Why Anthony Richardson could be the Vikings’ Missing Piece

It seems like almost every year there is the heated debate between Vikings fans on whether or not Kirk Cousins should be the Vikings’ long-term quarterback. While there is true Cousins has been responsible for some incredible moments in purple, there is no denying one playoff win in five seasons under center is a disappointment when considering the team’s expectations of Cousins when he was signed. A combination of two factors makes Cousins a question mark for the long-term success of the team he lines up under center (or sometimes guard). Cousins is turning 35 this season while making 35 million against the cap. This combination of age and price puts a pretty significant cap on his team’s ability to win a super bowl.

The Kid from Florida
While Kirk is certainly far from being a bad QB, his age, lack of athleticism and price tag all put the Vikings in a difficult spot this year. But there is one man who has a chance to fix the long term problems that could arise under Cousins. Enter Anthony Richardson, the 6 ‘4, 231 lb 21 year old Florida Redshirt Sophomore has the potential to take this team to another level. The risks are certainly there, but when combining Richardson’s ceiling, price tag and timeline this move might be one Vikings General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has to take.

The Pros
In this hypothetical draft day scenario, Richardson would be in an incredibly fortunate position. Few young QB’s could ask for a better environment to be in. First, given the fact that Cousins is under contract for the 2023 season, he would not have to start. This is a scenario that is ideal for a prospect as raw as Richardson, who would have the time to learn the offense of former QB now Head Coach Kevin O’Connell. O’Connell would have a year to perfect Richardson’s mechanics, teach good habits and ensure the young QB would be prepared for success. Second, Richardson would be inserted into an already talented offensive roster. Very few NFL executives can say the following. My team has all-pro bookend tackles under 30, paired with a top 3 tight end and a top 3 receiver in the sport. Richardson would be met with an “entering his prime” Justin Jefferson who is currently the betting favorite to win Offensive Player of the Year. Pair that with a young tight end who ranked 2nd in TE receiving yards in TJ Hockenson along with two All-Pro tackles Christian Darrisaw and Brian O’Neal. Richardson could hit the ground running when combining his situation with his immense talent and athletic ability.

In addition to the potential for instant results, Richardson’s rookie contract comes with a great value, potential high level quarterback play for 4 years for a cap hit of less than 10 million per year. It is worth noting that the four teams that played in the conference finals featured four athletic quarterbacks, two of which are currently under rookie deals. This significantly decreased price tag when compared with veteran quarterbacks allows teams to fill out their roster with talent. When looking at the NFC Super Bowl representative, the Philadelphia Eagles, one can see how big of a competitive advantage a rookie quarterback contract is in allowing a team to stack their roster with talent. Hurts’ contract put the Eagles in prime position to trade for and extend star receiver AJ Brown. The price tag of a rookie quarterback is quite possibly the single biggest competitive advantage in professional sports.

Another competitive advantage the Eagles regularly take advantage of is the rushing ability of Jalen Hurts. It has been many years since the Vikings could reliably depend on their quarterback to produce offense with his legs. Richardson ran for 654 yards and 9 touchdowns his 2022 season. The athleticism and size of Richardson could provide a spark taking the Vikings offense to the next level. When combining this dimension of his game with Richardson’s arm talent, it is obvious just how talented this soon to be rookie is.

The Cons
There is no denying the talent of Anthony Richardson, and for that reason it is highly unlikely he falls to Minnesota’s selecting spot of 23rd overall. For this reason there is a good chance acquiring Richardson would take a draft day trade. This trade would more than likely involve the Vikings’ 2024 First Round Pick and potentially more. While teams such as the Bears and Chiefs have traded up in recent memory to select their desired QB, a trade involving future assets is always a risky one. A move that could make or break a GM’s career. So while the talent is certainly there, the Vikings may not be willing to part with future valuable assets in order to potentially miss on the QB and come under fire by ownership or the fanbase. It is worth noting quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes, Justin Fields, Carson Wentz and Jared Goff were all traded up for.

The question marks present in Richardson’s game are what makes him such an interesting prospect. While these question marks note potential star-level ability, it also raises cause for concern. Richardson was far from what most would consider an efficient passer, posing a completion percentage of 53.8% on the year. Richardson often made decision related mistakes that could hurt his draft stock. Keep in mind there is a reason there are a handful of quarterbacks that are projected to be drafted prior.

The final con present in a Vikings selection of Richardson would be the importance of appeasing star wide receiver Justin Jefferson. The Vikings just came off of a 13 win season, a feat incredibly difficult to accomplish in the NFL. While Jefferson sits at home due to playoff elimination, he witnesses his contemporaries Jamar Chase and AJ Brown make deep playoff runs. This feeling has no doubt sat with Jefferson and it’s a feeling that may be exacerbated by hitting the reset button on quarterback while he enters his prime. Before making a move like this it is important Adofo-Mensah ensures Jefferson is on board, especially while Jefferson is yet to sign an extension.

At the end of the day, I, along with many Vikings, fans am tired of mediocrity. While I appreciate what Cousins has done for this franchise, fans need to be willing to accept the fact that a 35 year old career .500 QB who costs well over 30 million against the cap annually is not a recipe for Super Bowl expectations. The Vikings need to be willing to take a risk and Richardson just might be the risk required to put this team over the hump, into Eagles territory. For more NFC North content, keep it right here on NFCNorthReport.com
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