Kirk Cousins has been one of the league’s most durable quarterbacks during his tenure as a starting signal caller, and this has proven to be a luxury for the Minnesota Vikings ever since they signed him back in 2018. However everybody knows that the most important position in the NFL behind the starting QB is the guy holding the clipboard behind him. Injuries are unpredictable, so having a capable player on the bench at numerous positions can help make a big difference if and when an injury occurs.
The Vikings have been in backup QB purgatory for the last several seasons going through many names that have either underwhelmed or failed to stick around. Guys like Jake Browning, Kyle Sloter, and Trevor Siemian have all come and gone after failing to earn the backup QB spot behind Kirk Cousins.
Sean Mannion has been with the Vikings as their primary clipboard holder for the last three seasons, and although he is touted as a high culture guy and a great teammate, the performances he puts on display on the football field are less than stellar. With questionable decision making, a lack of poise, and no real physical gifts as a player, Mannion gives the team very little upside as a starter if Cousins were to go down with an injury. On the other hand, second year QB Kellen Mond showcased some flashes this past weekend against the Raiders, but still has some inconsistencies to work out. Mond, unlike Mannion, does have all the physical upside and gifts with both his arm and his legs but lacks consistency with poise, accuracy, and decision making. With a new head coach in Kevin O’Connell, surely the development of the former Texas A&M Aggie could take a massive step forward throughout the season but the question is the same with Mond as it is with Mannion. Can they be trusted to carry the load if something were to happen to Kirk? That remains to be seen, but the rumor around the league is that Minnesota is exploring options at the backup QB spot. The options that could be available are not exactly anything to write home about, but given the current state of the QB room behind number eight, the majority of the options could be upgrades for the Vikings.
Whether it is by trade or via the waiver wire and free agency post roster cuts, the Vikings could have some intriguing names at their disposal if they wanted to look for a more consistent QB at the backup role. Veterans like Blake Bortles and Mike Glennon are currently available on the free agent market and share a combined 104 NFL starts (73 for Bortles and 31 for Glennon). If Minnesota wanted to go through the current available free agent crop, those are the two names that stick out the most. There is also the wild card of Cam Newton. A former league MVP, Newton is currently a free agent and although it is uncertain exactly the type of role he sees himself in for the remainder of his NFL career, there is no doubt that Newton would be a fun addition to the Vikings roster if it was something they would pursue.
As far as trade candidates it gets a little more unpredictable. The name that sticks out the most and that makes the most sense for the Vikings is former New York Jet and current Carolina Panthers QB Sam Darnold. After the addition of Baker Mayfield and the early promise that third round rookie Matt Corral has shown in camp, Darnold looks like he has gotten lost in the shuffle in Carolina. Darnold, although inconsistent with accuracy and decision making, offers nearly three years of NFL starting experience and has showcased some flashes of NFL level throws. Asking him to come in as a backup as opposed to a starting role would alleviate a lot of the pressure he has faced with both the Jets and Panthers in his early NFL career.
How likely is a trade for Darnold? Not likely. Given his cap hit, the Vikings salary cap situation and the addition of draft capital needed to acquire him, it is the least likely option of the names available but it would not be surprising to see if the Vikings check in on Darnold if they feel an upgrade is needed behind Kirk.
There are still a few weeks left of preseason football to be played, and with Mond showcasing some potential week one against the Raiders, he might be the answer if he continues to trend in the right direction. For now, uncertainty at the QB2 spot is still there and the Vikings should be considering all options available to upgrade the position.