5 Reasons to Get Excited about the 2023 Vikings

T.J. Hockenson
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

So far this offseason, Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah retained 13 existing free agents, observed as nine departed to new teams, welcomed eight free-agent newcomers, and selected six men in the 2023 NFL Draft. After the draft, he welcomed 17 undrafted free agents and traded Za’Darius Smith to the Cleveland Browns.

It’s been busy.

5 Reasons to Get Excited about the 2023 Vikings

And if you’re just starting to get back into the swing of the Vikings, here are five reasons to be excited about the team in 2023, ranking in ascending order (No. 1 = most exciting).

5. A Full Year of T.J. Hockenson

5 Reasons to Be Excited
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Within five days of a trade with the Detroit Lions, Hockenson utterly changed the Vikings 2022 offense for the better. In fact, there were times immediately after his arrival when fans thought, “What did we ever do without this guy?”

Hockenson nabbed 60 receptions in 10 Vikings games last year. Imagine the chaos he can create for opposing defensive coordinators with a full offseason and offensive continuity. It’s comin’.

4. Back-Against-the-Wall Kirk

Picks Another Fight
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports.

A rarity for Cousins, at least with the Vikings, Cousins must play for his next contract. He is not financially committed to the club beyond 2023.

Cousins will turn 35 by the start of the regular season, and if no extension is reached, he’ll audition for the Vikings QB1 job in 2024 while putting tape and stats out for other QB-needy teams.

Plus, the passer rarely experiences back-to-back seasons with the same playcaller or any semblance of Vikings-themed offensive line continuity. But he’ll get both in September.

  1. Contract-year Kirk.
  2. Playcalling continuity for the first time since WAS.
  3. The same OL fivesome.

3. Balanced Playcalling

Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports.

Minnesota ran the ball the third least in 2022 per playcalling percentage, a hideous stat for a team already befallen by time-of-possession problems. In retrospect, it’s unsurprising that the former quarterback, O’Connell, wanted to throw, throw, throw. Now, though, the Vikings signed run-blocking TE Josh Oliver in free agency, unexpectedly re-upped with FB C.J. Ham, and have five good RBs (including Dalvin Cook).

The Vikings will run the football substantially more in O’Connell’s second campaign. That is a guarantee.

2. The Jefferson-Addison Billboardization of Vikings

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports. | Jan 15, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) looks on during warmups before a wild card game against the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

The Vikings do one thing really well throughout franchise history — draft WRs.

Adofo-Mensah could’ve easily used his 1st-Round draft pick last month on a defender to improve the NFL’s second-worst defense per yards allowed, but he said, “Naw.” Addison was the pick, and Minnesota heads back, on paper, to the Randy Moss and Cris Carter days for WR affluence.

You better believe Justin Jefferson and Jordan Addison will put butts in seats and introduce a new era of Vikings football to young fans.

1. Brian Flores

Brian Flores Will Have 1
Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports.

If you get down in the dumps in the next four months about a Vikings defense that didn’t seem to improve much per personnel, you’re almost required to say, “Well, they got Brian Flores.”

That’s the only saving grace.

Minnesota said goodbye to Eric Kendricks, Dalvin Tomlinson, Patrick Peterson, Duke Shelley, and Za’Darius Smith, among others, in the last 2.5 months. That leaves Flores, the new defensive coordinator, to drag a group of youngsters toward prominence. And because Flores personally is a posterchild for a one-and-done season — he deserves to be a head coach — he essentially has one year to turn the program around.

Thankfully, his resume is stellar, especially on defense.

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,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

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