Vikings Made One of the League’s Top Offseason Acquisitions in 2023

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

The Minnesota Vikings entered the 2023 offseason with many unknowns. Would the team pivot towards the rebuild phase of their so-called “competitive rebuild” or reload the roster to push for a title without many resources at their disposal?

Vikings Made One of the League’s Top Offseason Acquisitions in 2023

Well, they did what they have always said. They stayed somewhere in between. Adding Marcus Davenport is certainly not a move that implies the intention to throw away the season.

Part of that competitive part of the competitive rebuild is to address the team’s weaknesses. While the offense wasn’t perfect, and there are some ways to get better, the weak link of the 2022 Vikings was certainly the defense.

The unit allowed the third-most points and the second-most yards in the league. They also allowed the third-most yards per play, ranked 31st in passing yards allowed, and gave up the most penalty yards in the league.

Top Offseason Acquisitions
Minnesota Vikings Head Coach Kevin O’Connell introduced new Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores from the TCO Performance Center on February 15th, 2023. Flores coached for the New England Patriots, Miami Dolphins, and Pittsburgh Steelers before joining the Vikings in 2023.

The disastrous unit needed an overhaul, and the decision-makers took action. Defensive coordinator Ed Donatell was fired after only one season with the organization and replaced by Brian Flores.

Cody Benjamin from CBS Sports put together a list of offseason moves he expects to make the most significant impact in the upcoming season, and the Vikings’ DC change made it.

His immediate impact may not be felt as much as, say, Vic Fangio with the Dolphins. That’s because, unlike Miami, Minnesota didn’t exactly operate this offseason as if it’s planning to make a title run in 2023, preferring to part with pricey veterans rather than welcome them. Still, Flores represents a total philosophical shift for the Vikings “D,” which sat back and allowed opposing offenses to dictate games in 2022. He figures to instill an attacking mindset that should at least keep opponents guessing.

Cody Benjamin

The Vikings indeed parted ways with some veterans. Eric Kendricks was let go after a down year. He is on the wrong side of 30, and the decline in athleticism impacted his play on the field. General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah decided he is not worth as much as the $9.5 million in cap savings.

The 2022 Vikings Season Ends
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Cornerback Patrick Peterson had a fantastic start to the 2022 campaign but slowed down later in the year. The postseason game against the Giants was one of his worst. Apparently, the Vikings anticipate a further slide. The future Hall of Famer signed with the Steelers. Za’Darius Smith was traded to the Browns because of a contract dispute, and he joins Dalvin Tomlinson there. He signed a huge contract, too much for the Vikes.

Despite the departures of some key players, the personnel might not even be worse than in 2022. Byron Murphy was signed to replace Peterson. He is a much younger player and now has the opportunity to become a true number-one CB. Edge rusher Davenport will play in place of the departed Smith. He is a freak athlete who never lived up to his potential, but the Vikings bank on that to change.

At Kendricks’ linebacker spot, it will be Brian Asamoah, a first-time starter. Some growing pains can be expected, and he is a mystery early in his career. The three new guys have a lot of upside but are risky bets.

Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores in Miami Gardens, September 15, 2019. © Allen Eyestone via Imagn Content Services, LLC.

No matter the changes in the locker room, the most significant change is the addition of Flores. Donatell ran an underwhelming scheme that allowed opponents to pick whatever they wanted to do. He sat back in coverage and used his “bend-don’t-break” approach – and it was bad. They bent, and they broke.

Flores is a different play-caller, as he wants his squad to be aggressive and force the other team to make mistakes. It is not guaranteed that they will indeed make those mistakes, but the proactive approach is a nice change. He is famous for drawing up many blitzes.

Aggressiveness is the word that every Vikings player mentions asked about Flores and the new scheme. Harrison Smith responded to the question about what he likes most about the new defense with: “The aggression of it.”

Rookie cornerback Mekhi Blackmon said, “(It is) aggressive, he puts pressure on the quarterback, and he has people covering by themselves. That’s kind of what I did in college.”

The players seem to enjoy having Flores, and while the defensive will not suddenly turn into the 2017 Mike Zimmer unit, it should be less frustrating because of the proactive strategy.

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