No, the Vikings Aren’t Blowing It Up — For Now.

Explained: Fallout from Vikings Win over New England
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

In recent weeks and months, much has been said about the Vikings offseason moves. Folks all over the place on national and social media claim that the purple team is blowing it up. They are supposedly getting rid of everyone who can play. A team solely focused on the future and totally ignoring the present. But that’s not the case, and here’s why.

No, the Vikings Aren’t Blowing It Up — For Now.

Blowing It Up — For Now.
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports.

The Vikings made big waves whenever they actually committed to a move. Releasing Adam Thielen, Dalvin Cook, and Eric Kendricks in one offseason would’ve been unthinkable a couple of years ago. But it is 2023. None of the three was worth an absurd salary number. While they all played at a somewhat fine level in 2022, their last season with the team, none of them was a consistent difference-maker.

Cook had three outstanding big play touchdown plays and showed flashes of his prime self, but overall he hasn’t been more than average. His huge volume and subsequent huge stat lines don’t change that.

Thielen struggled to capitalize off Justin Jefferson’s double-teams, and Kendricks was part of a bad defense that struggled the most in the middle of the field, where he lined up. He wasn’t the only guy to blame but was part of it.

Minnesota Vikings cornerback Byron Murphy spent four seasons with the Arizona Cardinals, a 2nd-Round draft pick. He was welcomed to the Vikings from free agency in March 2023.

The three departures don’t move the needle, even if some see them as the obvious proof for a tank job. Za’Darius Smith was a decent player in 2022 was regressed in the second half of the year when he was banged up. Marcus Davenport replaced him, who should be a downgrade but not a fatal one. Patrick Peterson was replaced by Byron Murphy, a much younger player who should be able to step in and be a replacement, maybe even an upgrade, considering the veteran’s late-season struggles.

On the other hand, the Vikes left the organization’s core untouched. Thielen, Cook, and Kendricks were part of that core for years, but they are not irreplaceable anymore. That core includes Justin Jefferson, Christian Darrisaw, Brian O’Neill, Kirk Cousins, T.J. Hockenson, Danielle Hunter, and Harrison Smith. All of them are still under contract for the 2023 campaign.

A team that involves those players will never be a bad team in the NFL, no matter how good or bad their teammates are, so the fantasies of some that the Vikes will only win a handful of games or could end up having a high draft pick should be immediately shut down.

Why Has the Vikings Pass Defense Faltered Lately?
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

Of course, the injury bug could hit the team, but that is unpredictable. Regression is also possible, and aging players like Smith and Cousins could go the Kendricks route and decline to become replaceable players. Besides Smith, who is no longer an elite defender, Cousins hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down and is still the same-old quarterback.

While players can always drop off the list, the purple team already has the next guy waiting to jump on it. The aforementioned Murphy is a candidate. He has excellent potential and could become a shutdown corner — the hope and desire of the organization and fans after three years of suspect CB play. First-round pick Jordan Addison is another promising player, but it depends on how quickly he can acclimate to NFL football.

That core of players will remain untouched, but one of them could be the exception. Hunter has been a popular candidate for trade rumors in recent weeks, especially because he didn’t attend the mandatory minicamp in an understandable contract dispute. Players want to be paid what they are worth, and he is currently not paid like a Pro Bowler.

Long story short, the Minnesota Vikings made some changes. A few of them were significant, but the team’s core was left intact. While the supporting cast of those seven players is important, they are the driving force to win games.

Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

A Hunter trade would change things, and that opinion should be reevaluated, which is why he is the most important personality in Minnesota in the upcoming weeks and months. Trading away the unquestioned top defender would warrant the question if the organization is actually closer to the rebuilding part than the competitive one of their often claimed competitive rebuild.

That strategy can be easily explained, even if folks argue that they don’t understand it. The philosophy of the Vikes is that they want to transform the roster. It needs to be younger, faster, better, and without the expensive salaries of aging players. The crux of the matter is that the franchise wants to do that while remaining competitive. They don’t want to blow up the roster and trade every player of worth away for draft picks just to be hopeful that those draft picks turn into good players — players like Jefferson, Darrisaw, and O’Neill. Ironic.

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports.

It is a strategy that helped other teams in the past. Who can recall the rebuilding phase of the Chiefs in the last decade? They were always good under Andy Reid and then took the risk to trade up for a quarterback, and boom — they are annual Super Bowl favorites. Bill Belichick’s Patriots haven’t entered a rebuild, either. Of course, some teams did it the other way, the Bengals come to mind, but there’s no guarantee that is indeed the better option. The Jets and the Lions have been rebuilding for decades and have crazy playoff droughts to show for it.

Quarterback Cousins is a microcosm of the competitive rebuild. The Vikings know he’s not elite, but he is what keeps them competitive during the rebuild. They’ll move on at some point, possibly next year. They try to get younger, cheaper, and better at the position without doing anything that hurts the team short-term, like getting rid of the starter and handing the key to Nick Mullens, which would destroy all aspirations to be competitive.

The Vikings clearly favor the Chiefs and Patriots way. Keeping the good players around and supporting them by finding new players and an excellent coach. Another wrinkle: neither the Patriots nor the Chiefs have found their legendary quarterback at the top of the draft, which shows the lottery the draft really is, especially at the QB position.

The organization’s leadership should trust their offensive-minded head coach, a former NFL quarterback, to evaluate the QBs in the next few drafts to find someone he’s sold on and then trade up to get him, no matter the costs.

Tearing the team apart is not what the Vikings have done, and it is not something the organization will do anytime soon. It is simply not their philosophy; it has never been. Adofo-Mensah’s words should be trusted until he proves otherwise.

Lottery Ticket QB
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

He said in the 2022 offseason: “When people look at teams, they sometimes do it in a very binary way. They ask, ‘Are you either all-in or tearing down and rebuilding?’ And I don’t really look at the world that way. The way we look at it is we’re trying to navigate both worlds. We’re trying to live in today and tomorrow, or the competitive rebuild.”

And that is exactly what he and the organization are doing. They don’t want to go 3-14, no matter how much some parts of the fanbase desire that, for some reason. The team’s base or core is still intact, and that’s how the Vikings want to operate. Then add a couple of players a year, hope some drafted players hit, find the future quarterback, and win.

That is the plan, and nothing Adofo-Mensah has done or said in the last 17 months has implied anything else. It is not complicated or confusing. Folks just don’t want to believe his words and actions.

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