Beloved Former Vikings Who Left in Free Agency Are in Bad Situations

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Even after losing at the Denver Broncos on Sunday night, the Minnesota Vikings possess a 79.0% probability of reaching the postseason.

Some fans freaked out over the loss, but winning every game without Justin Jefferson and Kirk Cousins during the season’s remainder wasn’t realistic.

Beloved Former Vikings Who Left in Free Agency Are in Bad Situations

And while Minnesota has glistening playoff odds, some players who departed the club in free agency seven months ago do not.

1. Dalvin Cook (RB, Jets)

Who Left in Free
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Team Record: 4-6
Playoff Probability after Week 11:

Unfortunately for his sake and the New York Jets’ offense, Cook hit “one of those” proverbial walls in 2023. He was on deck with the Vikings for a $14 million cap hit in 2023, but Minnesota said no thanks to that proposition and released the longtime Viking in June.

Without Aaron Rodgers, the Jets’ offense isn’t good — at all — and any talk of Rodgers returning for a playoff push doesn’t make sense. New York is done, and Rodgers rushing back from an Achilles tear at age 40 is wildly bold and perhaps silly.

Cook is averaging 3.3 yards per carry this season.

2. Eric Kendricks (LB, Chargers)

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

Team Record: 4-6
Playoff Probability after Week 11:

Eric Kendricks’ 66.7 Pro Football Focus grade is commendable, but his team is heading toward a playoff-less campaign and maybe the dismissal of head coach Brandon Staley.

The Denver Broncos, Houston Texans, and Cleveland Browns keep winning games, so the Chargers’ postseason aspirations are becoming doomed.

Los Angeles has all the talent under the sun on offense and defense but cannot mesh to win games. That sure sounds like a head coach problem.

3. Irv Smith (TE, CIN)

Cincinnati Bengals tight end Irv Smith Jr. (81) walks between plays during a training camp practice at the Paycor Stadium practice field in downtown Cincinnati on Wednesday, July 26, 2023. © Sam Greene/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK.

Team Record: 5-5
Playoff Probability after Week 11:

Like Rodgers and the Jets above, the Bengals lost Joe Burrow last week, and he won’t return in 2023. In the already crowded AFC North, Cincinnati is trending as the odd team out, as former Vikings quarterback Jake Browning will take QB1 reigns in Week 12.

Smith has retrieved 14 catches for 89 yards in 2023. He never effectuated the “this is Irv Smith’s year” forecasts that folks have cooked up five consecutive offseasons.

4. Adam Thielen (WR, Panthers)

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Team Record: 1-9
Playoff Probability after Week 11:

Upon joining the Panthers in March, Adam Thielen said he ventured to Carolina because he believed it could win a Super Bowl this year.

Well, that’s not happening, but Thielen personally is performing exceptionally well. He’s on pace for 129 receptions, 1,234 yards, and 7 touchdowns. He wanted a job as a team’s WR1, and he got it. The price? A bottom-feeding football team without a 1st-Round pick in April’s draft.

The Others

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Dalvin Tomlinson (DT, CLE)
Record: 7-3
Playoff Probability: 81.7%

Za’Darius Smith (EDGE, CLE)
Record: 7-3
Playoff Probability: 81.7%

Patrick Peterson (CB, PIT)
Record: 6-4
Playoff Probability: 52.5%

Duke Shelley (CB, LAR)
Record: 4-6
Playoff Probability: 21.8%

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).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by