Vikings Tabbed for ‘No Man’s Land’

Oct 30, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings fans look during the game against the Arizona Cardinals at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

NFL experts have encountered the damndest time trying to understand the Minnesota Vikings offseason.

Folks fling around terms like ‘tearing it down,’ ‘identity crisis, or ‘confusing’ to describe general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah’s vision.

Vikings Tabbed for ‘No Man’s Land’

And for context, when Adofo-Mensah took the Vikings big job in 2022, he described his roster-building vision like this, “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.”

Overhauled Teams
Jan 15, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah looks on before a wild card game between the Minnesota Vikings and the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

For some reason, NFL heads want the Vikings to live in an either-or box. That is — they should announce Super Bowl intentions, guns blazing, like the 2021 Los Angeles Rams, a team that traded draft capital out the wazoo to formulate a Super Bowl-winning roster. Otherwise, if Minnesota won’t do that, it should tank — or so the theory goes.

Well, Adofo-Mensah has explicitly stated he won’t pursue either option, leading to head scratches from national onlookers. In fact, CBS Sports added spicy new terms to the Vikings offseason plan this week — no man’s land.

No Man
Oct 2, 2022; London, United Kingdom; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) is pressured by New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan (94) and defensive end Marcus Davenport (92) during an NFL International Series game at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

CBS Sports’ Garrett Podell ranked every team’s offseason on Friday, and Minnesota finished as the eighth-worst, per his estimation.

Like many others, he was generally confounded by the Vikings roster planning and wrote, “Keeping both Thielen and Cook through the first wave of free agency limited their ability to improve for 2023. For a team that faceplanted against tougher competition to the point that they became the only team in NFL history to reach 12 or more wins with a negative point-differential (-3), it feels like they’ve hit their ceiling with this group. The 2023 season will be a fascinating test to see what living in no-man’s land looks like, especially for Kirk Cousins.”

Jun 14, 2023; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers wide receiver Adam Thielen (19) on the way to practice during the Carolina Panthers minicamp. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports.

Podell also opined, “The Vikings are stuck with one foot in the win-now mode and one foot in rebuild mode. Kirk Cousins, entering the last year of his contract, is throwing to the reigning Offensive Player of the Year in wide receiver Justin Jefferson in an Aaron Rodgers-less NFC North. That provides hope, but at the same time, the team released Pro Bowl running back Dalvin Cook despite him being 27 years old and not showing huge signs of slowing down.”

A couple of weeks ago, Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio opined on the topic, too, actually titling an article: A year after running it back, the Vikings are tearing it down. “Whether that’s tanking or strategic rebuilding is a matter of semantics. The Vikings aren’t prioritizing winning as many games as possible in 2023, just like the Cardinals,” Florio argued.

Justin Jefferson insulted
Aug 20, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) looks on prior to the game against the San Francisco 49ers at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

The divide between Adofo-Mensah’s actual strategy and Podell’s or Florio’s musings is straightforward. Adofo-Mensah cut ties with players who are not trending upward. That’s why men like Thielen, Cook, Eric Kendricks, and Patrick Peterson left. But for CBS Sports or PFT, those outfits evidently still believe Thielen, Cook, Kendricks, and Peterson are sitting on career resurgences.

Moreover, oddsmakers tend to side with the ‘no man’s land’ crowd. Minnesota is forecasted to win just eight or nine games this season.

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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