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Mond Will Eventually Get Chance to Start

By Dave Holcomb
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Kellen Mond has the tools to become a quality starter in the NFL.

Life in the NFL for a quarterback taken in the middle rounds, even for the ones who succeed, isn’t always smooth. There’s perhaps no better example of that than fourth-round pick Kirk Cousins.

It took multiple injuries to superstar rookie Robert Griffin III for Cousins to receive his chance to play, and then even after he played well, the organization that drafted him had enough doubts to franchise tag him twice.

Finally, Cousins received his big deal from the Vikings, but many were astonished Minnesota handed him a fully guaranteed contract. Cousins went from underappreciated to overrated practically overnight.

The mid-round quarterback life is about to begin for Kellen Mond, and it’s only fitting that Mond will begin his NFL journey behind Cousins in Minnesota.

The Vikings surprised some with the decision to draft a quarterback. Cousins is only 33 and has two years remaining on his contract. For the 2021 season, Cousins’ cap hit is $31 million, which is the third-highest in the NFL behind only Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson according to Spotrac. Next year, the cap hit for Cousins will rise to a whopping $45 million.

To offset that huge sum of money tied up to one player, the Vikings very well could extend Cousins. That’s what they did last spring heading into the final season of the original 3-year, $84 million deal that brought him to Minnesota. Extending him will also prevent Cousins from entering a lame duck season, where he doesn’t know his future before opening weekend.

A lot will likely depend on how Cousins plays this season and maybe next, but drafting Mond is a sign the Vikings want a succession plan away from Cousins behind center. That’s why Vikings general manager Rick Spielman has been forced to answer questions this month about the quarterback situation.

“Right now, there’s no question that Kirk Cousins is our quarterback,” Spielman said on Mad Dog Sports Radio. “What we wanted to do just like we do with everything else, as the board continues to fall, we want to get the best players available on our board. And Kellen [Mond] definitely checked the box there when we were able to get him in the third round.”

The key phrase in those two sentences -- right now. Without a doubt, Cousins is the team’s starter and will remain so for as long as he is on the Minnesota roster.

But that could only be for two more years and maybe just one. If Cousins struggles, a Vikings-Cousins divorce could be coming next offseason (although it remains unlikely because his 2022 contract became guaranteed in March).

Regardless of whether it’s 2022 or 2023 or maybe 2024, the Vikings drafted Mond with the assumption that one day he will compete for the starting job. In that sense, his NFL life is starting very differently than Cousins, who was drafted strictly to backup RGIII.

Mond has the tools to become a quality starter in the NFL. He arrives in Minnesota with a lot of college experience, having played in 46 games. He struggled with accuracy early in his career, but his completion percentage improved to 63.3% in 2020. He also averaged a career high 7.7 yards per pass with 19 touchdowns versus only 3 interceptions last fall. analyst Lance Zierlein argued that the statistical improvement for Mond last season was due to Texas A&M’s offense not requiring too much of Mond. The unit relied too heavily on its quarterback in the past, and it led to him making mistakes. He had nine interceptions in 13 games during both his sophomore and junior seasons.

Mond isn’t a quarterback that’s necessarily going to elevate the play of everyone else on his offense, but he has a good chance of staying in the league for a long time as a low end starter or serviceable backup.

“Quarterback with dual-threat physical tools who has grown and matured into a role as a confident game manager,” Zierlein wrote.

The term “game manager” is usually used as a derogatory term for quarterbacks. But for the Vikings, an organization that normally has a strong defense under head coach Mike Zimmer, a competent game manager with the chance to do more is quite appealing.

That’s why they were so interested in Cousins. After Case Keenum committed three early turnovers in the 2018 NFC Championship Game, the Vikings seemed to be a game manager at quarterback away from a Super Bowl appearance.

But unfortunately for the Vikings, it took more than “game manager” type money to bring Cousins to Minnesota, and in some ways, that’s been the problem. Paying Cousins has meant other great players leaving, and, rightfully so, the expectations for Cousins have risen.

If down the road, Mond can offer the Vikings a quality game-managing signal caller at a cheaper price than Cousins, then he’s worth the selection. Within the next two or three years, Mond will receive the chance to prove he can be that player in Minnesota.