At the very least, Nick Mullens will spend next week as part of the Vikings’ continued search for Kirk Cousins’ backup this season. By next Tuesday, he could turn out to be the winner of the job.
The Vikings added a third entrant to the race for his No. 2 QB job on Monday, sending a conditional 2024 seventh-round pick to the Raiders for Mullens, who will make Minnesota his fourth team in five years. If he passes a physical, the 26-year-old will practice with the team on Tuesday.
Mullens, who started 17 games over the past four seasons for the 49ers and Browns, joins a Vikings quarterback competition that looked as open as ever after the team’s second preseason game on Saturday. Kellen Mond threw two interceptions in Vikings 17-7 loss to 49ers, and Sean Mannion completed 10 of 15 passes for 65 yards. Then, when asked if he was comfortable with his backup quarterback situation, coach Kevin O’Connell indicated that he needs to see something soon.
“Ultimately, you would love to have walked out of tonight feeling like, ‘Shoot, they both moved the team and scored a lot of points, and we’ve got a great discussion and conversation ahead of us,'” he said. “Because as we’ve discussed, in my opinion, the clock is running out. Although I feel like our starters are in a good place to [the regular-season opener on] 9/11, and that’s where our emphasis really is, there’s a lot of work that we still need to allow to unfold.”
The Vikings confronted Mullens in his first preseason game against the Raiders, when the quarterback completed seven of nine passes for 94 yards and a touchdown. They could take him to his final exhibition game Saturday night in Denver, but O’Connell said the Vikings will meet with Mullens before making that decision.
However, Mullens has more starting experience than either Mannion or Mond, spending time with Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah in both San Francisco and Cleveland. With the Raiders, he had played for Josh McDaniels, O’Connell’s mentor since McDaniels coached him in New England. Even before coming to Minnesota, Mullens could draw on a lot of shared history with Vikings decision-makers.
“My confidence level in Nick is high,” O’Connell said Monday. “Knowing the kind of people that have coached him there, their thoughts on him, I’m not one bit worried about him getting ready to go from a standpoint of knowing our offense and the scheme and what we’re going to try to do against him. Green Bay. I think he’ll be able to apply his experience. That’s why it’s important when you make a move like that, it’s for someone who has some game experiences, has taken some real live snaps to help him acclimate even quicker.”
If Mullens doesn’t play in a game for the Vikings this season, the trade won’t cost them a draft pick. However, his arrival in Minnesota indicates that the new regime is open to the possibility of a shakeup with the group of quarterbacks he inherited.
“I know Kwesi had a relationship with him, obviously, from his time in Cleveland. And then ultimately the competition will go all the way here,” O’Connell said. “That doesn’t mean it always stays the same. Sometimes we can feel the need to add a player at a position, not just quarterback, just to try to maximize what we’re going to be this year as a football team.”
“I feel great with all those guys in that room. I know there were some plays that we certainly would have liked to have back from Saturday, but still a lot of positives came out of the game for both Sean and Kellen. I’ve asked those guys that will continue to progress within the offensive system and the competition, and we’ll be able to figure that out when the time is right.”