NFL Rumors: Vikings had terrible reasoning for choosing their Kirk Cousins replacement

The Minnesota Vikings signed Sam Darnold to replace Kirk Cousins due to one connection that doesn't inspire much confidence.

Sam Darnold, San Francisco 49ers
Sam Darnold, San Francisco 49ers / Cooper Neill/GettyImages
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The Minnesota Vikings moved quickly to secure their Kirk Cousins replacement, signing Sam Darnold to a one-year, $10 million contract, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero. The former No. 3 pick spent last season as Brock Purdy's backup with the NFC champion San Francisco 49ers.

Darnold appeared in 10 games for the Niners, frequently accruing reps in garbage time due to the Niners' regular season dominance. He completed 28-of-46 passes (60.9 percent) for 297 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception.

It has been a difficult run for Darnold, who began his career with three years as the New York Jets' QB1. He then started 17 of 18 appearances for the Carolina Panthers across two seasons before landing in San Fran in 2023.

While Darnold fits well in Kevin O'Connell's offensive scheme, it's fair to question how high his ceiling actually is. A lot of signs point toward Minnesota adding another QB to the mix via the draft, but even so, Darnold now profiles as the opening week starter for an aspiring contender — and one of the worst starters in football. Reports already suggest that the team prefers a veteran bridge even if they add a rookie.

The driving force behind Darnold's arrival in Minneapolis is a long-established connection that will make Minnesota fans even more uneasy. Darnold will now team up with Josh McCown, a former Jets teammate who recently took over the role of QB coach for the Vikings. He also worked with assistant QB coach Grant Udinski in Carolina.

Sam Darnold joins Josh McCown in Vikings new-look QB room

We shouldn't take anything away from Josh McCown, who spent almost two decades in the NFL as a player. He played for nine different teams and experienced the league from every angle, starting and backing up.

That said, Darnold was McCown's replacement for a perpetually underwhelming Jets team. That connection never proved very fruitful on the field, so it's a bit underwhelming to see the Vikings prioritizing McCown's flunked teammate after letting their franchise QB slip away.

To be clear, though, Darnold absolutely has the arm talent to warrant another look. He has never occupied so favorable a position as QB1 in Minnesota, where he has Justin Jefferson, T.J. Hockenson, and Aaron Jones at his disposal in one of the league's most reliable systems.

Minnesota still has Nick Mullens and Jaren Hall under contract, with the potential to add the likes of Drake Maye or J.J. McCarthy on draft night. Darnold is far from the runaway QB1 — he will have to earn his stripes — but, at 26 years old, Darnold still has far more upside than your traditional QB flier.

The Vikings are set up as well as one could expect after losing Cousins a month before the draft. How the rest of the offseason plays out will inform how pundits view Minnesota's chances in 2024, but without Cousins, the Vikings were always going to look worse on paper.

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