ESPN’s ‘Big Prediction’ for Vikings Offseason

Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah at the 2022 NFL Combine. Adofo-Mensah joined the Vikings in January of 2022 after the departure of Rick Spielman.

The Minnesota Vikings have decisions galore afoot after the team lost in the Wildcard Round of the postseason to the New York Giants on Sunday.

In the first year with a new head coach and general manager, Minnesota won 13 games, obtained a home playoff showdown, and promptly lost. Now, the team’s leadership must decide what players are needed to re-tool and make another run in 2023.

ESPN’s ‘Big Prediction’ for Vikings Offseason

Well, ESPN has thoughts, and the sports media giant dropped a lengthy analysis this week regarding every NFL team and its offseason plans.

for Vikings Offseason
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

ESPN offered one ‘big prediction’ per team, and for the Vikings, that was getting rid of the team’s two off-ball linebackers, Eric Kendricks and Jordan Hicks. Aaron Schatz wrote about Kendricks and Hicks, “The Vikings will cut veteran linebackers Kendricks and Jordan Hicks to clear cap room to give Jefferson a Tyreek Hill-level contract extension.”

“The Vikings are $6 million in the cap hole for 2023, so they’ll need to make room if they want to make Jefferson extra happy with an early extension,” Schatz added.

Vikings Squander Golden Opportunity
Minnesota Vikings linebacker Jordan Hicks (58) against Green Bay Packers during their football game on Sunday, January, 1, 2023 at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis. © Wm. Glasheen/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin / USA TODAY NETWORK.

Kendricks and Hicks, both age 30, were still decent football players for the Vikings in 2022. However, employing two not-fast off-ball linebackers in the 2022 version of the NFL didn’t net dividends. Speed is a premium on offense, and at times, the Vikings veteran linebackers couldn’t keep up.

Jettisoning both players could begin to ease the Vikings salary cap pain, as mentioned by Schatz above. Kendricks’ cap number in 2023 is $11.4 million, and general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah could gain $9.52 million back by releasing Kendricks, with a $1.9 dead cap penalty — which is probably worth it.

Problem Emerges for Vikings
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Hicks is in a similar financial spot, scheduled to incur a $6.5 million cap hit against the Vikings books but just a $1.5 million dead cap figure if released. He’d free up an additional $5 million for Adofo-Mensah in cap space if released.

Moreover, Minnesota’s defense ranked 27th in the NFL per DVOA in Kevin O’Connell’s first year and was thoroughly exposed by an undertalented Giants offense. New York has playmakers in Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley — but that’s about it. The Vikings loss was too embarrassing — the defense too lousy — to ignore henceforth.

ESPN also predicted defensive lineman Dalvin Tomlinson won’t return, as Field Yates explained, “Tomlinson is rock solid and should command a nice salary on the open market as a gifted pass-rusher and big-body run-stuffer. Minnesota will walk a bit of a salary cap tightrope this offseason, as the team will surely be motivated to pay wide receiver Justin Jefferson on a deal that will potentially be the richest ever for a wideout.”

If Schatz and ESPN are correct, the Vikings would likely pivot to rookie defender Brian Asamoah as a starter and either a youthful free-agent linebacker or a rookie from April’s draft.

Kendricks joined the Vikings in 2015 from the 2nd Round of the draft. Hicks came from free agency in 2022.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).