6 Quarterbacks Minnesota Vikings could target in free agency

For better or worse, the 2024 Minnesota Vikings could potentially look a lot different than the team that took the field in 2023. The 2023 team had a ton of talent across the board, but was hamstrung by unforced errors and some unfortunate injury luck – particularly with starting quarterback Kirk Cousins. Once Cousins went down, the Vikings could not get consistent play at the position, and that undermined any chance the team had at a postseason run.

General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has an interesting choice he has to make in the offseason with regards to the quarterback position. On the one hand, he could make the decision to bring back Cousins for another run. Cousins has been prolific during his time in Minnesota, and it’s clear how much better the offense runs with him calling the shots as opposed to someone else.

On the other hand, the team hasn’t been able to achieve success with Cousins at the helm, having failed to make a Super Bowl run during his tenure in Minneapolis. Furthermore, Cousins will be 36 years old, coming off a significant Achilles’ tendon injury, and is going to command a fairly high price tag in free agency.

Someone is likely to pay that price for Cousins, but will that team be Minnesota? Should it be Minnesota? If it’s not Minnesota, what are the other options at the position? Let’s take a look at the potential 2024 NFL free agent market and the top options at quarterback

Kirk Cousins

Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Obviously we have to start this discussion with the incumbent, Kirk Cousins. Cousins has been the man at the helm for the Vikings since arriving in Minneapolis prior to the 2018 season. Since his arrival, Cousins has led the team to a 50-37-1 record, put up over 4,000 yards passing four times, and has overall been one of the most productive quarterbacks in the league over that period.

For all the regular season and statistical success; however, Cousins doesn’t have much playoff success to show for his time in purple and gold. During his tenure with the Vikings, Cousins has only reached the playoffs twice, going 1-2 during his 6-year stint with the team.

Now, Cousins will be 36 years old, coming off of an Achilles injury, and is likely in his final few seasons. Given all that he’s done with the team, and all the times the team has fallen short, will they be willing to give him the money he’s going to command on a short-term deal while they try to find their quarterback of the future?

Cousins may be the highest-performing option on the 2024 NFL free agent block, but is he the one that makes the most sense for the team? Would it be more wise for Adofo-Mensah and the front office to find a cheaper bridge until they can find their guy in the NFL Draft? If so, who?

Joe Flacco

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

One of the best stories in the NFL this season was the second half of the season Cleveland Browns quarterback Joe Flacco had. Flacco, after being out of football for the first half of the season, made a triumphant return to the NFL with the Browns and played like a much younger version of himself.

Flacco was able to come in and effectively light the NFL world on fire, throwing for over 1,600 yards in just five games, and leading the Browns to the playoffs. Flacco’s season was so impressive, in fact, he was able to take home the Comeback Player of the Year award in a somewhat controversial decision over the Bills’ Demar Hamlin.

The question with Flacco is two-fold: Will the Browns let their starting quarterback walk in the offseason, and does Flacco, at age 39, have any desire to keep playing – and how much longer can he play at that level if he does?

The Vikings weren’t willing to go out on a limb for Flacco in the wake of the Kirk Cousins injury the first time around. Did Flacco’s performance in the last third of the season, combined with the poor performance of their own QBs, change the front office’s minds?

Baker Mayfield

Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

If Joe Flacco was the most impressive quarterback-comeback story in the NFL in 2023, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Baker Mayfield wasn’t far behind. Prior to last year, Mayfield had been all but written off in the collective consciousness of football fans and pundits after spending a season toiling away as a replacement-level starter with both the Panthers and Rams.

The Bucs were counted out and largely ridiculed for taking a chance on Mayfield and not bringing in someone better to at least compete, if not outright take the job. But it was Mayfield and the Bucs who got the last laugh.

Mayfield was able to rejuvenate his career with Tampa, throwing for over 4,000 yards last season while taking the Bucs to the NFC South title and a playoff berth.

Now, with his value at least somewhat restored, Mayfield is set to hit the free agent market, and there should be at least some market for his services. Will the Bucs be willing to let him go and seek “better” options at the position? Would Mayfield be able to recreate his Tampa success in Minnesota with the weapons they have at their disposal?

