2023 Is Probably the End of Vikings Prolonged SB Window

KIrk Cousins
Dec 13, 2020; Tampa, Florida, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) huddles up with teammates against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the first half at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The 2015 Minnesota Vikings unexpectedly became quite good — in a hurry. The club won the NFC North, downing a Green Bay Packers team led by 32-year-old Aaron Rodgers, with former head coach Mike Zimmer in his second year.

Thereafter, in various styles, the Vikings have renewed all-in Super Bowl stakes each season, and yes, with four different starting quarterbacks — Teddy Bridgewater, Sam Bradford, Case Keenum, and Kirk Cousins.

2023 Is Probably the End of Vikings Prolonged SB Window

But the annual Super Bowl subscription is likely coming to an end — or at least a comma — and here’s why.

QB Uncertainty

PurplePTSD: Matt Daniels' Spicy Takes, TE Depth, the Injury Report
Sep 11, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) passes to tight end Ben Ellefson (82) against the Green Bay Packers in the first quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

Disclaimer: If the Vikings somehow draft one of the ‘Big 4’ quarterbacks at the end of April, the Super Bowl window may not need an obituary.

It’s what the Kansas City Chiefs did in 2017, rolling with Alex Smith for one more season while transitioning to Patrick Mahomes. That’s how a franchise can avoid shutting tight a Super Bowl window — drafting “the next guy” preemptively and winding down the clock with the seasoned veteran.

But the Vikings don’t really have the draft capital to trade into the Top 10 for C.J. Stroud, Bryce Young, Will Levis, or Anthony Richardson. And that’s on top of the eventual fact that two of those men will turn out as mediocre or bad performers. This happens every draft cycle; the slew of quarterbacks feels infallible in the weeks leading up to the draft, and then at least half stink or don’t live up to their potential.

Meanwhile, general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah didn’t renew Kirk Cousins’ contract this offseason. He’s waiting for something — or just clearing an exit ramp for the soon-to-be 35-year-old Cousins. And as of April 3rd, the Vikings have no escape plan for life after Cousins. Kellen Mond was supposed to perhaps fill that role, but he flamed out.

For the first time in a long while, arguably since March of 2014, Vikings fans have no idea who will play QB1 for the Vikings in 2024 — zero hints, aside from a possible seventh Cousins season. The 2023 season is firm with Cousins still in the saddle, hence the continuation of the Super Bowl window.

Yet, with no man scheduled to perform QB1 duties beyond 2023, the Vikings feel like a “figure it out when we get there” team, and that doesn’t equate to Super Bowl contendership. Like at all. It actually hints at the ‘rebuild’ noun in Adofo-Mensah’s competitive rebuild philosophy.

35 Free Agents Scheduled for 2024

Vikings Did the Madden Meme
Nov 6, 2022; Landover, Maryland, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver K.J. Osborn (17) and Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) dance during warmup prior to their game against the Washington Commanders at FedExField. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports.

You might read on the internet that the Vikings are scheduled to have “so much cap space in 2024,” which, as a slogan, is fine and dandy.

Well, that’s a numbers trick. Minnesota doesn’t have glorious cap flooding into the vault in addition to the current roster. The Vikings have a depth chart on the verge of total turnover.

Thirty-five players are scheduled for 2024 free agency. These are those players with the caveat that many will be back after 2023:

  • Ross Blacklock (IDL)
  • Blake Brandel (LT)
  • Jonathan Bullard (IDL)
  • Ezra Cleveland (LG)
  • Kirk Cousins (QB)
  • Sheldon Day (IDL)
  • Marcus Davenport (IDL)
  • Troy Dye (LB)
  • Ben Ellefson (TE)
  • T.J. Hockenson (TE)
  • Jordan Hicks (LB)
  • Danielle Hunter (EDGE)
  • Tay Gowan (CB)
  • Theo Jackson (S)
  • Trishton Jackson (WR)
  • Justin Jefferson (WR)
  • Greg Joseph (K)
  • James Lynch (IDL)
  • Josh Metellus (S)
  • Johnny Mundt (TE)
  • Nick Muse (TE)
  • K.J. Osborn (WR)
  • Brandon Powell (WR)
  • Blake Proehl (WR)
  • Jalen Reagor (WR)
  • Chris Reed (LG)
  • Austin Schlottmann (LG)
  • T.J. Smith (IOL)
  • Josh Sokol (C)
  • Khyiris Tonga (IDL)
  • Olisaemeka Udoh (RT)
  • Curtis Weaver (EDGE)
  • Benton Whitley (EDGE)
  • Kenny Willekes (EDGE)
  • D.J. Wonnum (EDGE)

Staring that many departures in the face, the 2024 Vikings could be a team in utter flux, especially if heavy hitters like Cousins and Hunter depart. Adofo-Mensah will likely re-sign Jefferson and Hockenson soon, labeling the pair as franchise stalwarts. Great — but that doesn’t do anything about the other 33 players.

As 35 players are tentatively able to hit the free-agent open market in 11 months, the team has the possibility of undergoing a total facelift. Thirty-five is a lot and significantly more than any year during the Vikings 2015 to 2023 run.

A mass exodus of more Vikings players that you know and perhaps love is scheduled for fruition next March — and that, like quarterback uncertainty, doesn’t scream “all in for a Super Bowl.”

The Run Had to End Sometime

Our Official Staff Playoff
Jan 1, 2023; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell greets players during warmups prior to the game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports.

Listen, many Vikings faithful want a total roster overhaul. They’re sick of appearing competitive each year and would rather singe the roster to smithereens and totally rebuild like the New York Jets usually do, or the Cleveland Browns did when they were the league’s laughingstock.

Adofo-Mensah has already called full rebuilds and “tanking” unconscionable practices, so that ain’t happening. However, the current Super Bowl window will close if the Vikings embark on 2024 with a rookie quarterback and dozens of free agents slip out the backdoor.

It had to happen sometime, particularly as Adofo-Mensah sculpts the roster as his own.

When Adofo-Mensah and O’Connell arrived in the Twin Cities at the start of 2022, they might’ve given themselves a two-year window to win the chip with Cousins. It sure looks like it now, based on how Cousins’ contract is playing out. If Cousins and his stinky 2022 defense didn’t deliver and 2023 is more of the same, they might believe it time to move on, shutter the Super Bowl window for a season or two, and build a roster around an unnamed young quarterback to be named later.

The Vikings have cap space aplenty in 2024, but they’re trending toward no proven QB1 on the roster, a copious amount of free agents, and the last gaps of a long Super Bowl push.

2024 is starting to look like “the rebuild year,” or at least the Vikings version of it.

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,’ and The Doors (the band).

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