During the Monday Night Football telecast on ESPN, Adam Schefter reports that the Minnesota Vikings are going to stick with their in-house options at quarterback, and they will not be trading top edge rusher Danielle Hunter either. Schefter added that the Vikings liked what they have more than what’s available at quarterback.
Kind of a short piece, but there you have it.
Unclear if the Vikings will make any deals not involving a quarterback or Danielle Hunter, but trading for a quarterback or possibly dealing Hunter were a couple of the more anticipated or rumored deals the Vikings may be considering in the wake of Kirk Cousins’ season-ending injury.
What’s the Message?
The two items reported by Schefter- no trade for a QB and no trade of Hunter- would seem to send mixed messages in terms or either going all-in or punting on the season.
My interpretation of the news is that the Vikings are not punting on the season and believe their best chance to win is with the players and quarterbacks currently on the roster. That’s why they’re not trading Hunter, whose contract was re-worked during training camp but voids after this season.
On the quarterback front, there are a couple of key considerations. One is how much they want to spend on, in all likelihood, a half-year rental and what the asking price is for the options that appeal most to them.
The second consideration is among the available options, is there one that represents a clear upgrade over in-house options considering whoever they brought in would need to learn the offense in mid-season without a lot of reps to give him during practice, as the starter would need to have those.
Best case scenario, a new quarterback might be able to get up to speed with a new scheme and terminology by the bye-week, with perhaps a limited playbook at some point beforehand. If the Vikings ended up losing games between now and the bye week, that would limit their ability to compete for the postseason, which would make any trade compensation to acquire a quarterback a waste of draft resources.
I did a piece yesterday on some of the potential options for the Vikings- some of which probably aren’t really available- and it was difficult to get too excited about any particular option- whether available or not. And it’s entirely possible that teams were attempting to drive a hard bargain with the Vikings, expecting them to be desperate and pay a premium to acquire a quarterback after Cousins was lost for the season.
Whatever the reason- either no clear upgrade under the circumstances or the price was too steep- it appears the Vikings felt their best chance to win was with their in-house options at quarterback, which will most likely begin with Jaren Hall on Sunday against the Falcons. Nick Mullens will remain on injured reserve for at least one more game, and Sean Mannion remains on the practice squad as of today. I’d expect him to be moved to the active roster at some point this week so he’ll be available as Hall’s backup.
What happens beyond Sunday’s matchup with the Falcons remains to be seen, and probably depends on Jaren Hall’s performance. Kevin O’Connell made some comments today about the quarterback situation going forward. And while he didn’t commit to Jaren Hall this Sunday- hinting that he’d be in discussions with Kwesi Adofo-Mensah about possible options- he did say they’d be working to make sure Hall is ready to go this week and any future weeks that he’s the starter.
While that’s all a bit vague, I’d expect Hall to be named the starter by Wednesday- unless KOC decides to be coy about who’ll play quarterback to leave the Falcons with some doubt in their game planning. But whoever is starting on Sunday needs to be taking every snap they can beginning with Wednesday’s practice. But my guess is the starting job at quarterback is Hall’s to lose at this point. If he plays well, I’d expect the Vikings to continue with him even when Nick Mullens is able to return from injured reserve. But if he struggles, I’d expect Mullens to take over when he’s healthy.
Ideally, Hall will play well enough to keep the starting job and deliver some victories to keep the Vikings season alive and allow the team to rally around him. Having an extended look at Hall could also influence what they do next year at quarterback.
Obviously it’s a risky proposition to run with a rookie 5th-round draft pick at quarterback hoping to still compete for the postseason, but at this point Hall is the only quarterback available that really knows the Vikings’ offense. And when Mullens returns from IR that’ll be two, with Mannion presumably getting up to speed- but still the third-string option at this point.
My guess is that the coaches discussed the situation and probably agreed that having a quarterback up-to-speed with the offensive scheme and playbook was a priority, as running with a limited playbook is a big advantage for defensive coordinators. We’ll see how it unfolds, but as far as we know now, the Vikings aren’t planning any major moves before the trade deadline tomorrow.