The Top 5 Items Learned from Vikings 2023 Offseason

after week 16
Nov 13, 2022; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) runs with the ball against the Buffalo Bills during second half at Highmark Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports.

The 2022 Minnesota Vikings failed to capitalize on a wonderful 13-4 record in head coach Kevin O’Connel’s first season, losing in the Wildcard Round at home to the mediocre New York Giants.

The Top 5 Items Learned from Vikings 2023 Offseason

Accordingly, general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah effectuated a rather vivid offseason blueprint for the short and long-term, continuing to build the club in his vision.

So, with training camp five weeks away, these are the top five items learned during the offseason, ranked in ascending order of importance (No. 1 = most important).

5. Aging Veterans = No Thanks

The Top 5 Items
Jan 1, 2023; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen (19) during warmups prior to the game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports.

The Vikings parted ways with all of these men: Cameron Dantzler (CB, Bills), Eric Kendricks (LB, Chargers), Patrick Peterson (CB, Steelers), Adam Thielen (WR, Panthers), Dalvin Tomlinson (DT, Browns), Duke Shelley (CB, Raiders), Irv Smith (TE, Bengals), Kris Boyd (CB, Cardinals), Chandon Sullivan (CB, Steelers), and Za’Darius Smith (OLB, Browns — Trade).

That’s a lot.

The club effectuated its own version of No Country for Old Men and wasn’t shy about it. Younger and more affordable players were prioritized.

4. Offense, Offense, and More Offense

Need Big Seasons
Apr 27, 2023; Kansas City, MO, USA; USC wide receiver Jordan Addison with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell after being selected by the Minnesota Vikings twenty-third overall in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft at Union Station. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

Listen, the 2022 Vikings ranked 27th via defensive DVOA, 30th in points allowed, and 31st in yards allowed. Then, they said sayonara to all of those players listed above.

Surely they’d choose a defensive player in Round 1 of the draft? Nope.

The offense-first head coach, Kevin O’Connell, was allowed to do offense-first things this offseason, and no better example exists than the Addison draft choice.

On paper, Minnesota needed more beef of defense, but it scoffed at that idea and got more affluent on offense.

This isn’t your father’s Zimmer Vikings.

3. Run Ball More — Just Not with Dalvin Cook

Makes It Sounds
Sep 19, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Alexander Mattison (2) on the sidelines against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports.

The Vikings signed an extra tight end for run-blocking purposes in Josh Oliver to kickstart free agency. They drafted DeWayne McBride in April when they didn’t really need another running back. Adofo-Mensah decided not to pay Dalvin Cook the big bucks. And players have outwardly professed that running the ball more frequently is on the menu.

RB1 Alexander Mattison said to at OTAs, “We all knew the run game was an area of improvement we needed, so coming into this year, there’s more emphasis. Being in Year 1 in this offense, it was something that throughout the process is learning new things, so that’s a year of foundation that we have, can look back on that at what we need to correct and do well, what we don’t do as well and improve. It’s definitely been a little more emphasis.”

Somebody in Eagan recognized more balance playcalling was needed. It’s on the way.

2. ‘Competitive Rebuild’ Is Real

The Vikings Will Stay Close to Home in 2023
Feb 28, 2023; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo‐Mensah speaks to the press at the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports.

It irks many folks, but the Vikings are bringing Adofo-Mensah’s ‘competitive rebuild’ promise to life. Some fans want the team to ‘tank’ for a high draft pick, whereas others believe the only way to win a Super Bowl is totally tool up like the 2021 Los Angeles Rams, mortgaging future draft picks.

Adofo-Mensah lives in the middle of both camps.

The young executive said 14 months ago, “We’re all aligned on what our vision is and how we see the needs of our team this year, next year, and overall our whole time horizon. I think when people look at teams, they sometimes do it in a very binary way. And they ask, ‘Are you either all-in or tearing down and rebuilding?’ And I don’t really look at the world that way.”

“The way we look at it is we’re trying to navigate both worlds, we’re trying to live in today and tomorrow, or the competitive rebuild, however, you want to phrase it or market it, and so I think that’s kind of how we’ve approached this offseason and our time horizons going forward,” he stated.

Through roster moves, Adofo-Mensah is actionizing his words to a tee, booting aging players and onboarding + promoting youngsters.

1. Last Ride, on Paper, for Kirk

Aug 11, 2018; Denver, CO, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) celebrates his touchdown pass to wide receiver Stefon Diggs (14) (not pictured ) in the first quarter against the Denver Broncos at Broncos Stadium at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports.

There are no guarantees that 2023 will be Kirk Cousins’ final season as a Viking, but if the team planned on scripting his last ride, this is the way to do it.

Minnesota could’ve added a year or two onto Cousins’ existing deal anytime between February and April, but they did not. Cousins then told reporters at minicamp that he and the organization would revisit extension talks in March 2024.

This equates to Cousins’ swan song in Minneapolis, as the new leadership regime presumably plans to identify and draft its quarterback of the future — soon. Barring a mega performance from Cousins in 2023, Year No. 6 in purple is likely his last.

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).

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