Vikings $4 Million QB Floated as Trade Candidate After NFL Draft

The Minnesota Vikings are a quarterback heavy after a busy offseason, which could equal a recipe for a late-summer trade.

Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy warms up during practice Friday, Dec. 29, 2023, in Carson, Calif. Michigan is scheduled to play against Alabama on New Year’s Day in the Rose Bowl, a semifinal in the College Football Playoff. (AP Photo/Ryan Sun)

Minnesota signed Sam Darnold to a one-year contract, presumably as a bridge to the eventual long-term starter and 10th overall pick in the NFL draft, J.J. McCarthy. The Vikings also spent a fifth-round selection on Jaren Hall in 2023, who started two games for the franchise during a tumultuous campaign at the position last season.

Unless the Vikings are ready to bail on Hall as a developmental prospect or stash him on the practice squad, the circumstances in Minnesota render backup Nick Mullens a potentially valuable trade chip for the franchise as the regular season nears.

“It’s not too difficult to imagine the Vikings dealing Mullens to a team in need of a better backup option, getting a late-round pick back, and going into the season with a QB room of Darnold, McCarthy, and Hall,” Will Ragatz of Sports Illustrated Fan Nation wrote on Friday, May 3.

Nick Mullens Put Up Meaningful Stats, Kept Vikings Close in Games Against Winning Teams in 2023

Nick Mullens, Minnesota Vikings

Similar moves happen every offseason, as teams re-evaluate their depth charts amid training camp and injury concerns.

For instance, the Arizona Cardinals sent the Cleveland Browns a fifth-round pick for Josh Dobbs and a seventh-rounder last summer. Dobbs went on to start eight games in the desert before the Cards shipped him to Minnesota, where he took over for Hall following a concussion against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 9.

Somewhat ironically, Dobbs is now with the San Francisco 49ers serving as a backup to Brock Purdy — a job most recently held by Darnold, who the Vikings are paying $10 million in 2024 to be the kind of placeholder for McCarthy that they believe Dobbs can’t be.

Minnesota acquired Mullens from the Las Vegas Raiders for a conditional seventh-round selection in the summer of 2022 and could now be in position to get some draft capital back for the gunslinger two years later, as he enters the final year of his $4 million deal.

Mullens began last season sidelined by a back injury. However, after Kirk Cousins got hurt and Dobbs’ improbable run flamed out, Mullens stepped in and ended up with three starts. He ended the year 0-3 as the starter, though he tallied more than 1,100 passing yards and 6 TD passes across those three games.

Untimely turnovers and narrow losses defined Mullens’ stretch as the Vikings’ top guy late last season, but statistics should render him a valuable commodity if Minnesota decides shopping him is the right move. All told, Mullens has a completion percentage of 65.8% for 6,391 passing yards, 34 TDs and 31 INTs over his six-year NFL career. He has played in 29 games, making 20 starts and amassing a record of 5-15.

Sam Darnold, J.J. McCarthy Combination Could Send Nick Mullens to Trade Block

Sam Darnold, Denver Broncos

The logic behind trading Mullens is that the Vikings could probably get a meaningful Day-3 pick in return in the right situation. The case against it resides in the team’s development plan for McCarthy.

Minnesota has indicated it won’t rush McCarthy into a starting role, but will instead hold him on the sidelines until he reaches certain benchmarks laid out by head coach Kevin O’Connell. Hence, Darnold’s presence on the roster.

But if Darnold should find himself injured and/or benched before the Vikings deem McCarthy ready to start, Minnesota would be forced to turn to Hall as the starter should the organization part with Mullens via trade. Hall was 1-1 in two starts as a rookie, though he was relatively unimpressive statistically, completing 13-of-2o passes for 168 yards and 1 INT.

Hall played a few snaps in relief of Cousins in Week 8 against the Green Bay Packers after the latter suffered a season-ending Achilles injury. He started the following week in Atlanta, but went down with a concussion late in the first quarter.

O’Connell went back to Hall against Green Bay in must-win Week 17 game, inserting him for Mullens. However, the head coach yanked the rookie after just 10 pass attempts, returning to Mullens in a what eventually ended as a blowout loss.

Mullens is a safer bet in a 2024 season for the Vikings that, much like last year, can accurately be described as a competitive rebuild. For that reason, Minnesota may want to hold onto Mullens, at least until McCarthy has proven himself ready by team standards — at which point Mullens’ services may be superfluous, assuming Darnold is healthy and Hall remains a viable third option.

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