The Minnesota Vikings won 13 games in 2022 — about four or five more than oddsmakers expected. The franchise used late-game heroics and heartstopping transactions to do so and won the NFC North for the first time since 2017.
But the playoffs arrived, and the club flopped — at home, to make matters worse — so the first year of duty orchestrated by new head coach Kevin O’Connell felt a bit sullied. The New York Giants were the aggressor and systematically gutted the Vikings defense in the Wildcard Round.
On Minnesota’s final offensive drive, the Vikings failed to convert a 4th and 8, as quarterback Kirk Cousins threw the ball short of the sticks, sending many fans into a tizzy and wondering, “does this guy get it?”
The Vikings 4 Realistic Options at QB in 2023
And because the Vikings ruined an otherwise fancy season, nobody knows if the front office or coaching staff is disillusioned with Cousins, who is contractually committed to the franchise for one more season.
With mystery looming about Minnesota’s internal opinion of the QB1, the Vikings have four realistic options at QB in 2023. These are those.
1. Roll with Kirk Cousins
Love him, hate him, or indifferent — this must be considered the most likely option. It doesn’t have to mean the Vikings are enamored with Cousins for the long term, but it does mean the man has a no-trade clause. It is up to Cousins if he’s the QB1 in 2023, mainly because the cap penalty to release him — the Vikings wouldn’t do that anyway — is too dire.
This route would involve letting Cousins’ contract play out — it expires at the end of 2023 — or slapping the customary extra year or two on the deal this offseason. The Vikings have chosen the latter in back-to-back offseasons. Adding any additional time onto Cousins’ current contract would signal the team still believes in a Super Bowl window with the 34-year-old.
If general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah “does nothing” with the contract, it will mean Cousins is a) Playing for his job in 2024 – or – b) Existing in his final year with the Vikings.
It’s rare for a man with 4,000+ passing yards and 30+ touchdowns per year to play on the final year of his contract.
Again — this is the most likely option, as the Vikings seem to enjoy Cousins’ body of work.
2. Draft the Successor / Keep Cousins
This is the 2017 Kansas City Chiefs method.
While it’s wildly unlikely the Vikings “draft their Mahomes” — chiefly because those don’t grow on trees — they can certainly try. Here, you’d pretend Cousins is Alex Smith, and the hypothetical next guy is, well, Mahomes.
With or without an extra year added on to Cousins’ contract, Adofo-Mensah selects his heir apparent to Cousins — no matter the round in the draft — and that human sits behind Cousins for at least one year to watch and develop. The Chiefs did this in 2017 — and boom — it emphatically worked.
The only “problem” here is that Adofo-Mensah must get the right guy in April and not some half-buttocks solution like Kellen Mond.
This option merges both worlds and should unite pro-Kirk and anti-Kirk fan factions — and everyone in between.
3. Trade Cousins / Draft Successor / Bridge with Mullens
It gets spicy here.
Cousins, foremost, would be asked to waive his no-trade clause. This would be a requirement right off the bat, and the plan relies on Cousins’ willingness to depart Minneapolis.
Then, the Vikings could trade Cousins to a team like the New England Patriots, New York Jets, or Tampa Bay Buccaneers (if Tom Brady leaves) — teams that surmise they’re a decent quarterback away from playoff contention.
The Vikings would receive some type of noteworthy draft capital in the deal. Adofo-Mensah would use that pick, the 23rd overall selection, and probably something juicy for next year’s draft bag to move up in Round 1 of the 2023 NFL Draft to choose Will Levis, C.J. Stroud, etc.
The wildcard here is not knowing Adofo-Mensah’s thoughts on this year’s quarterback class.
Oh, and in this scenario, current QB2 Nick Mullens would likely patch over the rookie quarterback. See: Mitchell Trubisky into Kenny Pickett in Pittsburgh a few months ago.
4. The Trey Lance Show
Finally, call the San Francisco 49ers, a team Adofo-Mensah worked for from 2013 to 2019.
The 49ers might have to keep Brock Purdy at QB1 in 2023, especially if they reach or win the Super Bowl. A coaching staff could not tell Purday “adios” after a Super Bowl appearance. It’d be gridiron malpractice.
Well, Trey Lance, who was supposed to be San Francisco’s savior, would be a lame duck. Or if he were not, quarterback controversy would ensue at Purdy’s first semblance of struggles in 2023.
Adofo-Mensah could peel Lance — who is from Minnesota — away from his old employer for an undetermined trade price. Lance could start immediately or sit behind Cousins for a year.
One might be tempted to think Lance to Minnesota is poppycock, but if the 49ers want to salvage some of the trade capital used to acquire him two years ago, he’d have to go somewhere. And the Vikings would be at the top of the theoretical list.
Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).
All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by OverTheCap.com.