After two preseason games, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and the Minnesota Vikings’ front office had seen enough. On Monday morning, the Vikings acquired backup quarterback Nick Mullens from the Las Vegas Raiders in exchange for a 2024 seventh-round pick, on the condition that Mullens is active for at least one game in 2022. In what has become a trend around here this time of year — spearheaded by the guy that Adofo-Mensah replaced in January — the Vikings proactively addressed a critical need by way of a trade just weeks before the regular season kicks off.
There are two big differences. For one, the first-year general manager didn’t severely overpay for a backup (remember Rick Spielman’s trade last year?).
Second, Adofo-Mensah is simply cleaning up the mess the previous GM made by failing to properly address the QB2 position behind Kirk Cousins. Unlike Spielman’s preseason trades, this wasn’t a result of a camp injury to a starter that suddenly exposed a lack of roster depth. Instead, this was a proactive decision by Adofo-Mensah, one that provides a reliable insurance policy if Cousins is unable to start for any amount of time.
Mullens, 27, has recorded 17 career starts and has performed as one of the better QB2s since he entered the league in 2017. Mullens spent his rookie season on the San Francisco 49ers’ practice squad. But when Jimmy Garoppolo went down with an ACL injury in Week 3 of 2018, the Niners activated Mullens as the QB2 the following week. Following five straight losses with C.J. Beathard at quarterback, Kyle Shanahan decided to hand the offense over to Mullens.
And in his first career start, Mullens delivered in a big way for the previously 1-7 49ers.
- 262 yards
- 3 touchdowns
- 151.9 passer rating
- San Francisco wins, 34-3
Although Mullens experienced his fair share of growing pains throughout the season, the truth of the matter is that he played above-average football for most of his starts.
Across Mullens’ eight starts in 2018, he was also one of the most effective quarterbacks in the league on play-action pass attempts, ranking sixth in the NFL with a 116.7 passer rating.
Now that Mullens finds himself in Kevin O’Connell‘s Los Angeles Rams-centric scheme, this type of reliability on play-action will do wonders for the Vikings should he be thrust into action.
When injury misfortune struck again for Garoppolo and the 49ers in 2020, San Francisco again tasked Mullens with driving the offense. And, similar to his first start in 2018, Mullens was extremely effective in leading the 49ers to a win against the New York Giants in Week 3 of 2020.
- 343 yards
- 1 touchdown
- 108.9 passer rating
- San Francisco wins, 36-9
Speaking of O’Connell and the Rams. Although his production was less than stellar, Mullens went into SoFi Stadium in Week 12 and helped the 49ers beat the Rams — the same Rams team that made it to the divisional round of the NFC playoffs that year.
- 252 yards
- 1 interception
- 77.3 passer rating
- San Francisco wins, 23-20
- 316 yards
- 3 touchdowns
- 2 interceptions
- 95.7 passer rating
- Buffalo beats San Francisco, 34-24
Mullens’ most recent start came last year with the Cleveland Browns when they tasked him with filling in for Baker Mayfield. Although the Browns failed to come out on top against the Raiders in Week 15, Mullens gave his team a chance to pull it out at the end against the eventual AFC wild card team.
- 147 yards
- 1 touchdown
- 89.2 passer rating
- Las Vegas beats Cleveland, 16-14
Mullens has recorded an 87.3 passer rating across 17 starts and three relief appearances throughout his career. For context, that 87.3 passer rating would’ve ranked as the 22nd-best throughout the NFL last year. Better than Jalen Hurts, Lamar Jackson, Ben Roethlisberger, Taylor Heinicke, Daniel Jones, Mayfield, Andy Dalton, Jacoby Brissett, Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, Sam Darnold, and Zach Wilson.
Will Mullens create a quarterback controversy with Cousins the moment he walks into TCO Performance Center? Of course not. But as it stands, the Vikings landed arguably one of the best backup quarterbacks in the league today. Over the past four years, Mullens has proven that he can be relied upon to keep the ship afloat when his name is called.
The Mullens acquisition likely means the end of Sean Mannion‘s time in Minnesota. And since it’s highly unlikely that the Vikings will dress three quarterbacks on gamedays, Kellen Mond will probably be relegated to the practice squad so that he can continue to develop. That way, if either Cousins or Mullens goes down, Mond can be activated as the QB2 in case of an emergency.
The Vikings’ need of a solution at QB2 has been obvious for a while now. And for the small price of a 2024 seventh-round draft pick, Adofo-Mensah certainly found one in Mullens. Vikings fans should have great confidence in their new backup quarterback, should circumstance force Mullens to get behind the wheel of this potential Ferrari of an offense.