Assuming Kirk Cousins continues his impressive run of durability into the beginning of the 2021 season, he will have passed Wade Wilson for the fourth-most quarterback starts in Vikings history by the time they play their home opener against the Seahawks in Week 3.
Cousins' 47 regular-season starts since 2018 are the most ever by a Vikings QB in a three-year span. Should the quarterback — who hasn't shown up on an injury report since 2013 — get through the preseason in good health, he will begin his 10th NFL season with little doubt about his status in Minnesota for at least one more year.
That might not have been the case had the Vikings made a strong enough offer to trade up and select Ohio State's Justin Fields in the first round. Though sources said they tried to move up, some in their front office liked Kellen Mond just as much as Fields, and a video the Panthers recently released showed the limits of how far Minnesota would go, offering only a third- and fifth-round pick in an effort to move up six spots on April 30.
Still, had the Vikings landed Fields, there's reason to believe Cousins could have joined Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers as the subject of trade talks after June 1, when NFL salary cap rules allow teams to split dead-money charges over two years.
As it is, the Vikings selected Mond 66th overall, bringing in a quarterback they liked who poses little immediate threat to Cousins. The Texas A&M rookie took one first-team snap in a 7-on-7 drill on Wednesday, but otherwise worked behind Nate Stanley and Jake Browning during the Vikings' final organized team activity open to reporters.
With Mond in the building as Cousins approaches his 33rd birthday in August, Cousins is attempting to pay forward the favor that veteran QB Rex Grossman did for him during his rookie year in Washington.
"Rex had played in a Super Bowl and won a lot of playoff games and started a lot of games in the NFL and was in Year 10, so it was great to be able to learn from him and he was a big part of my early development as a football player," he said Wednesday. "I really took every word he said to heart because I felt he'd been there, done that and he should know what it looked like. I hung on his every word. I've been there and want to certainly be that same resource whenever possible."
Cousins said "there was good communication through the process" of the Vikings drafting a quarterback, and a source familiar with the situation said general manager Rick Spielman notified Cousins' representatives before the draft the Vikings would likely select a passer.
"Kellen's been great, working hard, picking up our offense quickly," Cousins said. "It's been a good process, and we're just kind of building this thing right now to keep ramping up as we get closer to September."
For his part, Cousins developed a film setup at his house on the shores of Lake Michigan and studied every game from his NFL career for the first time this offseason. He said he watched "a couple other offenses" who'd had success last year, but spent much of his winter evaluating his own play since his 2012 rookie season.
"I heard Tom Brady, when that TV show came out that was called 'The Brady Six,' where it talked about the people who were drafted ahead of him and followed their journeys, Tom, at one point, he was quoted as saying, 'I watch myself on film, and to this day, I still don't feel like I'm that good.' And I really felt that sentiment," Cousins said. "When he said it, I was in college, but I understood what he meant. And now going back and watching my career, I would echo that sentiment. I've watched myself in '12 and '13-14 and think, 'Man, I'm such a better quarterback now. I can't believe that the coaches didn't just cut me when I did that and made that mistake. I can't believe they were patient with me.'
"Because nowadays looking back, it would just be unacceptable to myself, allowing myself to play that way or make that read or make that throw or that decision. What just jumps out as the players you play with. You realize that the way Pierre Garcon ran a route or DeSean Jackson ran a route, that affects the way you play and the way you think, and then you come to a new team and you're trying to tell Adam Thielen to run a route that way, and he's saying, 'No, I don't do it that way.' So just the process of learning those players and understanding that you always have to be aware of what your teammates do well."
Cousins stood out on Wednesday with a deep strike to Thielen and a successful two-minute drill that put the Vikings in field goal range after a Cousins connection with Justin Jefferson.
"Kirk has been doing a fantastic job," Jefferson said. "He's been throwing some great, great balls, especially today. Our locker is right next to each other, so we're definitely building a stronger connection than last year. It's just exciting to see."
Mond is watching and learning a scheme similar to the one Cousins tried to absorb 10 years ago in Washington. As Mond develops, Cousins says, he'll try to help.
"I've done the same thing I've done with Nate Stanley, Jake Browning, Nate Sudfeld back when I was in Washington," Cousins said. "You're an open book, you're helpful and you're there and make yourself available."