The Vikings Are Now 1 Step Closer to Having a Super Bowl Team

Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and head coach Kevin O'Connell at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland, after a 20-17 win over the Washington Commanders in Week 9 of the 2022 regular season.

Vikings fans are still waiting for their first Super Bowl championship. The team hasn’t been back to the big game since January 1977, coming up short in the NFC title game a few times.

General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah was hired to change that, and his early moves haven’t always been popular.

The Vikings Are Now 1 Step Closer to Having a Super Bowl Team

The Vikings Are Now 1 Step Closer to Having a Super Bowl Team
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Adofo-Mensah made some significant decisions and released three longtime stars of the organization – Eric Kendricks, Adam Thielen, and Dalvin Cook. The NFL is a business, and the human aspect occasionally comes short. Fans face the harsh reality that some of their favorite players are no longer on the team.

Because it is a business, the Vikings were right to do what they did. All three players were past their primes when they were undoubtedly fantastic players. In 2023, however, they are replaceable and not good enough to leave the $24.6 million cap savings on the table. Their age has caught up to them. Cook was the latest release, and folks wondered if the Vikings are indeed forgetting the competitive part of their often-mentioned competitive rebuild.

The running back has been a crucial part of the offense and rushed for at least 1,100 yards in each of the last four seasons – the only player to do that. On the flip side, he will turn 28 in August, which is close to the end of the road for RBs nowadays, and his efficiency numbers were not good in 2022. That, combined with the $9 million cap savings, made the move easy for the GM, who is relying on analytics. Running backs are not highly regarded in the world of numbers.

There Is a Dalvin Cook Plot Twist
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Teams aren’t interested in paying big bucks to a single running back. They want to use a committee of multiple capable runners without employing a star at the position. Recent history has shown that it is the better strategy. RBs are replaceable. Franchises find dynamic rushers in the draft, even in late rounds or for cheap money in free agency.

The interesting part is that not only bad franchises do that, in fact, the successful ones do it. Kansas City is a good example. They picked running back Clyde Edwards-Halaire in the first round in 2020 but pivoted to using a committee of Jerick McKinnon, a cheap free-agent addition, and seventh-rounder Isaiah Pacheco. That committee led to another Super Bowl run.

But the Chiefs are no unicorns with that philosophy. The leading rushers of the last 13 champions in the Super Bowl had a maximum base salary of $2.5 million, and that was Percy Harvin – a wide receiver – in 2013. Nine of the 13 players even had a base salary lower than $1 million.

The list of those leading rushers doesn’t include great players but rather guys like LeGarrette Blunt, C.J. Anderson, James Starks, and Damien Williams. Minnesota got rid of Cook’s contract, and their running back group can remind one of those of the last 13 Super Bowl winners.

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It is veteran Alexander Mattison, a fine runner but not a great player by any means, and three guys (DeWayne McBride, Ty Chandler, and Kene Nwangwu) on their rookie contracts. Mattison has a base salary of $1.1 million in 2023, the highest number in the group.

Most folks view Mattison as a downgrade from Cook. He runs hard but doesn’t have the same breakaway speed that could cost the team a couple of big play scores in the upcoming season. However, it could be doubted that the worth of those is greater than the $9 million salary cap savings. The Vikings can use that money and give one of their top guys, Danielle Hunter, a raise or add another free agent who could help the team.

No matter how someone views Cook in 2023, if the objective is to build a Super Bowl-winning team, the Vikings made the correct move. 13 consecutive champions with that strategy is not a fluke.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt