The Vikings are coming off their third 13-plus win season in franchise history, but question marks persist at the team's most important position.
Kirk Cousins is entering his sixth season as Minnesota's starting quarterback without a deal in place beyond 2023, which makes him vulnerable to a succession plan being enacted before the 2024 campaign, his age-36 season.
His status made the draft particularly intriguing for Vikings fans, but the club only spent a fifth-round pick at the position by selecting Jarren Hall. And while general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah did not provide concrete answers on the future of any rostered quarterbacks, he did tell reporters following the draft that Cousins has gone far beyond requiring a prove-it-type year to determine his fate.
"Kirk doesn't need to show anything to me," Adofo-Mensah said Saturday night. "Kirk has played football at a high level before I got to the Minnesota Vikings. Last year, we won 13 games. I don't know what he would need to prove to me or anybody else."
Cousins has often hovered just below the top couple quarterback tiers. He would be an upgrade for many teams around the league with four Pro Bowls, 37,140 passing yards, 252 touchdowns and just 105 interceptions under his belt. He also paired beautifully with Kevin O'Connell in the head coach's first year, leading a passing attack that ranked sixth in the NFL in yards and fourth in touchdowns.
Still, the veteran QB has only managed to lead the Vikings to two postseasons in five years. Both of those trips ended prematurely, and last year's wild-card loss to the Giants ended in particularly ugly fashion when Cousins opted for a fourth-and-8, 3-yard checkdown to T.J. Hockenson that was immediately snuffed out.
Even after three Pro Bowls in four seasons, those highly visible hiccups prevent Cousins from becoming invulnerable to speculation. Some might also consider those lapses part of the reason Minnesota did a cap conversion on Cousins' contract in March rather than finding ground on an extension, but Adofo-Mensah chalked it up to simply being the best solution for the time being.
"When you go into a contract negotiation, you're trying to come up with solutions together," he said. "It's not just what Kwesi wants or what the Vikings want or even what Kirk wants. It's what we can do together and ultimately put together that Lombardi [Trophy]. And sometimes you come to a place where you decide, 'Hey, let's talk later. This is a solution for now.' That's all that's happened."
As for the incoming rookie, Hall is slightly undersized at 6-foot, 207 pounds. He had 51 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in his last two years at BYU. Adofo-Mensah expressed excitement at landing Hall, who he thought should've been selected "long before," but a quarterback taken at No. 164 overall is unlikely to project immediately into being an heir apparent. Adofo-Mensah conceded that when asked about the plan at QB, given the draft and Cousins' contract situation.
"You can have a long-term plan in terms of understanding how important it is and what you need to do in that room," he said. "But for me to tell you that this person will specifically be in a certain performance bucket at a certain place, I can't do that. But we know that we added a really talented player that we think has tremendous upside in this league."
Thus, it appears the Vikings remain in wait-and-see mode, with a future beyond 2023 possibly including another dose of Cousins, Hall taking the mantle or a currently unknown option coming to the fore.
In the meantime, Cousins and Minnesota will focus on the year at hand. They have a chance to build in O'Connell's second year in charge, and a retooled roster that includes first-round wide receiver Jordan Addison provides optimism that the team can successfully defend an NFC North crown for the first time since 2009.
"We like where we are at the quarterback position," Adofo-Mensah said. "But every option is open to us going forward. We're just really excited about Kirk this year. The weapons we've added in free agency, the weapons we've added in the draft, and we'll see what happens after that."