4 Beloved Vikings Could Play Their Final Home Game on Sunday

5 Vikings Have Not Met
Dec 17, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen (19) celebrates the win against the Indianapolis Colts after the game at U.S. Bank Stadium. With the win, the Minnesota Vikings clinched the NFC North. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

The Vikings lost the second seed when they lost the game in Green Bay in Week 17. That loss may have caused a domino effect for the purple team. Because of the loss of the second seed, the Vikings may have to travel to California and face the 49ers in their home instead of playing them in U.S. Bank Stadium. Of course, both teams have to win their Wildcard round game first.

4 Beloved Vikings Could Play Their Final Home Game on Sunday

Since a Seahawks win over the 49ers is unlikely, the Vikings will probably only have one home game in the 2022 postseason, even when they beat the Giants on Sunday. Minnesota’s roster features some older players that are a question mark going into the future, and some of them might not return to the Vikings. Fans of the purple team could have only one more chance to watch them play.

Dalvin Cook

Second-rounder Dalvin Cook was the first Vikings draft pick in the 2017 draft. The first-round pick was traded to Philadelphia for quarterback Sam Bradford. Cook missed most of the 2017 season with a torn ACL. Before 2022, Cook missed at least two games every year but stayed healthy this season.

4 Beloved Vikings Could Play
Dec 17, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

From 2019 to 2020, Cook was an elite running back in his prime who could carry the Vikings on his back to wins a few times every season. According to multiple advanced statistics, that ability is now gone, and he is one of the worst runners in the league.

The Vikings could save nearly $8 million by cutting the veteran. He is one of the team’s leaders, and the fans love him. However, he might end up as a cap casualty. He finished his 2022 season with 1,173 rushing yards and eight rushing touchdowns — good numbers on the surface.

Cook had three huge plays this season, and those plays are making him look better than he was. Nevertheless, his touchdown runs against the Dolphins and Bills were huge reasons for the wins, as was his screen reception for a score against the Colts, a score that tied the game after the successful two-point conversion. The final result was the greatest comeback in NFL history.

Adam Thielen

Just like Cook, Adam Thielen was one of the most unstoppable players in the league for a while. He started the 2018 season with eight consecutive games with at least 100 yards, an NFL record. The duo of Thielen and Stefon Diggs came out of nowhere in 2016 but was feared in football circles for years.

Oct 30, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen (19) catches a pass against the Arizona Cardinals in the second quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Of course, Thielen’s story is not fully told without mentioning that he played college football in division two on a $500 scholarship, went undrafted after not receiving an invitation for the combine, and worked his way up to the roster by starring on special teams and the practice squad. In addition, he signed and spent his whole career with his hometown team, a team he has been a fan of his entire life.

Thielen finished the season with 70 catches and 716 yards, and six touchdowns. The numbers are way down from recent years, especially considering he didn’t miss any games. He is 32 years old, and the Vikings will look for another weapon next to Jefferson soon.

The team could save roughly $6.4 million by cutting their hometown hero, but because of his contract structure, it makes more sense to go in different directions in 2024. Many fans certainly hope for a pay cut, so they can watch their favorite player in purple for a few more years.

Eric Kendricks

The linebacker came into the league in 2015 when Rick Spielman had his best draft as Vikings GM and one of the best leaguewide in the last decade. Eric Kendricks will turn 31 years old next month. While he is still a solid player, Kendricks clearly lost a step and is no longer an elite linebacker.

The Vikings 2022 Defense by the Numbers After Week 16
Sep 19, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports.

Run defense has never been one of his specialties, but his coverage was elite. That’s where a dropoff is happening. Running with all-world athletes from the tight end or running back position or even covering wide receivers is nothing an aging body can easily do.

The Vikings could save $9.5 million by cutting the veteran after the season. His dead cap hit would be only $1.93 million, a low number. Restructuring the contract is the most likely scenario. Minnesota’s front office and coaching staff have to figure out if it’s time to move on and give the keys of the defense to rookie Brian Asamoah. Another rookie linebacker could also be the target in this year’s draft.

The speed at the linebacker position is something the 2022 Vikings lack. Releasing linebacker Jordan Hicks could save $5 million in cap space. It’s unlikely that both veterans will be back in a Vikings uniform next season.

Danielle Hunter

The edge rusher is still in his prime, and a dropoff in production was not noticeable in 2022. Hunter is back at full strength after two injury-plagued seasons with a total of only seven games played. Hunter was one of the better players in most pass-rush numbers in 2022, despite having to learn a new position. In addition to that, Hunter is an excellent run defender.

The 2022 Vikings, According to All National Power Rankings: Week 13
Nov 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Danielle Hunter. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Despite all of that, it is in question if Hunter will be back next season. He is under contract for one more year but is set to earn only $5.5 million in 2023. It’s unlikely that one of the top players in the league will play under that contract. Much more likely is an extension or a trade to a different team that will pay him a fair amount of money.

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