Vikings Will Begin Offseason with 2 Glaring Needs

Draft Plan Just Got
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The 2023 offseason proved to be tumultuous as the Vikings parted ways with three longtime players when they released Adam Thielen, Eric Kendricks, and Dalvin Cook, and they hired a new defensive coordinator.

In 2022, ownership dismissed Mike Zimmer and Rick Spielman, beginning a new era for the organization. 2024 could be another stormy year for the purple team, considering that some key players will be free agents.

Vikings Will Begin Offseason with 2 Glaring Needs

The potential departure of brilliant defensive coordinator Brian Flores would be a significant loss if he lands a head coaching job. Outside of that, no substantial changes in the coaching staff or the front office are expected, but the roster could look a lot different in 2024.

Vikings Will Begin Offseason with 2 Glaring Needs
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Two of the best players on the team are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents in March after long stints with the purple team, resulting in a pair of glaring needs. The Vikings could lose quarterback Kirk Cousins and pass-rusher Danielle Hunter in free agency.

Both play at premium positions at a high level and might look for a final big payday. Of course, Cousins should have a market as a quarterback playing at a top-ten level in most years. However, coming off a torn Achilles at age 35 (36 in Week 1), the demand could be limited.

Vikings QB Situation
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The way all parties–Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, Kevin O’Connell, and Kirk Cousins–have talked about the situation implies that they would like to continue their work relationship in 2024. But the general manager must decide if he wants to continue to pay at least $30 million for a player with the previously mentioned age and health problems.

Alternatively, there is the draft where the decision-makers could find their successor, someone who is younger, cheaper, and has the potential to develop into a player of the same caliber without any risk of decline. Drafted players are never guaranteed to be good, regardless of their reputation entering the draft, making the move from Cousins to one of those players risky.

Adofo-Mensah’s call will be–if he wants his QB1 back for another year–how much is it worth, and for how long does he want him back? It is possible to sign Cousins for one year for $30 million, draft a QB in the same offseason, and head for a divorce in 2025. But the veteran QB can decline that proposal if a different franchise offers him a better long-term deal. At this point, all options are on the table, and none can be ruled out as there are too many variables.

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The situation around outside linebacker Hunter is more straightforward. He’s playing extremely well and hasn’t missed a game in two seasons. 2023 has been his most dominant season so far in his career.

With the increased impact of the passing game in the NFL, it is crucial to have someone who can get after the quarterback, and Hunter is one of the best in the business. He is also fantastic against the run, making him the perfect edge defender in the NFL. He brings speed, power, and technique and ranks second on the sack leaderboard, just half a sack behind T.J. Watt.

How Far Can Danielle
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Jake Browning (6) is sacked hard by Minnesota Vikings linebacker Danielle Hunter (99) in the second quarter of the NFL Week 15 game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Minnesota Vikings at PayCor Stadium in downtown Cincinnati on Saturday, Dec. 16, 2023. © Sam Greene/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK.

A problem could be his salary demand, as Hunter likely commands an annual pay of $25-30 million, ranking him in the top five at his position. While that is certainly deserved, the Vikings once again must make sure if they want to tie that much money to an aging player. Hunter turns 30 during the 2024 campaign.

The future of those two athletes will play a major role in February’s and March’s headlines for the purple team, and they decide how much cap flexibility the team has and how much of a need the two premium positions really are.

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