Vikings Purging of the Roster Continues to be Painful

The Vikings purging of the roster continued this week, with some fan favorites being released. Adam Thielen and Eric Kendricks were released as the team looks to create salary cap space for the 2023 league year. The release of these two players was gut-wrenching for many Vikings fans.

However, this was always going to happen. Fans and analysts alike thought this was possible after Kwesi Adofo-Mensah took over as the general manager in the 2022 offseason. Although, they decided to run it back to see what they had on the team.

It is difficult to argue with this decision considering they won 13 games. Yeah, yeah, they lost in the playoffs to the Giants and were frauds. Regardless, most organizations would and should be content with that season.

That said, Kwesi and the front office appear to be making the right choice for the organization’s future in the 2023 offseason. Players like Thielen and Kendricks, while still having quite a bit to offer, were obvious players for a pay cut or release. Their level of play is still good enough to be in the NFL, but not at the price tag the Vikings were paying them.

Purging of the Roster
Jul 28, 2022; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks (54) during training camp at TCO Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

The worst part for fans is that this purging is just beginning. Za’Darius Smith requested his release from the team, there are rumors of a Dalvin Cook trade, and SKOR North’s Darren Wolfson has indicated that the Vikings and Harrison Smith are trending toward a release.

“At noon central time on Friday afternoon, signs point to the Vikings releasing Harrison Smith.”

All of this sounds scary as a fan, but it needs to be done. According to Over The Cap, the Vikings are still $7 million over the cap. Therefore, there need to be more releases. If Za’Darius, Harrison, and Dalvin were all released or traded, in Dalvin’s case, they would save another $27 million and head into free agency with $20 million to spend.

However, they are going to have significant roster holes to fill. How exactly will they be able to fill those roster spots with only $20 million?

Purging of the Roster Should Not Worry You

Overrated Combine
Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and head coach Kevin O’Connell at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland, after a 20-17 win over the Washington Commanders in Week 9 of the 2022 regular season.

Before you panic about how the Vikings don’t have money, you need to take a step back and breathe. When considering the salary cap, you can’t just look at the current year’s available dollars. You need to look at 2024 and 2025.

Take a look at the cap availability if all of the previously discussed releases and trades come to pass:

  • 2023 – $20 million
  • 2024 – $176 million
  • 2025 – $243 million

The available dollars in 2024 and 2025 are eye-popping. With all of this cap space, they can still make more with additional restructures and extensions. The Vikings have the option to be very active in free agency as long as they backload many of the deals. Below is a little brainstorming session I completed to show just how active they can be:

Do not marry yourself to any of the players I listed here. Kwesi and the front office have a much longer list than us. Additionally, as free agency opens next week, players from other teams will probably be released as well.

Regardless, the Vikings have significant holes all over the roster. The cornerback room desperately needs reinforcements, as they only have four corners on the roster. They need a WR2 to pair with Justin Jefferson and might need another edge defender.

By backloading many contracts in 2024 and 2025, they can attract plenty of quality players and be a contender in 2023. Of course, many people hate the idea of backloading, but this is the reality of where the team stands. They need bodies in their locker room.

If they want to be competitive, and everything they have said points in that direction, do not be shocked to see them doing this over the next month or so. More importantly, understand that the team has all the money they need in future years to make moves and still sign Justin Jefferson to the largest wide receiver contract in NFL history.

Mitch Massman is a lifelong Vikings fan. His first heartbreak was the 1998 NFC championship game. His full-time job is as an economic development professional in rural Minnesota. He fantasizes about the Vikings winning a Super Bowl one day, but until then he will write about the Vikings. Follow him on Twitter @skol_vikings3