The Vikings have their full team training camp practice on Wednesday. We're previewing camp with a look at each position group. Today: Quarterbacks.
Kirk Cousins, Sean Mannion, Kellen Mond
Out: Nate Stanley (released)
The Vikings' quarterback room will look almost the same in 2022 as it did in 2021, but as it kept its top three QBs from last year, the team made a big bet a new coaching staff will coax better results out of the passing game than the previous regime did. Kevin O'Connell's relationship with Cousins was a significant factor in the Vikings' decision to give the quarterback a one-year contract extension in March, and the team is hoping Cousins — who turns 34 next month — can replicate what Matthew Stafford did while O'Connell and new Vikings QB coach Chris O'Hara were coaching him last season with the Rams.
Backup quarterback. With Cousins entrenched as the starter, the only battle at the position is between Mannion and Mond, the former third-round pick who played sparingly as a rookie last season. The Vikings chose to start Mannion over Mond in a must-win game against the Packers after Cousins tested positive for COVID-19 in January, and the new regime chose to bring Mannion back on another one-year deal. If Mond can unseat Mannion for the No. 2 job and show signs of promise in the preseason, it could reset his trajectory with the Vikings after he fell out of favor with the previous coaching staff.
Player to Watch
Cousins. He has occupied this spot for years, and that doesn't figure to change in 2022 as the Vikings implement a new scheme that should empower the 11th-year QB more than he'd been in the past. If the Vikings can get Cousins to take his play to a higher level, they could have one of the league's best offenses given the skill position talent they have around him. Quarterbacks with 120 career regular-season starts don't change overnight, but the Vikings seem to be operating under the belief that Cousins — who played in his third Pro Bowl last year — can nudge his play to an even higher level in what should be the friendliest working environment he's had in Minnesota.
One Big Question
What happens if the Vikings don't make a playoff push with Cousins in 2022? He's got a no-trade clause as part of his new deal, which pays him $30 million in 2023, and the Vikings added void years for 2024 and 2025 as part of the contract. Those facts alone don't guarantee Cousins will be the quarterback in 2023, but his no-trade clause does grant him some autonomy over his future, since he'd have to waive the clause if the Vikings were to deal him after this year. The Vikings entertained the idea, at least briefly, of a hard reset to their roster before paying Cousins in March, and they'd theoretically find a market for him again if he puts up his customarily solid numbers this year. The trick would be finding mutual interest between another team and the quarterback, who'd be entering the final year of his deal and would theoretically work on a new contract with the club acquiring him from the Vikings.
After he signed his new contract in March, Cousins said he wants to retire in Minnesota, and is looking forward to playing well enough to make that happen. His play this fall, as ever, could be central to his future with the Vikings.