The Vikings suffered a listless offensive performance in Saturday's preseason loss to the 49ers, with backup quarterbacks Kellen Mond and Sean Mannion together leading a single scoring drive. Two days later, the team may have a new backup altogether. With final roster cuts looming on Aug. 30, Minnesota has acquired Nick Mullens from the Raiders in exchange for a 2024 seventh-round draft pick, the team announced, adding a new potential No. 2 behind Kirk Cousins.
Mannion has spent the better part of the last three years as Cousins' top backup, but he's struggled in two emergency starts. Mond, meanwhile, is just a year removed from entering as a third-round pick. He got more second-team work this summer and threw two touchdowns in the Vikings' preseason opener, but was off-target throughout Saturday's loss, finishing 10 of 20 for 82 yards and two interceptions. This after the Texas A&M product appeared in just one game as a rookie.
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Mullens, meanwhile, has relatively extensive experience under center, starting 17 games in five seasons as a backup. The 27-year-old veteran spent the first four years of his career with the 49ers, who signed him as an undrafted rookie in 2017, most notably starting eight games in place of the injured Jimmy Garoppolo in both 2018 and 2020. After an offseason with the Eagles, Mullens spent 2021 with the Browns as the No. 3 behind Baker Mayfield and Case Keenum, then signed with the Raiders this April.
Las Vegas is expected to carry former Patriots starter Jarrett Stidham as Derek Carr's backup, which made Mullens expendable.
Which team won the trade for Mullens? Here are our grades:
To get anything in return for a journeyman No. 3 QB, with final roster cuts on the horizon, is a minor victory. Stidham was always gonna be the favorite to be Carr's backup under Josh McDaniels, who helped develop the former with the Patriots. And it's not like the Raiders can't find an equivalent emergency starter (e.g. Cam Newton, Mike Glennon) if injuries hit them hard down the road. They're basically eating $500,000 to add a 2024 seventh, which confirms this as an unspectacular but passable move.
Mullens may not be a top-end backup, proving a little too prone to forced throws when he's started for consecutive games. But he's at least a definitive upgrade on Mannion, and possibly Mond, in terms of a No. 2 with upside. One of the few weak spots on the Vikings' underrated offense was the backup QB spot, which has rarely been adequately addressed during the Cousins era, and Mullens will cost just $1.4 million as a fallback. His experience on Kyle Shanahan teams makes him a good fit for a unit likely to lean on Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison in the event Cousins goes down for extended time.