Vikings Apparently Have a ‘Big Distraction’

Jan 15, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings fans cheer during the second quarter of a wild card game against the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

The Minnesota Vikings front office, coaches, and players are jazzed about the upcoming 2023 seasons, with notable players like Justin Jefferson and Marcus Davenport telling reporters in recent weeks that the Super Bowl is the unmistakable goal.

Vikings Apparently Have a ‘Big Distraction’

But from a national media viewpoint — plus some Vikings fans — folks don’t believe it, instead completely convinced that Minnesota is using 2023 as flyover country merely to get the 2024 season underway when the salary cap is more flexible.

This week, Bleacher Report even called the Vikings current situation one of the NFL’s biggest distractions — if that can be believed.

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Sep 19, 2021; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Minnesota Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter (99) following the game against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Billy Hardiman-USA TODAY Sports.

BR’s Alex Kay called out eight of the NFL’ biggest distractions,’ and the Vikings were one of the not-elite eight. Kay insisted Minnesota is “stuck in limbo and losing veterans.”

When general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah took the Vikings job 17 months ago, he point-blank told the media and fans he would competitively rebuild the Vikings in his first few seasons, including offloading expensive contracts belonging to aging veterans while getting younger, faster, and more affordable via personnel. The problem? Nobody listens. Folks simply see Kirk Cousins as the QB1 and use words like limbo.

Nov 28, 2021; Santa Clara, California, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) throws the ball against the San Francisco 49ers during the first quarter at Levi’s Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports.

Kay defended his assertion that the Vikings are stuck in limbo, “The Minnesota Vikings appear to be in a state of transition with no clear direction after they released star running back Dalvin Cook and are reportedly considering trading elite pass-rusher Danielle Hunter. The team, coming off a respectable 13-4 campaign and its first NFC North title since 2017, looks to be regressing and may struggle to reach the playoffs again in 2023.”

Last season was the first as a head coach for newcomer Kevin O’Connell. Rather than championing his first-year efforts, most experts have stubbornly clung to a narrative that the Vikings are confused about rebuilding versus contending.

Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell at 2023 mandatory minicamp in Eagan. The Vikings won 13 games in O’Connell’s first season as head coach. He previously won a Super Bowl with the Los Angeles Rams as offensive coordinator in 2021.

Kay also touched on Danielle Hunter’s contract extension predicament, “The Vikings are now considering moving on from Hunter as well. The pass-rusher is still one of the best in the league at his position, racking up 10.5 sacks and making his third Pro Bowl appearance last year. He’s due just $5.5 million in 2023 — the final year of his current deal — but he’s skipped voluntary workouts while seeking a raise.”

Hunter presumably wants an extension north of $20 million, a fairer pay wage among his pass-rushing peers for a man of his caliber. Adofo-Mensah will either extend Hunter at a high pay rate or trade the defender for draft picks.

NFL: Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings
Sep 25, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Danielle Hunter (99) looks on before the game against the Detroit Lions at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

“While it remains to be seen if Hunter will get moved, the situation is a distraction for a Vikings team that already lost a locker room and on-field leader in Cook. If Hunter does get shipped off, this club will have a tough time repeating its regular season successes from a year ago,” Kay concluded.

Kay is basically one of the dozens peeved by the Vikings competitive rebuild. Instead of listening to Adofo-Mensah’s words about competitively rebuilding, folks attached terms like ‘limbo’ to the Vikings — and evidently coin them as ‘teams with distractions.”

In March 2022, Adofo-Mensah was asked about the all-in versus rebuild debate regarding roster-building, and he replied, “I think when people look at teams, they can sometimes do it in a very binary way. They ask are you either all-in, or are you tearing it down and rebuilding? I don’t really look at the world that way. The way we look at it is we’re trying to navigate both worlds.”

Those musings from Adofo-Mensah are all you need to understand his path. It’s not very complicated. Aging players who won’t improve at this point in their careers are leaving the franchise — while the youth movement is in motion.

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,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

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