EAGAN, Minn. — Two quarterbacks were left standing for the Minnesota Vikings after they announced their 53-man roster earlier in the week.
Kirk Cousins will be the sure-fire starter, and Nick Mullens will serve as Cousins' backup.
But while speaking with Twin Cities media members on Thursday, the conversation between General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Head Coach Kevin O'Connell about additional roster moves – including a third quarterback – is still ongoing.
"Obviously, you're always looking at that third quarterback, that sixth wide receiver, it's that delicate balance that you have and ultimately, you're trying to prepare for the 17-week war that we've got coming," Adofo-Mensah said. "You don't know what's going to show up later and you've just ultimately got to do the best with what you have with the information you have at the time. We're currently looking at different options for the third quarterback, and ultimately you'll see that decision when we make it."
On Tuesday, Minnesota waived Kellen Mond and released Sean Mannion, who shared co-backup quarterback duties in the preseason.
Mond was claimed by the Cleveland Browns on Wednesday and will be the team's third quarterback behind Jacoby Brissett and Joshua Dobbs.
The Seattle Seahawks signed Mannion to their practice squad on Wednesday.
O'Connell said throughout the offseason, training camp and preseason, the Vikings wanted to give both Mond and Mannion plenty of opportunities to compete.
"We wanted to provide a very fair, open competition between those two guys," O'Connell said. "They were both at completely different points in their careers, and quite honestly, probably needed work in different areas of their game while still getting the opportunity to split those reps … when you look at it, it's pretty remarkable just how close the rep count ended up being, both in games and throughout the spring and summer."
O'Connell said Mond "improved tremendously" throughout the spring and preseason, but had to make the tough call when it came to the backup quarterback decision.
"He's got a heck of a football journey ahead of him. I'm a big fan of how Kellen works, I'm a big fan of the human being, and I think he's got all the things you look for in an NFL quarterback. It just, at the time, for us, you can put a lot of pressure on a player if he's not ready," O'Connell added. "In my personal opinion, I still think Kellen's got tremendous upside, but to ask him to be that No. 2 quarterback, being a snap away on a team we feel very strongly about competing on, I didn't think that was fair to Kellen."
O'Connell also spoke on the contrasts of where Mannion and Mond are at in their careers.
"I thought it was very important that Sean got — even though maybe at times it may not have felt that he needed equal reps as a guy you're trying to develop — I think it's fair, in a new offense, to give that guy the opportunity to compete," O'Connell said. "There were different moments in time in that competition where one guy may have been ahead of the other, depending on how you looked at it, what phase of offense are we talking about, what are we asking them to do."
The Vikings acquired Mullens on Aug. 22 from the Las Vegas Raiders, exchanging a conditional seventh-round pick in the 2024 NFL Draft for the fifth-year veteran. Mullens has appeared in 20 career games, starting 17 of them, while completing 407 of his 630 pass attempts. He added 4,861 passing yards and 26 touchdowns with a passer rating of 87.3.
O'Connell said he's excited about what he sees from Mullens so far.
"Obviously knowing the player, knowing the makeup, knowing the type of work ethic, and then the 17 games that he's played and the impact that he had on those teams, not always in the most ideal situations, able to compete, able to show his skill set and his traits of how he'll fit into what we do," O'Connell said. "I think he's already shown to me, that I'm really fired up to have Nick here, and we'll continue to be excited about that."
When it comes to Cousins, O'Connell praised the leadership his starting quarterback has shown going into the season.
"He's the leader of that room, he's the leader of our offense. He's really taken it and run with it and authentically been himself every day leading us from the front," O'Connell said. "Obviously he has a role in that quarterback room that goes a lot further than that, and that's one of the things we talk about every single day."