Vikings trade up with Jets, get J.J. McCarthy 10th at NFL draft

ByKevin Seifert ESPN logo
Friday, April 26, 2024

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

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

McCarthy provided an attractive consolation prize after the team tried and failed to acquire the No. 3 overall 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 pick 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 pick (No. 203) from the Jets, whoused the 11th pick on Penn State offensive tackle Olu Fashanu.

Minnesota wasn't finished making moves on Day 1, however, 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.

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. Coach Kevin O'Connell is a former NFL quarterback and one of the league's top young play-callers, 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.

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, general manager Kwesi 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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