This has resulted in a certain amount of anxiousness among the Purple faithful about the team’s succession plan at quarterback. While that remains unclear, one option was added to the mix Saturday when the Vikings used the 29th pick of the fifth round on BYU’s Jaren Hall.
This selection will result in great anticipation from some, and a rolling of the eyes from others who see a fifth-round pick as a long shot. Both can be true, but a few things must be kept in mind when it comes to the Vikings’ future at the most important position in sports.
The first is that there is no rule that Cousins has to depart just because he’s being allowed to enter the final season of his contract for the first time since former general manager Rick Spielman signed the veteran to that monster free agent deal in 2018.
The Vikings also made a nice commitment to Cousins for 2023 by drafting USC wide receiver Jordan Addison to pair with Pro Bowl receiver Justin Jefferson. Addison should be able to do many things that Adam Thielen couldn’t in his final season, making Jefferson and Cousins that much more effective.
The addition of Hall gives offensive-minded head coach Kevin O’Connell a quarterback to spend a year working with and molding to see if he can become Cousins’ replacement. Hall, who is 6 feet, 207 pounds, had a two-year Mormon mission before starting a five-year stay at BYU (this included a redshirt year). He’s already 25 years old and dealt with injury issues in college.
But O’Connell saw plenty to like on film as he watched Hall complete 66 percent of his passes while throwing for 3,171 yards and 31 touchdowns with six interceptions in 12 games last season. Hall also intrigued O’Connell because his mobility enabled him to run for 378 yards (a 4.3-yard per carry average) with three touchdowns last season.
This doesn’t mean Hall is going to be Cousins’ replacement. The odds are likely against it. But it also doesn’t mean he’s destined to be a repeat of 2021 third-round pick Kellen Mond. Mond, who is two years younger than Hall, turned out to be such a bust that O’Connell and general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah jettisoned him after he struggled in his second NFL training camp last summer.
The hope with Hall is that O’Connell has a far better idea of what he’s watching on film than Spielman did.
The Vikings’ contingency plans for finding Cousins’ replacement will go well beyond Hall. After deciding Kentucky’s Will Levis wasn’t first-round material on Thursday night, there’s always a chance Adofo-Mensah could look to grab a quarterback in the first round next year.
There’s also a chance the Vikings could turn to a bridge quarterback, if Cousins walks, and continue the search for the first franchise quarterback this organization has had since Fran Tarkenton. Or maybe Cousins does sign another extension before his age 36 season.
For now the Vikings have the luxury of remaining patient in this search. Hall will be brought along slowly, playing behind Cousins and backup Nick Mullens, while being tutored well outside of the spotlight by O’Connell.
Best case he will at least factor in as part of the solution. Worst case, he’s another mid-to-late-round pick who never amounts to anything. Either way, it’s worth a shot.
Judd Zulgad is co-host of the Purple Daily Podcast and Mackey & Judd podcast at www.skornorth.com