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Spielman Chats Kirk Cousins' Contract, Kellen Mond's Development

EAGAN, Minn. — The Vikings could have a unique situation brewing at quarterback in the coming months.

When Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman spoke to the Twin Cities media Tuesday morning for his annual bye-week media session, Kirk Cousins and Kellen Mond were topics of interest.

We'll start with the Vikings starting quarterback, who is playing perhaps the best football of his career right now.

Through six games, Cousins has completed 166 of 239 passes (69.5) percent for 1,769 yards with 13 touchdowns and just two interceptions. His passer rating of 105.4 ranks eighth overall in the league, while analytics website Pro Football Focus has him with a grade of 89.9 — the third-best in the league among all players at his position.

But Spielman, who has said in the past that he always has one eye on the future, was asked exactly about that when it comes to Minnesota's quarterback situation.

Cousins, whose current contract is up following the 2022 season, would carry a $45 million cap hit next season.

Spielman assessed where the Vikings front office is at with the 33-year-old Cousins.

"We've already looked at that two years ago. We looked at it this offseason. It's all part of roster planning," Spielman said of Cousins' contract. "You're always continuing to look forward where we're projecting the cap will be next year.

"I'll sit down with Rob [Brzezinski, the Vikings Executive Vice President of Football Operations] at the midway point and see where our guys are playing and where we're at cap-wise," Spielman added.

Spielman noted it's critical that conversations around all contracts, not just Cousins', take place over the course of each calendar year.

"We do have some challenges coming up next year … we do look ahead and understand where our cap will be next year," Spielman said. "You still like to see what evolves over these next — through the regular season and through the playoffs, and we'll make some final determinations then.

"It's not just waiting until the end of the season and scramble and put something together," Spielman added.

Cousins' red-hot play is a stark contrast to where he and the Vikings were at a year ago.

Minnesota was 1-5 at this time in 2020 as it entered a Week 7 bye. Cousins had thrown 10 interceptions in those six games, and publicly wondered aloud if he was going to be benched.

He wasn't, and threw just three interceptions in the final 10 games. And in his past 16 games in Purple, Cousins has thrown for 4,559 yards with 37 touchdowns and only five picks.

"Kirk has done a phenomenal job of spreading the ball around and letting everyone make plays," Adam Thielen said Monday.

And Cousins has thrived late in games, too. He led clutch series at Cincinnati and Arizona, even if the results didn't end with a win. He also led game-winning drives against Detroit and at Carolina in the past two weeks.

Cousins said after Sunday's overtime win that close games are simply the norm around the league.

"I know that in the NFL so many games come down to the final possession," Cousins said. "There's a back and forth all game, but you kind of know that if you're hanging around or they're hanging around, it probably will come down to the final drive or the final kick. It's just the way this league tends to work."

So while Cousins is helping the Vikings on the field, Mond has been hard at work behind the scenes.

Minnesota used a third-round pick on the former Texas A&M standout in the 2021 NFL Draft, tabbing him with the 66th overall choice. The selection of Mond marked the highest use of a pick on a QB since 2014 when Minnesota traded back into the first round to draft Teddy Bridgewater.

Mond has been inactive for every game this season, as the Vikings signed Sean Mannion in August to be Cousins' backup.

Spielman dove into the reasons why Mond is essentially taking a redshirt season as a rookie.

"Yeah, there's a couple reasons behind that," Spielman said. "I think you see a lot of these rookie quarterbacks playing, they're going to have to go through some growing spurts. Lot of very talented guys that came out last year.

"Mannion is not only a very capable backup, but also I know how important he is to Kirk in that room, as well," Spielman added. "And also, this gives us the ability to bring Kellen along."

The 22-year-old Mond took fourth-string reps during the offseason program, but then endured an uneven training camp and preseason.

He missed more than week's worth of practice early in camp when he landed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. And while his early preseason returns were so-so, there was improvement as the games went along.

All in all, Mond played 120 preseason offensive snaps against Denver, Indianapolis and Kansas City. In those three games, he completed 28 of 51 passes (54.9 percent) for 310 yards with no touchdowns and an interception.

Mond also showed his athletic ability by recording 13 rushes for 73 yards. He showed plenty of dual-threat ability in college, as he is Texas A&M's all-time in total offense (11,269 yards), which ranks seventh in SEC history.

While Mond hasn't been seen on a playing field since Aug. 27 in Kansas City, Spielman said the young quarterback has been grinding.

"The thing that maybe set him back a little bit is when he missed those 10 days for COVID during training camp, which is critical," Spielman said. "Training camp is a really critical part of a rookie's development. But you see him, and we see him out here practicing, in how he's progressing every day.

"[Vikings quarterbacks coach] Andrew Janocko has done a phenomenal job with him," Spielman added, "even him keeping him out there after practice every day and going through things and continuing his development."

Six games into 2021, Cousins has had much to do with Minnesota climbing out of its 0-2 start, and his play will be important as Minnesota's four games after the bye are against teams leading their divisions.

But with Spielman always having an eye on the future, the quarterback situation will be a storyline to follow once the 2022 offseason arrives.