Vikings Offer Former No. 3 Draft Pick Job as Kirk Cousins’ Replacement: Report

Sam Darnold, 49ers

Getty Quarterback Sam Darnold, formerly of the San Francisco 49ers.

The Minnesota Vikings have made an offer in an attempt to land their next starting quarterback and replacement for the departed Kirk Cousins.

Ben Volin of the Boston Globe reported on Monday, March 11 that Minnesota has extended an offer to free agent quarterback Sam Darnold to join the roster, adding that the Vikings are in competition with the Denver Broncos for Darnold’s services.

“Some other QB buzz I’m hearing: Sam Darnold is weighing offers between the Vikings and Broncos, and the Browns are interested in Jameis Winston as a backup,” Volin wrote on X.

Sam Darnold Was Bust With Jets, Has Improved Since in Stints With Panthers & 49ers

Giants connected to 49ers quarterback Sam Darnold in NFL free agency.

GettyFormer San Francisco 49ers quarterback Sam Darnold.

Darnold served as the backup quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers last season. He has also played stints with the Carolina Panthers (two years) and New York Jets (three years) since the latter of the two teams selected him with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2018 NFL draft.

Darnold was a bust with the Jets, earning a record of 13-25 as the starter and completing more than 60% of his passes only once in three seasons. However, the organization was a mess at the time, which made it difficult for Darnold to succeed at a high level.

He went 8-9 as the Panthers’ starter over the following two years, drifting in and out of the lineup as several other signal-callers also passed through Carolina. Darnold found a solid home in San Francisco in 2023, backing up Brock Purdy on the team’s way to the Super Bowl.

Darnold didn’t play much in the Bay Area, going 0-1 as the starter. However, he looked sharp in relief of Purdy against the Baltimore Ravens late in the season and finished the year 28-of-46 passing for 297 yards, 2 TDs and 1 INT, per Pro Football Reference.

The Niners paid Darnold $4.5 million on a one-year deal in 2023. No details have yet emerged as to what Minnesota is offering the quarterback to join its roster for the upcoming season, though Pro Football Focus (PFF) recently projected Darnold to sign a one-year contract worth a total of $4.75 million, including $4 million guaranteed.

Vikings Tip Hand on Drafting QB With Offer to Sam Darnold

Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, Minnesota Vikings

GettyGeneral manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah of the Minnesota Vikings.

That Minnesota has offered Darnold a job at all makes clear what the team’s strategy is as far as finding a franchise quarterback — the Vikings are going to attempt to draft one.

Minnesota owns the No. 11 pick this April and should be able to land a reasonable prospect without trading up, as the 2024 class is potentially six franchise quarterbacks deep. That said, and considering the Vikings’ pass-catching talent headlined by Justin Jefferson, the front office may feel compelled to trade up to better position itself for the player(s) who suit Minnesota’s offensive vision best.

The Washington Commanders‘ No. 2 pick could be in play, as could the 3rd overall selection owned by the New England Patriots. However, both of those teams are in need of quarterbacks and neither locked one in on the first day of free agency negotiations, which means the cost to the Vikings of trading up will be massive — if either team will consider a deal at all.

That may leave the Los Angeles Chargers at pick No. 5 as the Vikings’ best chance to move up the board, at which point they would most likely position themselves to draft the fourth quarterback selected. In that scenario, players like J.J. McCarthy of Michigan and Bo Nix of Oregon should be available.

Minnesota can then develop that QB — whoever he turns out to be — behind Darnold for a full year, or at least some portion of the season, until he’s ready to step into the starting role.

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