The Packers aren’t the only team in the NFC North with a potentially awkward quarterback transition.
As disclosed in a video published by the Panthers, the Vikings called Carolina in an attempt to trade up from No. 14 to No. 8 in the first round of the 2021 draft. Per a league source, the Vikings were targeting quarterback Justin Fields.
Previously, it had been believed the Vikings would have seriously considered Fields if he had slid to No. 14. Their interest in him moves to a new level if they were considering trading up to get him.
It’s a fascinating development, for several reasons. Most obviously, the Vikings will now contend twice per year with Fields, as the new quarterback of the Bears. Chicago made the move from No. 20 to No. 11 to get Fields, cutting off Minnesota’s effort to get him.
Then there’s the fact that trading up for Fields would have underscored the fact that incumbent starter Kirk Cousins has, at most, two years left in Minnesota. With a contract that pays out $21 million in 2021 and $35 million in 2022, Cousins has said publicly that he’s not interested in extending his deal. If the Vikings privately tried to renegotiate the Cousins contract before free agency or the draft and if Cousins refused, the Vikings may have decided not simply to protect themselves against Cousins leaving in free agency but to affirmatively seek out his replacement.
If they’d gotten Fields, that would be the obvious vibe — Cousins on a two-season clock, with the possibility that the Vikings would try to trade him in 2022. That possibility now must be factored into the assessment of Minnesota’s quarterback situation moving forward. If Kellen Mond, picked by the Vikings in round three, checks all the boxes as he learns the NFL game behind Cousins, the Vikings could decide after 2021 to move on to Mond and to trade Cousins.
It won’t be an easy needle for the Vikings to thread. First, Mond has to be ready. Second, the Vikings would need to find a team that, based on Cousins’ performance in 2021, would want to trade for him. But if Cousins plays well enough in 2021 to make him attractive to another team, it becomes harder for the Vikings to turn the page in 2022.
That actually could make it better for the Vikings to have Mond instead of Fields. With Fields as a top-10 pick, it would have been much harder to keep Cousins through 2022. With Mond, it becomes a lot easier to pull it off.
And if, by 2022, the Vikings think Mond is ready and if they believe Cousins has taken Minnesota as far as he ever will, nothing stops Minnesota from making Cousins the highest-paid backup quarterback in NFL history, while Mond becomes the current lowest-paid starter.