Minnesota Vikings 2024 NFL offseason primer: With Kirk Cousins gone, what's next at quarterback?

Minnesota Vikings' 2023 season: 7-10, missed playoffs

The 2023 season did not go as hoped in Minnesota. After winning 13 games and the NFC North in 2022, the Vikings tied with the Chicago Bears for last place in the division a season later. Alongside regression from an overachieving 2022 campaign, quarterback play was at the center of Minnesota's troubles.

Kirk Cousins suffered a torn Achilles in Week 8 and the team didn't see fit to bringing the 35-year-old back as he reached a deal to join the Atlanta Falcons. The Vikings went on to use three more quarterbacks, none of whom lifted them to playoff contention. Now Minnesota has a big question mark at the most important position. And one of their answers in free agency was Sam Darnold.

(Taylor Wilhelm/Yahoo Sports)
(Taylor Wilhelm/Yahoo Sports)

Key free agents

LG Dalton Risner
WR K.J. Osborn

Who's in/out? Cousins' departure to Atlanta was one of the biggest stories of the NFL offseason. Edge rusher Danielle Hunter is another big loss. He signed a huge two-year deal with the Texans, but on the bright side the Vikings are bringing in Jonathan Greenard and Andrew Van Ginkel to fill the pass-rushing void. The team also snagged RB Aaron Jones on a one-year deal after he was released by the Packers. Nobody else slated for free agency looks like a lock to re-sign.

Kirk Cousins has played his last down in a Vikings uniform. (Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Kirk Cousins has played his last down in a Vikings uniform. (Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

Key free-agent needs

Defensive tackle

Why the holes? See above for the need at quarterback and edge rusher. Minnesota's offseason priorities start at QB, and everything else falls into place from there. The team brought in Sam Darnold on a one-year deal, but he's likely slotted as a backup. There is plenty of need elsewhere. The Vikings struggled in coverage last season against receivers. They need help across the board in pass defense.

Do they have the money?

They have some. Per Spotrac, the Vikings have about $19.9 million in salary-cap space. That's due in significant part to Cousins' $20 million cap hit coming off the books.

Potential notable cuts

S Harrison Smith

Why they might be gone: Smith was looking like a $19.2 million cap hit and at 35 years old that projects as too high for a team that needs to clear space. On Wednesday, the two sides reached a restructuring agreement, according to NFL Network. DE Dean Lowry was cut loose, saving the team $2.1 million in cap room. Another notable cut was RB Alexander Mattison.

2023 NFLPA report card

(Yahoo Sports)
(Yahoo Sports)

Draft picks

1st round: No. 11
1st round: No. 23 (from Texans)
4th round: No. 108
4th round: No. 129 (from Lions)
5th round: No. 157 (from Browns)
5th round: No. 167 (from Chiefs)
6th round: No. 177 (from Panthers)
7th round: No. 230
7th round: No. 232 (from Texans)

Good draft fit
Michigan QB J.J. McCarthy

Why him? At pick No. 11, the Vikings won't be in position to draft Caleb Williams, Drake Maye or likely Jayden Daniels. The Vikings picked up draft ammunition by trading for the Houston Texans' first-round pick at No. 23. Could a package deal involving picks Nos. 11 and 23 be enough to help the Vikings move up for a QB in the draft? Rolling the dice on an undersized McCarthy might be their best option at quarterback to replace Cousins.

What can move the fantasy football needle this offseason?

Minnesota moved the needle, but not in a good way. The downgrade from Kirk Cousins to Sam Darnold is outrageous. All is lost. There was one (1) great quarterback in this year's free-agent class and the Vikings didn't retain him. Nothing else is worth mentioning. If this team doesn't trade up to land a promising QB ... well, yikes. Just an absolute scandal. — Andy Behrens