The Vikings begin reporting to the first training camp July 24 at the TCO Performance Center in Eagan. The first full-team practice is July 28. Check here for new details on tickets, parking and times.
Before then, the Star Tribune will take a look at each position group. Wednesday: Quarterbacks
On the 90-man roster: 4 quarterbacks
Locks: QB Kirk Cousins, QB Trevor Siemian
Practice squad candidates: QB Kyle Sloter, QB Peter Pujals
(+) Signed Kirk Cousins to a three-year, $84 million contract that was fully guaranteed, marking the first such fully guaranteed NFL contract of that magnitude. … Traded for Trevor Siemian from Denver, acquiring also a 2018 seventh-round pick (linebacker Devante Downs) in exchange for a 2019 fifth-round pick.
(-) Sam Bradford signed with the Cardinals on a one-year, $20 million deal, including a team option for 2019. … Case Keenum signed with the Broncos on a two-year, $36 million contract. … Teddy Bridgewater signed with the Jets for one year and $6 million, including just $500,000 guaranteed and an additional $9 million in incentives.
Kirk Cousins reached out to Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen before players reported for initial workouts in April. That’s part of the essential chemistry building he’ll need to cram into a spring and summer. Fortunately for Cousins, his top two receivers are detailed and reliable. While his teammates learn the new twists of John DeFilippo’s offense, “everything is different” for Cousins, head coach Mike Zimmer said. The Vikings emphasized areas such as the red zone and screen game this spring. Defenders called the offense more vertical than during Pat Shurmur’s tenure. We’ll get to see its original incarnation starting this preseason.
“It’s a bit like drinking through a fire hose right now,” Cousins said. “I need to use the five or six weeks of the summer to go back. All the stuff I didn’t catch, go back through and see that I had starred this, I had check-marked this as something to go back to when we had time, rather than take time when we were so busy. I’ll make a list, probably get on the phone with coach DeFilippo or give [QBs] coach [Kevin] Stefanski an email and just go through it all to get each question answered over the summer.”
Siemian’s addition gives the Vikings an experienced backup and another Keenum-like safety net. Of course, one of the pulls to Cousins is the fact he has started 49 consecutive games.
Is Kirk Cousins the final piece to a well-rounded roster? Questions remain about the 2018 Vikings, even to a reigning No. 1 defense that essentially collapsed in five fateful playoff quarters. There’s no question larger than the $84 million man whom the Vikings hope is their quarterback for even another massive contract in the spring of 2021. By then, Cousins will have answered whether he’s the quarterback to return the Vikings to the Super Bowl for the first time since January 1977.
What you should know
Only four quarterbacks had a better play-action passer rating than Case Keenum (111.8) with the Vikings last season. One of them was Kirk Cousins (118.7) in Washington, according to Pro Football Focus. Even with the enormous contract, the Vikings offense is still expected to run through Dalvin Cook. Cook flashed in his 3.5 games that he’s the dynamic runner the Vikings need for modern football. So Cousins, and the deep ball, should be highly-emphasized complements to their zone running game.
36.6% — The highest pressure rate Cousins faced in Washington, which was last season. Eight quarterbacks, including Keenum, caught heat at a higher rate behind their protection. It’s notable that three different Vikings quarterbacks (Bridgewater, Bradford, Keenum) saw more pressure in each of Cousins’ three seasons in Washington (2015-2017). So keeping Cousins clean needs to be a top priority for the Vikings, especially considering his history of mediocre play under pressure. He’s completed about 52 percent of his throws for 20 touchdowns and 20 picks while pressured in his career, according to PFF.
Practice squad QB — Sloter will see his first game action for the Vikings next month during the preseason. How he fares might determine whether the Vikings can even keep him on the practice squad after he was coveted following last year’s cut from the Broncos. Sloter threw 31 of 43 for 413 yards and three touchdowns during Denver’s preseason. The Vikings stashed him on the practice squad following a bidding war, and now they’re eager to see their third quarterback in game action. Peter Pujals, the former Holy Cross quarterback, will also be at camp.