Vikings to Push for $53 Million Veteran QB After Kirk Cousins Leaves: Report

Kirk Cousins, Kevin O'Connell

Getty Head coach Kevin O'Connell of the Minnesota Vikings and former quarterback Kirk Cousins.

The Minnesota Vikings must find a new quarterback with Kirk Cousins agreeing to terms on a contract with the Atlanta Falcons — and Sam Darnold appears to be their next target to pursue in free agency.

Following the announcement of Cousins’ massive four-year, $180 million deal to land in Atlanta, The Athetlic’s Diana Russini reported that the Vikings will “go after Sam Darnold, who also has other suitors.”

KSTP’s Darren Wolfson reported last week that the “steam” on Darnold is “legit” and that he is “near the top” of the Vikings’ list of veteran bridge quarterbacks after an article from The Athletic linked Darnold to Minnesota.

The former No. 3 overall pick in 2018, Darnold played for the New York Jets and Carolina Panthers before landing with the San Francisco 49ers last season. He beat Trey Lance for the backup role to starter Brock Purdy.

In his only start in San Francisco, Darnold completed 16-of-26 pass attempts (61.5%) for 189 yards passing and two total touchdowns with primarily backups in a 21-20 loss to the Los Angeles Rams.

Sam Darnold Has a Chance to Be the Next Baker Mayfield

Sam Darnold, Baker Mayfield

GettySam Darnold (14) and Baker Mayfield (6) with the Carolina Panthers in 2022.

The Vikings’ ideal free-agent target would have been Baker Mayfield had he not agreed to a three-year, $115 million extension with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on March 10.

Mayfield’s playoff run with the Buccaneers followed a rollercoaster ride for the former No. 1 overall pick where he was traded by the Cleveland Browns, lost his starting job to Darnold with the Carolina Panthers and spent the remainder of the 2022 season with the Rams.

Mayfield’s time with Shanahan disciple Sean McVay proved valuable as he restored his reputation before landing in Tampa Bay, who reaped the benefits of betting on Mayfield.

The Vikings hope to do the same with Darnold, who is still only 26 years old and hasn’t been given a great situation as a starter yet in his career.

During his time in Carolina, Darnold, who suffered a high-ankle sprain during the preseason and subsequently lost the starting job to Mayfield, got his first start in Week 12. He led the Panthers to a 23-10 win over the Denver Broncos. Mayfield requested his release during the team’s bye week after a 1-5 record as a starter before Darnold took over.

Darnold went 4-2 to close the season. He threw seven touchdowns and one interception and added a pair of rushing touchdowns in a five-game span. Carolina went on to trade up in last year’s draft to select Bryce Young, sending Darnold and Mayfield.

Darnold’s time spent with 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan also likely restored some confidence in the young quarterback who is looking for a starting job this offseason.

Darnold has made $53 million in his career, but his one-year deal with the 49ers after his rookie contract was affordable at $4.5 million a year.

Vikings Must Address Multiple QB Needs

Adofo-Mensah, O'Connell, Vikings

GettyGeneral manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah (left) and head coach Kevin O’Connell (right) of the Minnesota Vikings.

The most pressing dilemma the Vikings face with Cousins gone is who will start in 2024.

They’re looking to draft a first-round quarterback and give him a redshirt season to develop, meaning the Vikings have to find a bridge quarterback in the meantime.

The problem is any quarterback worth his salt will want a multi-year deal and promise of the starting job. The Vikings are bound to attract quarterbacks who are looking to prove it, not proven, given their long-term plan for the rookie.

Next season could be a turbulent year with the questions surrounding quarterback, but it’s a move the Vikings have prepared to make since the new regime took over with the ultimate goal of winning a Super Bowl.