The Minnesota Vikings are in a sticky situation. As it stands, the team is already $12 million over the cap for next season, and that’s before they even attempt to re-sign any of their 19 free agents. So, what can the team do, or what should they do? Below is my offseason plan that plans for the future while positioning the team for present-day success.
Mike Zimmer, Rick Spielman, and the Vikings ownership (aka the Wilfs) must make some tough decisions in the coming months. The team is dead last in cap space (of any team in the NFL) for 2020, so these are the options I see available:
- Let as few free agents walk as possible, restructure and backload contracts to free up some money and make another run at the Super Bowl with the same core
- Let some free agents walk, cut/trade a couple of big-name players, spend any available money on free agent offensive linemen and hope to be a playoff team in 2020
- Let most free agents walk, cut or trade several big-name players, accumulate draft picks and save money while going into full rebuild mode
I think it would make the most sense for the team to go with option number two. Allow me to elaborate:
Option one would be incredibly difficult to pull off. The Vikings have a salary cap wizard in Rob Brzezinski, but even he would struggle to free up the kind of money it would take to re-sign most of Minnesota’s high profile free agents. Even if it were possible, perhaps by extending Kirk Cousins and backloading his contract, or restructuring several veterans, I think it would be a bad call.
As much as I love coach Zimmer and his defensive legion, he has sent basically the same cohort into battle for five years straight and been unsuccessful in getting to the big dance, aka the Super Bowl. As much as we hate to admit it, fan favorites like Xavier Rhodes, Linval Joseph, and Everson Griffen are starting to age, and I think more emphasis should be put on investing in the future Minnesota Vikings than trying to preserve the old gang.
Minnesota’s management should also be cautious not to swing the pendulum too far. Is this team going to change during the offseason? Almost certainly. Should Spielman scrap it, sell out, and build something brand new? Absolutely not. It’s not time to commit to a full rebuild, at least not yet. Despite what some may say, there is still a window of opportunity open for the Vikings, and they have plenty of talent to make another playoff run next year. Even our own fans like to rag on the team, but the Vikings have breached the postseason three times in five years, and that’s largely thanks to the continuity and leadership the team has in its older players.
It’s important to keep veterans at certain positions, especially those where age is less of a factor (in my opinion, those positions may include safety, linebacker, or interior offensive line). So, option two seems like the obvious choice to me. To be specific, here are some of the things I would do this offseason as the Vikings general manager (more important moves have been bolded):
- Cut or trade Linval Joseph to create cap space
- Cut Xavier Rhodes to create cap space
- Cut or trade Everson Griffen to create cap space
- Cut Riley Reiff to create cap space
- Cut Pat Elflein to create cap space
- Let Trae Waynes walk
- Let Mackensie Alexander walk
- Let Andrew Sendejo walk
- Let Ameer Abdullah walk
- Let Dakota Dozier walk
- Let Sean Mannion walk
- Let Kentrell Brothers walk
- Let Marcus Sherels walk
- Let Jayron Kearse walk
- Let Laquon Treadwell walk
- Re-sign Anthony Harris
- Re-sign Dan Bailey
- Re-sign Britton Colquitt
- Re-sign Rashod Hill
- Re-sign Brett Jones
- Re-sign Stephen Weatherly
- Re-sign CJ Ham
- Re-sign Eric Wilson
Draft Priorities in Order of Importance
- Left Tackle
- Wide Receiver
- Defensive Line
- Left Guard
- Backup Quarterback
- Determine if Stefon Diggs WANTS to stay in MN
With this plan, the Vikings are losing five key defensive players, but retaining breakout safety Anthony Harris. He’s proven to be a quick learner and has a high football I.Q., so he should be a top priority. And, as mentioned earlier, Safety is a key position on defense that I believe can be played at an older age. Re-signing Stephen Weatherly also makes a lot of sense, as he will be inexpensive compared to Everson Griffen and is starting to hit his stride on the defensive line. He has also been touted as one of the smartest players on the team.
As for the offensive line, this plan would go into action with the intent of making either Dru Samia or Brett Jones the starting left guard, and focusing draft capital on a left tackle of the future to replace Riley Reiff. I think it’s too risky to attempt to move Reiff to guard this late in his career. The Vikings have attempted it in the past with players like Mike Remmers, and it just ended up hurting two positions.
As for the offense, assuming Diggs is willing to enthusiastically stay, this keeps almost the same skill players in town for Kirk Cousins to target. I think it is also more important than people think to retain CJ Ham, and not just because I’m also a Duluth native. If it weren’t for Ham, Dalvin Cook would not have had as fruitful of a season. As a fullback, he will also be relatively inexpensive.
On special teams, the Vikings finally found some consistent kicking and punting, so Britton Colquitt and Dan Bailey should be retained if possible.
Overall, the team would look a bit different and certainly be younger, but some change may not be a bad thing as the Vikings continue to claw at the Lombardi. This would be a nice first step towards a new era of Vikings football, but it still keeps enough of the experienced core together to make the 2020 postseason a realistic goal. Who knows how much of my plan Spielman will follow, but I’m excited to see how this all unfolds.