Mayfield, when healthy and playing within himself, is a capable quarterback and could give the Vikings a competent quarterback they can feel good in trusting as a bridge to their next quarterback.

At only 28 years old, if Mayfield were to duplicate the success he had with the Bucs, he could even push the Vikings’ QB timetable back a bit. But would that be in the team’s best interest? In the short-term, maybe. But Adofo-Mensah and the front office are likely thinking beyond that.

Gardner Minshew

Robert Scheer/IndyStar / USA TODAY NETWORK
Robert Scheer/IndyStar / USA TODAY NETWORK

While the popular NFL draft pundits have begun to consistently predict the Vikings taking a defensive player with the 11th pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, it’s certainly a possibility that they see quarterback as their biggest need and want to take a swing on someone in this class. They aren’t likely to be in a position to get the near-consensus top prospect, Caleb Williams, and likely won’t be in a position to get Drake Maye or Jayden Daniels, either.

That would likely leave the Vikings with someone like Oregon’s Bo Nix, Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy, or Washington’s Michael Penix. While in that scenario the Vikings could opt to skip NFL free agency all together at the QB position, they could also decide that they’re not confident in what they saw from any of their current QBs and want to sign someone to serve as a bridge to the rookie.

Whether that be for an entire season or just part of it, Minnesota could look for a cheap option who can serve as a spot-starter and guy to learn behind. If that’s the case, one of the top options at that level could be Colts quarterback Gardner Minshew.

Minshew has been a spot-starter for several years in this league, and has seen some amount of success in his time. “Minshew Mania” took the football world by storm a few years ago before Minshew eventually came back to Earth, in a similar fashion as Josh Dobbs with Minnesota this season.

Minshew, while not the most physically talented, has a lot of intangibles and knowledge he could impart on a young quarterback, and could serve as a great option until the rookie is ready.

In the case of Nix and Penix, who also have some health concerns in their background, Minshew could also serve as a more reliable safety net than anyone currently on the Vikings roster.

Jameis Winston

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Perhaps the most interesting – and volatile – name on this list is New Orleans Saints backup quarterback Jameis Winston. When Winston is at the top of his game, he can be a highly prolific – and successful – quarterback. Unfortunately for Winston, that peak hasn’t been seen in several years, and may never be seen again.

Conversely, when he’s off his game, Winston is very off. In his last year as a starter in Tampa Bay, Winston led the league with a whopping 30 interceptions. However, Winston also led the league in passing yards that season with over 5100.

With Winston you never really know what you’re getting, and you’re going to get some incredible peaks and incredible – in the worst sense of the word – valleys.

That sort of inconsistency tempers Winston’s value on the open market. He’s not someone who can be trusted to be a full-time starter in the league. The high-level play just isn’t there often enough, especially now that Winston is on the wrong side of 30 and hasn’t been a full-time starter in the league since 2019.

With that said, Winston has sat behind some of the best minds in the game and has a wealth of knowledge he can impart upon a rookie, and is capable of coming in and lighting up the box score in short bursts. That combination of experience and potential could intrigue the Vikings

Ryan Tannehill

Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports
Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

The last in our look at the top potential free agent quarterbacks in 2024 is former Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Of all the quarterbacks we’ve looked at so far, this one is probably the least likely to happen for the Minnesota Vikings, but there’s still some merit to exploring the possibility.

At 36 years of age by the time next season starts, Tannehill is undeniably past his prime. The last two seasons have been a struggle for Tannehill, and he hasn’t been the same quarterback he once was in Tennessee.

However, not all of that is on Tannehill. Tannehill was at his best as a Titan when he had a strong running game behind him and had a certified weapon on the outside in AJ Brown. With the departure of Brown and the decline of Tennessee’s running game, Tannehill’s production has plummeted.

He wouldn’t have a solid, consistent running game with the Vikings, but he would have weapons on the outside in Justin Jefferson and Jordan Addison. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that those weapons could reignite Tannehill and help him provide the bridge QB Minnesota needs until they get their QB of the future ready.

Tannehill, much like Winston and Minshew before him, wouldn’t be a long-term answer, but could provide good value in the short-term should the Vikings opt to draft a QB in the 2024 NFL Draft.

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Story originally appeared on Vikings Wire