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What’s Next for the Minnesota Vikings?

The upcoming Vikings offseason will be critical if the team is to keep its grip on pole position in the NFC North — check out their top priorities ahead of the 2023 campaign.

The Minnesota Vikings had all the weapons to be a legitimate Super Bowl contender. Instead, they were ultimately no more than regular season overachievers.

Again.

All things considered, Minnesota’s dominance through Week 18 and the NFC North title that came with it was as impressive as it was surprising. In the offseason, the Vikings kept their offensive core intact from the 2021 campaign, hired a new head coach and general manager, and committed just $212 million in salary spending, the eighth-lowest in the NFL. On the flipside, they had the fifth-highest active cap spending in the NFL ($162.7 million) for 2022 thanks to a bevy of expensive stars, including Justin Jefferson, Dalvin Cook, Adam Thielen, and TJ Hockenson, the latter of whom they acquired at the trade deadline.

Despite a Wild Card loss at the hands of the Giants, there were improvements following a 2021 campaign in which they finished 8-9.

  • During the 2021 season, they went 2-7 in one-possession games.
  • During the 2022 season, they went undefeated in such games (10-0) — until they ran into the G-Men.

They have a ton of reflecting to do this offseason. How can they capitalize with all this talent and hefty spending? Jefferson is eligible for a huge extension this offseason. Hockenson and QB Kirk Cousins both become unrestricted free agents after the 2023 season, while Cook has a potential opt-out at the same time.

Minnesota enters the 2023 offseason in the red with negative cap space (-$8,094,694), so they’ve got some rearranging to do, to say the very least. So, what does GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah need to do to maximize this Vikings offseason heading into his second campaign running this front office?

Let’s take a closer look.

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Justin Jefferson

This is priority No. 1, period.

No one in NFL history has ever had more receiving yards in their first three seasons than Justin Jefferson. The 23-year-old superstar broke former Viking Randy Moss’s record of 4,163 yards against the Patriots on Thanksgiving. Moss did it in 43 starts — Jefferson did it in 42.

He did it just in time to become eligible for a contract extension projected in the neighborhood of four years and $110 million, which would rank No. 3 in terms of total value and average annual value ($27,511,085) among receivers across the league. So, is there any reason for Adofo-Mensah to hesitate? It’s likely as simple as whether the player wants to stay in Minneapolis for the long haul.

“I will be wherever I’m wanted. If they want me here, I’m here. That’s not something that I can really control,” Jefferson said after the playoff loss to the Giants.

Adam Thielen

Thielen will have a cap hit of nearly $20 million in 2023 — and he hasn’t caught for 1,000 yards in a single season since 2018, and the Vikings can free up more than $6 million in space if they go their separate ways via trade or by releasing the 32-year-old. In doing so, their cap space would increase to the $13 million range this offseason. Keep all the pending free agents in mind, specifically Jefferson.

“Obviously, I would love to finish my career here and retire a Minnesota Viking and have my entire career be here. But I also know that this is a business and there’s going to have to be some business decisions being made,” Thielen recently told KFAN.

Kirk Cousins

It isn’t exactly easy to lock in a good quarterback — or even a decent one — so there’s no expected change at this particular time for the Vikings. That said, their significant investment in Cousins hasn’t paid off where it truly counts. He initially signed a three-year, $84 million deal back in 2018, and when those terms expired, the Vikings doubled down and extended him on a two-year, $66 million deal. In 2023, his final season before hitting free agency, he’s due to make $30 million, a salary figure that would rank No. 7 in the NFL as of this writing.

Here’s the thing: Kirk isn’t bad, but is he the guy you want leading your team with an uncertain championship window? He’s 1-4 in the playoffs over the course of his career with only five touchdowns. Consider 2023 another audition for his long-term future in Minnesota.

Defense

If we aren’t gonna blame their star-studded offense for falling short in the postseason, then look no further than the D. The Giants scored 31 points against Ed Donatell’s unit in the playoffs despite being a team that scored 30+ points in just one single regular season game this season. The Vikes were the third-worst in all of football in allowing 25.1 points per game, and their 388.7 yards allowed per game ranked 31st out of 32 teams.

Keep in mind that the Vikings allocated 33.10% of their cap spending to the defense ($69.4 million) — the 12th-most in the league. Looking ahead to 2023, they have roughly $102 million dedicated to this side of the ball (45.2% of the cap). Consider safety Harrison Smith in particular: Yes, he’s a six-time Pro Bowler, but the team owes him $48 million over the next three years, the last of which is the DB’s age-36 season.

If their dollars simply went further on that side of the ball, it’s likely that Boardroom wouldn’t be writing a postmortem about a team that, despite a division title, had a negative point on the year even before the Giants bounced them.

But here we are.

Folks, the Vikings’ 61-year Super Bowl drought is officially the longest in the NFL. That won’t change, however, if they can’t figure things out on the defensive side of the ball quickly enough to convince their talented core to stick around.

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About The Author
Anthony Puccio
Anthony Puccio
Anthony Puccio is a Staff Writer at Boardroom. Puccio has 10 years of experience in journalism and content creation, previously working for SB Nation, The Associated Press, New York Daily News, SNY, and Front Office Sports. In 2016, he received New York University's CCTOP scholarship and earned a bachelor's degree in Communications from St. John's University. He can be spotted a mile away thanks to his plaid suits and thick New York accent. Don't believe us? Check his Twitter @APooch.