By Mike Marek
“Into the great wide open
Under them skies of blue
Out in the great wide open
A rebel without a clue”
The Vikings embark into the offseason with more questions than answers for what they will look like in 2023 and beyond. Sure, it is likely that Kirk Cousins will still be taking snaps for at least one more year. Justin Jefferson will be catching passes from Kirk, and Kevin O’Connell will still be on point for calling the plays for the aforementioned duo. Outside of that, not much is locked in for next year.
Rumors are that homegrown and career Viking Adam Thielen is renegotiating his albatross of a contract. He is scheduled to be paid like one of the top wide receivers in the league, but he can no longer keep up the pace. The cap won’t be too friendly to the Vikings if they outright cut Thielen, so I suspect they tear up his old contract to be something much more team-friendly so Adam can see his days out in purple as a third or fourth receiver.
Dalvin Cook has an aggressively structured deal for the next couple of years, but similar to Thielen, it doesn’t make all that much sense to part ways with him this year. Cook was still successful in 2022 and can still be a valuable member of the team; it would be in the team’s best interest to bring down that cap number so they can start exploring free agency for repairing defense.
Speaking of the defense, Harrison Smith and Erik Kendricks both slipped considerably this year, and not much on the defense might be worth saving anyway. The Vikings can save $7 million by cutting Smith and another $9 million by letting Kendricks walk. I also suspect they are taking a long look into if Za’Darius Smith make sense in the long-range plans as they can save over $12 million if he is off the roster before June 1.
This all seems like some drastic moves for a team that ultimately went 13-4 in the regular season, but the reality in the NFL is that it is a constantly evolving landscape, and the Vikings as assembled today wouldn’t likely be true contenders next year. They also have cap issues, an aging roster, and they aren’t setup for a ton of success in the way that their draft is currently setup. As of today, they only hold four draft picks.
They traded second and fourth round picks to the Lions for Pro Bowl tight end T.J. Hockenson, who proved to be worth the bounty at the time. They also have leaked out additional late round choices for players like Jalen Reagor and Stephen Weatherly, which has ultimately left the team a bit hamstrung now that they need to contemplate what the future will look like.
One thing that the Vikings need to be mindful of is that the NFC North is there for the taking next year and likely for the next couple of years with disarray continuing to be the trend coming out of Green Bay, Chicago being committed to a quarterback that only netted them three wins last season, and the Lions continuing to be the Lions. The Vikings need to continue to strike while the iron is hot and double down on bringing home a couple of more NFC North titles. Until then, go Wild, Wolves, and Twins!
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