fellow one-time Pro Bowler’s addition in free agency this offseason.

“Let’s go,” O’Neill said of his reaction to Jones’ addition. “We texted like two days after he got signed, whatever, and he was fired up I saw. I did see the videos of him walking in doing the skol chant and that was the same over text. He was fired up. And, obviously, playing them twice a year I had a ton of respect for him.

“We watched him do some damage the last couple years. And a heck of a player, so excited to get to know him as a person too.”

Vikings Need Consistency from QB Position in 2024

Nick Mullens, Minnesota Vikings

GettyNick Mullens #12 of the Minnesota Vikings.

The Vikings were halfway into a five-game winning streak when Cousins was lost for the season with a torn ACL. The Vikings went 3-6 the rest of the way with a combination of Nick Mullens, Josh Dobbs, and Jaren Hall.

Darnold arrives on a one-year, $10 million contract and figures to at least battle for the starting spot in training camp.

Nothing has been set in stone with the draft just under two weeks away.

However, the Vikings’ interest in the incoming quarterback class suggests Darnold would start over Mullens and Hall if they failed to land a new QB.