The Vikings begin training camp next week, with their first full-squad practice scheduled for July 28. Between now and then, we're previewing camp with a look at each position group.
Kirk Cousins, Kellen Mond, Jake Browning, Nate Stanley
In: Mond (third-round pick)
Out: Sean Mannion (free agent)
After signing Cousins to a fully-guaranteed deal in 2018, the Vikings backed him up with Trevor Siemian and Mannion, two veterans who posed no serious threat for the starting job. Mond's arrival isn't likely to change the Vikings' QB dynamics in 2021, but things could look different in a year or two if the Texas A&M product gives the Vikings reason to think they can stop paying Cousins, who'll be 33 next month and count $31 million against the cap this year.
Backup quarterback. The Vikings kept Mond behind Browning and Stanley during OTAs, effectively creating a buffer between Cousins and the rookie, but if Mond can push past the two low-profile backups, it could help him raise his profile in two ways. He'd get incrementally more work during regular-season practices, and he'd put himself in line for whatever playing time falls to a backup behind the durable Cousins.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Mond. Accuracy was the big question following the quarterback after the draft, but his experience (he made 44 starts at Texas A&M), mobility and work ethic drew the Vikings to him. He'll face a pass rush for the first time in training camp, after an offseason program where defenders weren't able to come after quarterbacks, and his ability to run the offense in practice will give the Vikings a better indication of how ready he is in Year 1.
ONE BIG QUESTION
Can the Vikings make a playoff push with Cousins? He's headed into his fourth season as the team's starting QB, and has given them more stability at the position than anyone since Daunte Culpepper. But for his impressive numbers, the Vikings are only 25-21-1 with him as a starter, and their offseason pursuits suggest he might need a big year. They tried trading up to get Justin Fields in the first round of the draft, though sources said there were people in the building who liked Mond just as much and the Vikings' offers ultimately weren't strong enough to help them move up from No. 14 overall. Still, had the team pulled off a trade for Fields, it might have meant dealing Cousins this offseason. The Vikings instead used two of their first four picks on offensive linemen. Better protection in front of Cousins might help him play more efficiently and connect on a few more of the downfield throws the Vikings like to dial up off play action. In any case, if there's a time for the Vikings to make the kind of run that ends the annual debates about Cousins, it might be now.