Vikings agree to deals with ex-rival RB Jones and QB Darnold as sub for Cousins, AP sources say

Estimated read time 3 min read

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota Vikings stayed aggressive in free agency Tuesday by adding former Green Bay running back Aaron Jones and 2018 third overall draft pick Sam Darnold as a temporary replacement at quarterback for Kirk Cousins.

Jones, who was released Monday by the Packers after they landed 2022 All-Pro Josh Jacobs, gets a one-year, $7 million contract with their biggest rival, a person with knowledge of the terms told The Associated Press.

Darnold, who played last season for San Francisco, will get a one-year, $10 million deal, a second person with knowledge of that contract told the AP. The Vikings also agreed to sign kicker Parker Romo, according to a third person with knowledge of that deal.

All three people spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the contracts had not yet been finalized. The signing period opens Wednesday.

As Cousins agreed to leave Minnesota for Atlanta on Monday in a busy opening to the NFL ‘s negotiation window, the Vikings swiftly addressed their defense by agreeing to contracts with edge rushers Jonathan Greenard and Andrew Van Ginkel and inside linebacker Blake Cashman.

Then they pivoted to offense.

Darnold, who went just 13-25 as a starter for the New York Jets after they selected him out of Southern California, was traded to Carolina in 2021. He missed most of the 2022 season with the Panthers because of a sprained ankle, and after becoming a free agent last year, he signed with the 49ers as a backup to Brock Purdy.

The 26-year-old Darnold has thrown for 63 touchdowns and 56 interceptions in 66 career games with a completion percentage of 59.7. With the Jets, he was a teammate of Josh McCown, who was recently hired as Minnesota’s quarterbacks coach.

Darnold becomes the presumptive starter for the Vikings, who still have 2023 fifth-round pick Jaren Hall and veteran Nick Mullens under contract. They almost certainly will draft another quarterback next month, owning the 11th overall pick in the first round and assessing a deep class at the vital position.

The deal with Jones was one of the most surprising turns across the league, after the Packers said they planned to bring him back. He was released instead when a pay cut didn’t work out, and the Vikings swooped in to add a well-regarded player who has enjoyed plenty of success at their expense.

The Vikings ranked 29th in the NFL in rushing yards per game and 24th in rushing yards per attempt last season. They released Alexander Mattison last week, but they’re high on the potential of Ty Chandler entering his third year and now have a proven second option for carrying the ball in Jones.

Though he was limited to 11 games last season because of hamstring and knee injuries, Jones came on strong down the stretch by finishing with five straight 100-yard rushing games, including two in the playoffs. One of those was on Dec. 31 in a blowout win at Minnesota.

In 2022, Jones played in all 17 games and rushed for 1,121 yards. With 8,016 yards from scrimmage in seven seasons, Jones has the sixth most among NFL running backs over that time.

Romo went undrafted out of Virginia Tech in 2022 and has had brief stints with Chicago and Detroit. He has not kicked in a regular-season NFL game, but he spent last season in the XFL.

The Vikings also released defensive lineman Dean Lowry, who started four games and finished the season on injured reserve.