With the NFL Scouting Combine in the rearview mirror, 2020 free agency is just around the corner. That period will officially begin at 3 p.m. (CT) on March 18 when the new league year begins.
Over the next two weeks, Eric Smith, Craig Peters and I will dive into Minnesota's current roster status by position. We'll offer a refresher on 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.
We'll kick off the series with quarterbacks …
Kirk Cousins & Jake Browning
2019 Stats: 15 games (15 starts); 307-of-444 passing for 3,603 yards, 26 touchdowns and six interceptions; 107. 4 passer rating
The Vikings are set at starter for the season with Cousins, who initially signed with Minnesota in 2018 as a free agent and is entering the third and final season of his current contract.
Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman was asked during his combine podium session about the possibility of an extension for Cousins. Spielman opted against sharing any business details but did speak highly of the quarterback's 2019 campaign.
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer also was asked during his media session about Cousins and said he anticipates him "continuing to ascend" thanks to Minnesota's offensive system staying the same.
The Vikings signed Browning as an undrafted rookie out of Washington last year. The young passer spent the 2019 campaign on Minnesota's practice squad.
SCHEDULED TO BECOME A FREE AGENT:
Mannion signed with the Vikings as a free agent in 2019 after four seasons with the Rams.
He backed up Cousins and appeared in three games, including a start against Chicago in the regular-season finale.
The Vikings need here will depend on multiple factors, including whether or not Cousins is extended and if Minnesota opts to re-sign Mannion.
It's likely the Vikings will have at least three or four quarterbacks on the 90-man roster for training camp, so it will be interesting to see which direction they go with the position group.
Zimmer was asked at the combine if he'd prefer that Cousins has an experienced backup like Mannion again in 2020.
"I think the backup quarterback's job is to help the starting quarterback, but I also think the starting quarterback gets hurt, that guy has to be good enough to go into a game," Zimmer said. "So when we're looking for a backup quarterback, we want to be able to have somebody who, if he has to go in for three games, can win those three games.
"For us, it's not to be another coach for Kirk," Zimmer added. "It's for somebody who can help you with that, but at the end of the day, he's got to be able to play, too."
View the top photos of Vikings QB Kirk Cousins from the 2019 season.
WHO'S POTENTIALLY OUT THERE:
NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal and Chris Wesseling teamed up again this year to rate their top 101 potential free agents.
The following quarterbacks are listed in order of their overall rankings: 1. Dak Prescott, 7. Ryan Tannehill, 14. Drew Brees, 16. Tom Brady, 22. Philip Rivers, 25. Jameis Winston, 63. Teddy Bridgewater, 79. Marcus Mariota.
Other quarterbacks set to become free agents that didn't crack the top 101 are as follows (listed in order of 2019 team): Brett Hundley (AZ), Kyle Allen* (CAR), Chase Daniel (CHI), Drew Stanton (CLE), Cooper Rush (DAL), Brandon Allen* (DEN), Jeff Driskel (DET), A.J. McCarron (HOU), Chad Henne (KC), Matt Moore (KC), Blake Bortles (LAR), Taysom Hill (NO), David Fales (NYJ), Mike Glennon (OAK), Nathan Peterman* (OAK), Josh McCown (PHI), Nate Sudfeld (PHI), Nick Mullens** (SF), Geno Smith (SEA), Blaine Gabbert (TB), Case Keenum (WAS) and Colt McCoy (WAS).
* Restricted free agent
** Exclusive rights free agent
Two former Vikings are scheduled to hit free agency in just over two weeks.
Bridgewater has backed up Brees in New Orleans for the past two seasons, and in 2019 he started five games in place of the elder passer, who underwent thumb surgery. Bridgewater finished the season 133-of-196 passing for 1,384 yards, nine touchdowns and two interceptions with a 99.1 passer rating.
Keenum has spent time with two different teams since his 2017 campaign in Minnesota. After playing for the Broncos in 2018, during which Denver went 6-10, Keenum signed with Washington. In 10 games (eight starts) in 2019, he was 160-of-247 passing for 1,707 yards, with 11 touchdowns and five interceptions for a passer rating of 91.3.
As for Brees, the sure-fire Hall of Famer has already said he intends to be back with New Orleans next season. Two QBs that have been with their organizations even longer — Brady and Rivers — could be donning different uniforms for the first time of their careers.