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Vikings 2021 Free Agency Outlook: Quarterback

EAGAN, Minn. — The calendar has flipped to March, which means the 2021 edition of free agency is quickly approaching.

The 2021 league year officially begins at 3 p.m. (CT) on March 17.

Over the next two weeks, will provide an in-depth look on where each position stands entering free agency. We'll look at which Vikings are scheduled to become free agents, where potential needs might be and note players from other teams that are set to become free agents.

Let's begin with quarterback.


Kirk Cousins, Jake Browning and Nate Stanley


2020 Stats: Started all 16 games; completed 349 of 516 passes (67.6 percent) for 4,265 yards with 35 touchdowns and 13 interceptions with a passer rating of 105.0

Cousins struggled in the first six games of the 2020 season with 11 touchdowns compared to 10 interceptions, but he rebounded strongly the rest of the way with 24 touchdowns and just three picks in the final 10 games. While it wasn't enough to help the Vikings make the playoffs, he ended his third season in Purple as a top-10 quarterback by multiple metrics.

View the best photos of Vikings QB Kirk Cousins from the 2020 season.

The quarterback is now readying for his fourth season in Minnesota. And while there has been recent outside trade speculation, it's worth noting the Vikings have built their offense around his strengths and recently promoted his former position coach (Klint Kubiak) to offensive coordinator.

Cousins has had rough patches or games and torrid streaks in each of his three previous seasons, so maximimizing his strengths, prolonging the success and avoiding the pitfalls for 16 games can help the Vikings return to the postseason.


2020 Stats: None (spent entire season on practice squad)

Browning remains a bit of a mystery entering his third season. He was an undrafted free agent in 2019 and was decent in the preseason. But a virtual offseason in 2020 (and no preseason games) likely impacted his growth more than others on the roster. He's a candidate for the backup job if he takes a step forward in 2021.


2020 Stats: None (spent entire season on practice squad)

Stanley is in the same boat as Browning but has one less year of NFL experience. He was a seventh-round pick in 2020 but then didn't have the advantage of reps in OTAs and preseason games. Provided there are preseason games in 2021, some eyes will be on Stanley to see how he fares in his first live NFL action.

View the best quarterback photos from the 2020 season from Vikings photographers including stories behind the photos.


Sean Manion (unrestricted free agent)

2020 Stats: None (spent entire season on 53-man roster)

Mannion just completed his second season with the Vikings as Cousins' backup, a job he filled perfectly. He was another set of eyes for Cousins on the sideline in games and earned praise from teammates and coaches his football IQ in meeting rooms.

There's a chance Mannion returns in the same role he has filled the past two seasons. But if the Vikings want to give Browning or Stanley a shot at this job, perhaps they move on from Mannion, who has made two starts in six total NFL seasons.


Cousins has been thrown around by outside media as a trade candidate, but Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer brushed off that speculation in February when he said, “Kirk’s our guy.”

And while he has shown he can play at a high level in Purple, Cousins also isn't getting any younger. The quarterback has two years remaining on his current contract and will turn 33 in August, so the Vikings could begin mapping out what his long-term future looks like.

If Minnesota feels it can win with Cousins down the road, the Vikings could stand pat in free agency and the draft. But the Vikings could also start looking a few seasons ahead to determine the future of that position.

Cousins' durability has been impressive. He's started 95 of a possible 96 regular-season games since 2015 and would have a perfect streak going had Zimmer not opted to rest most starters in the 2019 finale to prepare for the playoffs.

That could reduce some perceived need at the backup QB position, but the Vikings history of injuries to starting QBs between 1978 when Fran Tarkenton wrapped his Hall of Fame career and Cousins' arrival in 2018 is not a distant memory.

The Vikings, after all, needed four different quarterbacks to start at least one game between 2015-17, and Sam Bradford's 17 in that span were the most.

WHO'S POTENTIALLY OUT THERE?'s Gregg Rosenthal recently released his list of the top 101 potential free agents.

The following quarterbacks are listed in order of their overall rankings: 1. Dak Prescott, 23. Jameis Winston, 26. Cam Newton, 30. Ryan Fitzpatrick, 48. Andy Dalton, 63. Jacoby Brissett, 82. Tyrod Taylor and 101. Mitchell Trubisky.

There could be plenty of quarterback movement this offseason around the league, including a handful of trades of well-known names. Prescott tops this list and offers plenty of intrigue. He missed the final 11 games of the 2020 season with an ankle injury and was playing on the franchise tag this past season.

Trubisky is a familiar name to Vikings fans. The 2017 No. 2 overall pick went 29-21 in four seasons with the Bears, but had a 5-2 record against the Vikings in that span. He gets credit during this five-game win streak for the September 2019 game that he left early because of injury.