The Minnesota Vikings are going to try to find a long-term answer to the QB question hanging over the franchise, but they could end up stuck with a short-term solution once again.
General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and head coach Kevin O’Connell took the reigns of the organization in 2022 as Kirk Cousins entered the last year of a two-year, $66 million extension. A short-term answer in place, the new leaders of the franchise offered Cousins a $35 million deal to stay with the team through 2023 — kicking the can down the road yet again.
The Vikings can extend Cousins once more, though they will need to compete with other NFL franchises if they don’t come to an agreement before free agency begins on March 13. However, bringing Cousins back may cost the franchise as much as $90 million guaranteed over the next two seasons, according to Pioneer Press columnist Charley Walters. Paying him would be yet another short-term solution, and an expensive one at that, without a succession plan in place.
Gavin Dorsey of the Star Tribune on Monday, January 29, authored a list of options Minnesota can pursue to replace Cousins now and for the long-term with via the upcoming NFL draft. However, he also offered a list of short-term bridge solutions that will cost less than Cousins and potentially set the team up for the future.
“If the Vikings don’t see any of the 2024 options as their quarterback of the future, they could look ahead to 2025 and sign a veteran free agent to help them through the season at a low cost,” Dorsey wrote. “Players such as Sam Darnold, Jameis Winston and Jake Browning are expected to be available, and could set up the Vikings for a 2025 quarterback with a higher draft pick.”
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers drafted the quarterback No. 1 overall in 2015. Over the next five years, Winston started 70 games with the franchise and earned a win/loss record of 28-42. He also claimed a Pro-Bowl appearance following his rookie campaign and led the league with 5,109 passing yards in 2019.
However, Winston also led the NFL with 30 interceptions that season, which has been his downfall as a professional quarterback. That flaw, and a deal with Tom Brady, led to Winston’s departure following the 2019 campaign. He landed with the New Orleans Saints, where he has been a backup for most of the past four seasons.
Across his nine-year career, Winston has thrown for 22,104 passing yards, 141 TDs and 99 INTs and owns a win/loss record of 34-46. At age 30, the QB still has a big arm and a penchant for making big plays. That combination would make Winston an interesting partner for Minnesota’s talented group of pass-catchers led by All-Pro wide receiver Justin Jefferson.
Winston’s turnover problems, which have plagued him throughout his career, would unlikely be a concern. However, O’Connell may be able to reel Wintson in enough to take advantage of what makes the QB great while mitigating what doesn’t.
Beyond that, Winston should be a relatively inexpensive experiment, as Spotrac projects his market value at $2.76 million over a new one-year contract.