3 Departed Vikings from 2022 Roster on Track for Playoffs

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The Minnesota Vikings conducted a busy offseason months ago, saying goodbye to several long-term veterans and welcoming youth + affordability to the roster.

As a club, Minnesota is 7-7 entering Week 16, with a 42.2% of reaching the postseason, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI).

3 Departed Vikings from 2022 Roster on Track for Playoffs

Most of the men who left the team encountered either personal performance hardship (e.g., Dalvin Cook) or wound up on middling or losing teams (e.g., Adam Thielen).

Departed Vikings from 2022
Los Angeles Rams cornerback Duke Shelley (26) celebrates a fumble recovery against the Green Bay Packers during their football game Sunday, November 5, 2023, at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis. Wm. Glasheen USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin.

Excluding cornerback Duke Shelley of the Los Angeles Rams because he rarely plays, these former Vikings appear on track to play in the postseason. They’re listed alphabetically.

1. Irv Smith (TE, CIN)

Cincinnati Bengals tight end Irv Smith Jr. (81) walks between plays during a training camp practice at the Paycor Stadium practice field in downtown Cincinnati on Wednesday, July 26, 2023. © Sam Greene/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK.

Smith has 115 receiving yards in 12 games this season as a Bengal, so he’s not doing too much in nudging Cincinnati to the postseason. But it’s a team sport, so Smith gets the nod here.

The Vikings cut ties with Smith last offseason at the expiration of his rookie deal, no longer needing the once-promising playmaker after trading for T.J. Hockenson. Smith then signed a smallish deal with Joe Burrow and Co., but his production hasn’t translated into much.

After five seasons, it’s safe to say most Vikings fans were wrong about Smith’s eventual breakout season. It never happened.

2. Za’Darius Smith (EDGE, CLE)

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Za’Darius Smith is doing the thing where a pass rusher has a great season that doesn’t reflect on statsheets. He’s played 57% of all Browns’ defensive snaps in 2023 but has logged only 3.5 sacks. That isn’t much for a starting EDGE rusher.

His 76.2 Pro Football Focus grade is noteworthy, though, so Smith is doing something right. Like Minnesota, Cleveland has spun wildly on a quarterback carousel, somehow keeping its season afloat at 9-5. Barring a meltdown, the Browns will reach the postseason, while Smith and the next guy hope to forge a Super Bowl path.

3. Dalvin Tomlinson (DT, CLE)

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Perhaps the one guy who left in free agency that the Vikings would really love to have right now, Tomlinson is doing Tomlinson things in Cleveland.

He’s as consistent as ever, banking 66.6 PFF score through 14 games and helping to anchor Cleveland’s best-in-the-league defense.

Tomlinson has also played every game in 2023. He was too expensive for the Vikings last March — four years, $57 million — but the Browns could afford him, and he’s making the large contract worthwhile.

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.