The Minnesota Vikings are already thin at the quarterback position, with a three-way battle between Kyle Sloter, Trevor Siemian and Alex Smith for the backup spot behind Kirk Cousins. This will be even more daunting if the team loses out on a player like Justin Fields, a high school quarterback many think is the best in his class. The Vikings traded two future second round picks to the Miami Dolphins to move up and draft in the second round, but they ran out of time, missing out on Fields.
MINNEAPOLIS – Kellen Mond is not threatening Kirk Cousins for his job at this time.
Moon, the quarterback out of Texas A&M who was selected Friday by the Minnesota Vikings with two third-round picks, is not yet ready to lead an NFL offense, let alone compete with an established veteran for playing time.
But this move – the highest draft pick the Vikings have spent on a quarterback since Teddy Bridgewater in 2014 – is a statement.
As the Vikings assembled their roster and evaluated players and scenarios during selection meetings, one theme kept coming up. Choosing a quarterback wasn’t the team’s most pressing need, but this season Minnesota began thinking about a plan for life after Cousins.
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Cousins, 32, is under contract through the 2022 season and is owed $56 million over the next two years. The cost of his services this season is reasonable with a base salary of $21 million. Next year, everything will be at an exorbitant price. Cousins’ base salary of $35 million for 2022, which is already fully guaranteed, is the second highest of any player in the NFL this season at $45 million.
The astronomical price tag and Cousins’ sometimes exceptional, sometimes questionable play have prompted the Vikings to consider long-term options.
According to general manager Rick Spielman, the Vikings got one of the best players on the roster by selecting Mond with the 66th overall pick. And the circumstances for the newcomer could not have been better.
Monde, considered by many to be the next top-five quarterback in the draft, has been given time to develop in the Vikings’ offense if he can eventually replace Cousins.
Cousins doesn’t have to worry now. Moon is the backup quarterback. He’s not Ohio State’s Justin Fields, which otherwise would have made Cousins the true heir to Minnesota.
According to multiple sources, the Vikings’ coach contacted Cousins before the draft to let him know that Minnesota was considering selecting a quarterback at some point. It was not a warning that his job was in jeopardy or that he would be replaced immediately. It was a simple warning so that Cousins wouldn’t be startled.
The Vikings will see if Kellen Mond can become a legitimate candidate to one day replace Kirk Cousins. Martha Lavandier/AP Photo
Spielman said Thursday that the Vikings are trying to improve their No. 14 position, but declined to specify which player they are targeting. Sources told ESPN that Minnesota had an eye on Northwestern University offensive guard Rashaun Slater and was trying to acquire him before he was traded to the Los Angeles Chargers at No. 1. 13.
The Vikings were also prepared to take on Fields given the way the board fell.
When Minnesota saw that Carolina and Denver selected Fields at No. 8 and No. 9, it suddenly felt like its distant dream could come true. When the Vikings owners were in the draft room, the office staff was on their phones trying to figure out where to take Fields.
At No. 10, the Dallas Cowboys acquired receiver DeVonta Smith from the division rival Philadelphia Eagles. The Vikings were three steps away from Fields when the Chicago Bears traded their first- and fourth-round picks (Nos. 20, 164 and 2022) to the New York Giants to move up nine spots and free up Fields, a potential quarterback to save the franchise.
The Vikings were stunned, and it stunned them. They needed one of their best quarterbacks, but they weren’t desperate enough to give up that kind of starting capital for a player who will stay behind Cousins for at least a year.
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But Fields was Minnesota’s go-to guy, and the team was willing to take him if he ended up there at No. 14 and started the process of changing things.
If that were the case, the Vikings would already have a non-controversial succession plan ready for Cousins. Aside from Russell Wilson and Nick Foles, few third-round quarterbacks have had much success as starters in the past decade. The Vikings took a gamble with Mond – the first time in the modern era they’ve selected a QB in the third round – who could very well be exactly what they’re looking for and could allow them to do without Cousins in two years.
If Cousins’ level of play necessitates renewed contact in 2021 and 2022, he could stay in Minnesota. The idea of a plan B as a quarterback has nothing to do with Cousins’ age or longevity. The problem is that he could be under contract for $40 million while his price – and the market for quarterbacks – continues to rise. The Vikings have to ask themselves if they want to pay that price or find younger, cheaper talent at the position and build their team differently.
Spielman may not have gotten his best quarterback, but by selecting Mond in the third round, he didn’t lock down Cousins and started to develop a potential backup plan for the future.