The New Guy Isn’t Interested in a Rebuild
The Vikings’ strategy has been a divisive topic in the 2023 offseason. Many folks in both media and the fanbase suspect a rebuilding phase as the team moved on from some veterans. Eric Kendricks, Dalvin Cook, Adam Thielen, Za’Darius Smith, and Patrick Peterson are gone. However, all of them are at least 30 years old, with the exception of Cook, who will turn 28 in August, which could be considered old for a running back in today’s NFL.
The New Guy Isn’t Interested in a Rebuild
In the eyes of many spectators of the NFL, there are apparently only two approaches to roster building. It is either all-in or rebuild, so the Vikings’ way confuses them. Vikings fans who pay attention to the words of general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah — and actually believe him — know he doesn’t view the world that way.
The GM said at the beginning of his tenure: “I think when people look at teams, they sometimes do it in a very binary way. And they ask, ‘Are you either all-in or tearing down and rebuilding?’ And I don’t really look at the world that way.”
And you better believe him because that is exactly what he has been doing all offseason. Of course, he got rid of some aging players, but none of them will be helpful on their expensive contracts in 2024 and beyond. That is the rebuilding part of his competitive rebuild.
The competitive part, however, was the hire of Brian Flores, who certainly isn’t interested in spending his time with an organization that is bound to stink for years to come, and keeping the core of the team together. Adofo-Mensah could’ve shipped Kirk Cousins somewhere to get some draft capital back, compared to keeping him for a year and potentially losing him for nothing in return. Yet, he kept his passer which gives the Vikes a solid floor.
The additions of some free agents who just scream win-now are another sign. Marcus Davenport and Byron Murphy won’t need years of development to reach their primes. They are both already good players and will immediately help with the defensive overhaul.
Defensive end Davenport, especially, isn’t feeling like doing the rebuild thing. Tom Pelissero from NFL Network asked him during OTAs about his expectations for the 2023 Vikings, and he responded: “I only got one expectation. That’s the Super Bowl. And so, from there, it’s one of those things where we’ll just have to see. My point is Super Bowl, and then we’ll see.”
Vikings team reporter Tatum Everett asked Davenport after the conclusion of OTAs about how he feels about his decision to join the Vikings: “It felt like the right choice at the time and the reflection now is, shoot, we’re trying to win the Super Bowl. That’s where my mind is.”
He is not thinking about throwing a year of his career away on a team fighting for the first overall pick. The defender will be an important puzzle piece in Brian Flores’ new defense, as every decent defense needs a good pass rush and players to set the edge against the run. Davenport is the man for the job. Brad Spielberger from PFF confirmed that in March.
Since he entered the league in 2018, Davenport’s 17.8% pass-rush win rate and 13.9% pressure percentage are both top-20 marks among edge defenders, and he’s also earned a very respectable 82.1 run-defense grade for his career, which ranks 16th over the span.
Davenport has five straight campaigns grading above 70.0. The issue is that he’s yet to log 600 snaps in a single season. At the end of the day, top-20 edge defenders against the pass and run don’t reach free agency often, and while his injury list is long, it doesn’t include any devastating ligament tears.Brad Spielberger, PFF
The Vikings have a rare one-two punch of edge defenders that are both excellent in run and pass defense. Danielle Hunter is in the midst of a contract dispute, and there are a few reasons why trading him away makes sense, and everything is possible at this point. But if they keep him, the duo can be a huge reason for optimism.
Optimistic is also Davenport because of his new defensive coordinator. When asked about Flores, he started to rave about him and his fit in the unit: I think I fit because my best play is probably with violence. I would say I still have to grow my game from B-Flo’s (Brian Flores) and just the overall chemistry of the defense. It seems like we’re going to have that much freedom that is really gonna let me just lose.”
Don’t let anyone convince you about a rebuild because the team moved on from a few guys way past their primes who weren’t worth their contracts. The 2023 Vikings still have talent. Even if it is unlikely in 2023, the players are here to chase a Super Bowl and not Caleb Williams, the potential first-overall pick.
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