A contract year lies ahead for Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins.
Cousins' successor might well lie ahead for the taking in the upcoming 2023 NFL Draft, as well.
Should Minnesota select a signal-caller at No. 23 overall or beyond, Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah believes it would be the best-case scenario for a franchise QB of the future to have a season to develop behind an established starter.
"We talk about that all the time. I don't know that there's one right answer, to be honest," Adofo-Mensah told reporters Thursday. "Ideally, you probably would want to have a year to have the person in the building, or something like that, but I don't know if that's necessary."
Necessary or not, it's a view mirrored by Vikings head coach Kevin O'Connell, who believes in a draft-and-develop scenario, but was adamant in underscoring how excited he is to have Cousins under center -- for 2023, anyhow.
"Ideally, you would love to have that person in that role developing behind a great player like Kirk, but I don't think you ever sacrifice it being the right player," O'Connell said. "Regardless of the when, the where, the why, the how, you can't sacrifice that. Cause you have to have ultra-belief and connection on making that decision cause it is such an important decision.
"But I will say, very excited about Kirk in Year 2 in this system. It's been a while since Kirk's been able to say that he gets to come back in the same system he ran previously with the same play-caller. We've had a lot of great dialogue with him about ways we're gonna look to fine tune what we did and grow and improve. That'll be a big part of 2023 for me, not only as the head coach, but play-caller, and our offensive staff."
As a rookie head coach in 2022, O'Connell steered the Vikings to a 13-4 regular-season showing with an NFC North title to boot. Though Wes Phillips is back as offensive coordinator, O'Connell will call plays again. As noted by the former Rams OC, Cousins will have the same player-caller and OC for the first time in his Vikings tenure -- which began in 2018.
In his fourth Pro Bowl season, Cousins put up 4,547 passing yards and 29 touchdowns last year.
However, with one season left on his current deal, this could well be the final go for Cousins in Minnesota. O'Connell and Adofo-Mensah inherited Cousins and developing a franchise QB of their taking could be what's next.
Barring a major trade to move up in the first round, the Vikings could be looking at Tennessee's Hendon Hooker at No. 23 or potentially Stanford's Tanner McKee later down the line.
Adofo-Mensah nor O'Connell were tipping any hands Thursday, but the importance of finding their QB of the future was a point of emphasis.
"Quarterback is the most important position in our sport," Adofo-Mensah said. "Ultimately, Kevin and I -- these aren't things you just kind of decide in the moment. You have to have plans, you have to have strategies, you have to have different ways of getting to that answer. We've had these conversations, they're ongoing. There's lots of different avenues in terms of addressing that position. I wouldn't necessarily box us into just one. Again, we do know it's the most important position in this sport and we'll treat it with that kind of importance."
Cook, a four-time Pro Bowler, is due $10.4 million in base salary in 2023 and would save the Vikings $9 million on the salary cap with a post-June 1 release.
When asked directly if Cook would be on the team's roster for the upcoming season, Adofo-Mensa deftly danced around the quandary.
"Conversations are always ongoing with him, we're trying to be solutions-oriented always," the Minnesota GM said, "trying to put the roster together within our constraints and we'll continue those conversations."
As for Smith, the pass rusher caused a bit of a ruckus in March when he informed the team he wished to be released. Smith remains on the roster, but Adofo-Mensah indicated they're working to a resolution -- though just what that would be remains a mystery.
"We try to be solutions-oriented here, that's what we'll always talk about," the GM said. "And sometimes those solutions come from different places or whatever, but he was a great member of our team last year and we'll keep the conversation ongoing."
And so, Cook is going fishing this Saturday in a charity event, Smith's future with the team remains unclear and Cousins is heading into his sixth and perhaps final season in Minnesota with a potential heir apparent to be selected.
A pivotal Vikings offseason is most certainly afoot.