Reports: Vikings remake backfield, to add QB Sam Darnold, RB Aaron Jones


Sam Darnold and the Minnesota Vikings agreed to a one-year, $10 million contract and bolstered the backfield with another addition as the franchise moves on from quarterback Kirk Cousins.

Former Packers running back Aaron Jones, released Monday, agreed to a $7 million contract for 2024 with Green Bay’s NFC North rival, according to multiple reports.

ESPN and NFL Network first reported details of the Darnold deal, which can become official when the league year begins Wednesday.

Cousins agreed to a four-year, $180 million contract with the Atlanta Falcons within hours of the start of the free agency negotiating period on Monday. Cousins, who turns 36 in August, and the Vikings discussed his return but the price range escalated beyond the franchise’s comfort zone.

Jones and the Packers split following the pending signing of free agent running back Josh Jacobs. The former Raiders first-round pick is set to sign a reported four-year, $48 million deal to replace Jones in Green Bay.

Keeping both would’ve been too expensive and Jones took a paycut to stay with the Packers before the 2023 season.

With 5,940 rushing yards, Jones ranks third in team history, but his next employer will be visiting Lambeau Field as a guest.

“As good of a player as Aaron is on the field, he is an even better person,” said Packers coach Matt LaFleur. “When I arrived in Green Bay as a first-time head coach, he was instrumental in establishing our winning culture and always served as the greatest example of what it meant to be a Packer. Aaron will always be one of the best players I had the opportunity to coach. He, his son, Junior, his mom, Vurgess, and his family will be missed.”

Jones’ cap number for 2024 would’ve been $17,575,824 with Green Bay after missing six games due to injuries last season.

The Vikings released running back Alexander Mattison before free agency began. He started the season as the No. 1 running back but was ineffective, ceding the spot to Ty Chandler. Mattison rushed for a career-best 700 yards in 2023.

In Darnold, the Vikings would add an experienced starter looking to prove he’s deserving of that role again after a one-year stint as Brock Purdy’s backup with the San Francisco 49ers. Darnold, drafted No. 3 overall by the New York Jets in 2018, will be playing for a fourth NFL team in five seasons. He was traded to the Carolina Panthers in 2021.

Darnold, 26, is relatively young for a seventh-year pro. He’s one year and one day older than Steelers 2022 first-round quarterback Kenny Pickett, for example, and Heisman Trophy winner Jayden Daniels of LSU — a likely first-round pick in 2024 — will be 24 years old in December.

Darnold worked under Kyle Shanahan in San Francisco. Shanahan was Cousins’ initial offensive coordinator in the NFL and runs a derivative of the same offense Minnesota employs under Kevin O’Connell, whose coaching roots trace to Shanahan comrade Sean McVay.

Cousins was largely a backup for three seasons in Washington before he became a starter in his fourth season. He spent the past six seasons with the Vikings, throwing for more than 4,200 yards four times with 26-plus touchdowns in each of his five full seasons.

Cousins was tied for the NFL lead with 18 touchdown passes when he suffered a ruptured right Achilles eight weeks into the 2023 season.

Minnesota acquired journeyman Joshua Dobbs days later to beat the NFL trade deadline and went through a musical chairs rotation at quarterback without the reliable Cousins at the helm, trying Nick Mullens and 2023 fifth-round pick Jaren Hall when Dobbs faltered after leading a stirring win over the Falcons.

Darnold started the Week 18 regular-season finale in Purdy’s place with the 49ers’ playoff position locked up, completing 16 of 26 passes for 189 yards and a touchdown in a 21-20 loss to the Rams.

The Vikings are expected to be in the market for a quarterback in the draft and have the No. 11 overall pick.