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Source: Vikings to sign Sam Darnold as replacement for Kirk Cousins

After losing franchise quarterback Kirk Cousins a few hours into the NFL’s legal tampering period, the Vikings appear to have found a replacement in the short term at the very least..

A source confirmed to the Pioneer Press that the Vikings plan to sign journeyman quarterback Sam Darnold when free agency officially opens up.

According to NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport, it will be a one-year, $10 million deal for Darnold, who reportedly had been deciding between the Vikings and Denver Broncos. He will presumably serve as the bridge from the present to the future with the Vikings likely still in the market for a rookie quarterback in the 2024 draft.

There is a notable connection between Darnold, 26, and new quarterbacks coach Josh McCown. They were former teammates with the New York Jets, and that pre-existing relationship could help Darnold acclimate to his new role in Minnesota sooner rather than later.

It’s been tough sledding for Darnold since being selected with the No. 3 pick in the 2018 draft. He has struggled to find his place in the league, playing 38 games for the Jets to start his career, then being traded to the Carolina Panthers during the middle of the pandemic. He played 18 games for the Panthers before signing with the San Francisco 49ers and spending last season as a backup.

In a total of 56 starts, Darnold has an underwhelming 21-35 record. He has completed 1,082 of 1,811 passes for 12,064 yards and 63 touchdowns in his professional career.

Though his stats might not jump off the page, Darnold has much more experience than veteran Nick Mullens and young Jaren Hall, the two quarterbacks currently on the Vikings’ roster. That should be useful as the Vikings seem prepared to hand the reins over to Darnold with Cousins on the verge of signing a four-year, $180 million with the Atlanta Falcons.

The hope is that Darnold will flourish under the tutelage of head coach Kevin O’Connell, potentially reaching the level of play that made him such a high draft pick out of Southern California.

It’s worth noting that Darnold has never been surrounded by this much talent in his NFL career. He has very talented arm strength at his disposal, and will get to throw the ball to talented pass catchers that include star receiver Justin Jefferson, young receiver Jordan Addison and standout tight end T.J. Hockenson, among others.

The decision to sign Darnold doesn’t at all preclude the Vikings from selecting a rookie quarterback in the upcoming draft. If anything, it makes it even more likely than it was 48 hours ago.

Whether that means trading up for a top prospect like Drake Maye out of North Carolina or Jayden Daniels out of LSU, or sticking with the No. 11 pick and targeting somebody like J.J. McCarthy out of Michigan, remains to be seen. Nonetheless, the presence of Darnold makes it so that person, whoever it is, doesn’t have to be thrown into the fire to start his NFL career.

There’s also a chance that Darnold wins the starting job ahead of next season and doesn’t give it back.

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