24/06/2024

Vikings trade up with Jets, land QB J.J. McCarthy at NFL draft - ESPN

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Vikings trade up with Jets, land QB J.J. McCarthy at NFL draft - ESPN

The Vikings traded up to the No. 10 pick with the Jets to select quarterback J.J. McCarthy on Thursday at the NFL draft.

The Vikings traded up to the No. 10 pick with the Jets to select quarterback J.J. McCarthy on Thursday at the NFL draft.

EAGAN, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings have their new quarterback.

Six weeks after bidding farewell to veteran Kirk Cousins, the Vikings moved up one spot in the 2024 NFL draft and selected Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy at No. 10 on Thursday night.

McCarthy provided an attractive consolation prize after the team tried and failed to acquire the No. 3 pick, where they hoped to draft North Carolina's Drake Maye, and were rebuffed by the Los Angeles Chargers in a long shot attempt to trade for veteran Justin Herbert.

McCarthy was one of at least five quarterbacks the Vikings conducted private workouts and meetings with over the past month, a list that also included Jayden Daniels, Michael Penix Jr., Bo Nix and Maye. All but Nix were off the board by the eighth selection of the draft, leaving the Vikings to sweat out a few picks before they swapped spots with the New York Jets.

The Vikings gave up the No. 11 pick, a fourth-round pick (No. 129) and a fifth-round pick (No. 157) to get No. 10 and a seventh-round selection (No. 203) from the Jets, who used the 11th pick on Penn State offensive tackle Olu Fashanu.

Speaking Thursday night, Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah did not say that McCarthy was their top choice but instead reiterated the team had created a tiered value and development plan for each of the draft's quarterbacks.

"We're very big here on quarterbacks and how differently they can impact the game," Adofo-Mensah said. "What I can tell you is that he is somebody whose skill set is something we're really excited about. ... From a talent standpoint, he was as talented as anybody in the draft."

McCarthy said Thursday that if the NFL were like a recruiting process, he would have chosen the Vikings as his destination. He cited coach Kevin O'Connell's scheme and the team's personnel, adding that Minnesota is "a perfect destination for a quarterback that's up and coming in this league."

McCarthy was a tougher projection than most of the draft's other quarterbacks, having turned 21 in January and having thrown an average of 22.1 passes per game last season, ranking No. 94 in FBS. Adofo-Mensah said that during a pre-draft discussion, McCarthy asked him a blunt question: "Is there any reason you wouldn't draft me?"

"I said, honestly, from a talent standpoint, no," Adofo-Mensah said. "You are just a little bit of an unknown because you played in an offense that is pretty run-heavy and different things like that, so there's some guesswork, but we think you can do it."

Minnesota wasn't finished making moves on Day 1, pulling off a second draft-day trade to move up six spots with the Jacksonville Jaguars in order to take Alabama edge rusher Dallas Turner with the No. 17 pick. The Vikings sent the No. 23 and No. 167 picks in this year's draft as well as a third- and fourth-round pick in 2025 to the Jaguars.

"He was one of the top defensive players on our board," Adofo-Mensah said. "I can't believe we got both of them in the same draft."

McCarthy will compete with veteran Sam Darnold, whom the Vikings signed in March to a one-year contract as a potential bridge starter until their new quarterback was ready to play. In Minnesota, McCarthy will encounter what might be the best landing spot for any of the quarterbacks selected Thursday night.

The Vikings have an array of offensive weapons, from receivers Justin Jefferson to Jordan Addison. They signed running back Aaron Jones in free agency and will get tight end T.J. Hockenson back from a knee injury at some point early in the 2024 season. O'Connell is a former NFL quarterback and one of the league's top young playcallers, and new quarterback coach Josh McCown will work closely with McCarthy as well.

At 6-foot-2, 219 pounds, McCarthy was 27-1 as a starter at Michigan over the past two seasons, which included the 2023 national championship. The lone loss was in the 2022 College Football Playoff semifinals against TCU, when Michigan scored 45 points and McCarthy totaled three touchdowns.

O'Connell said he was encouraged to find a fiery competitor behind McCarthy's sunny disposition during their pre-draft talks.

"A lot of times you can make a mistake with guys that look like they're smiling and having a good time and are really successful, and misjudge what kind of competitor they are," O'Connell said. "There is a fire inside of them to be the best version of himself. He wants to win. He's won at every level he's played. ... The one thing you hear is that he was a driving force behind a lot of [Michigan's success]."

Thursday's move continues the Vikings' decades-long effort to find a high-end franchise player at the position. Since Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton retired, the Vikings have drafted four quarterbacks in the first round: Tommy Kramer (1977), Daunte Culpepper (1999), Christian Ponder (2011) and Teddy Bridgewater (2014).

Kramer held down the position for 13 years, and Culpepper for parts of six seasons. In between, they signed Hall of Famers nearing the end of their careers, including Warren Moon (1994) and Brett Favre (2009) -- and they tried to sign Dan Marino in 2000. They've put their hopes in veterans they thought could ignite otherwise talented teams, such as Jim McMahon (1993), Randall Cunningham (1998-99), Jeff George (1999) and Gus Frerotte (2008).

Cousins represented a new approach, as the Vikings decided to pay a premium for a level of player -- a long-term starter in his prime -- who is not usually available on the free agent market. They guaranteed all of Cousins' three-year, $84 million contract, one that required two extensions and one restructuring to manage over the next six seasons. They paid him a total of $185 million over that span, compiling a 50-37-1 regular-season record.

But the Vikings won only one NFC North title during that period and went 1-2 in two playoff appearances.

As a result, during negotiations in the spring of 2023, Adofo-Mensah decided against extending the guaranteed portion of Cousins' contract beyond the 2024 season. Instead, the sides agreed to an adjustment that allowed the Vikings to lower his salary cap number and guaranteed Cousins a path to free agency in 2024 without the Vikings being able to use the franchise tag on him.

Cousins capitalized on that approach, even after tearing his right Achilles tendon in Week 8. He signed a four-year contract that fully guaranteed him $90 million over the first two seasons, and another $10 million in the third, after turning down a Vikings offer that only fully guaranteed the first season.

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