4 Things We Know for Sure about the 2023 Vikings

Nov 21, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) celebrates a touchdown during the fourth quarter against the Green Bay Packers at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports.

In one day, eight months of offseason mystery concludes, and Minnesota Vikings fans begin to find out if the 2023 squad is as successful as last year’s edition.

The Vikings are expected to win 8.5 games this season per sportsbooks, an odd total for a team that won 13 a year ago.

4 Things We Know for Sure about the 2023 Vikings

And while the offseason had twists and turns, these are four things we know for sure about the 2023 team ranked in ascending order of importance (No. 1 = most important).

4. Final Days for Harrison Smith

Nov 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings safety Harrison Smith (22) warms up before the game against the New England Patriots at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Grab some tissue. This year or next is likely the last for longtime Vikings safety Harrison Smith. He turns 35 next offseason, and that’s usually the end of the line, give or take a couple of years, for safeties — especially collision-causing tyrants like Smith.

Minnesota scooped Smith out of the 1st Round of the 2012 NFL Draft, a wondrous decision that wouldn’t be undone by any Vikings fan with a magic wand anywhere. The guy is a baller, Hitman, locker room guy, and franchise cornerstone.

It hasn’t been shouted to high heavens by many yet, but Smith is winding down, so enjoy the potential swan-song season.

3. It’s an Offense-First Machine

Aug 19, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell looks on during the third quarter against the Tennessee Titans at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

The “defense-first” era of Vikings football took a knife to the stomach on April 27th, 2023, when the Vikings used 1st-Round draft capital on an offensive — not defensive — playmaker in Jordan Addison. On paper, Minnesota needed more juice on defense to improve on the league’s third-worst defense per points allowed.

But they said, “naw,” and drafted Addison, a wide receiver, fully wrapping their arms around an offense-first era of Vikings football.

It would be lovely if the defense does the Robin-Batman thing next to the offense in 2023 and beyond, but let’s not misinterpret. The Minnesota Vikings, in their current form, are emphatically a shootout-style team; it’s the only thing that makes sense after the Addison draft choice.

Points will be scored.

2. The Defense Is Younger and Faster

Aug 10, 2023; Seattle, Washington, USA; Minnesota Vikings cornerback Mekhi Blackmon (11) and Minnesota Vikings cornerback Andrew Booth Jr. (23) talk during warmups prior to the game at Lumen Field. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports.

Minnesota parted ways with Eric Kendricks, Za’Darius Smith, Patrick Peterson, Dalvin Tomlinson, and Chandon Sullivan, among others, this offseason — basically any player it felt would not improve in 2023 and beyond.

Then, cornerback Byron Murphy and pass rusher Marcus Davenport were added as replacements. The remaining holes were filled by 2022 rookies or men from the 2023 NFL Draft.

The Vikings lost gobs of defensive experience in the last eight months; it isn’t debatable. Now, we start to learn Sunday if youth, speed, and Brian Flores are more prosperous than veteran experience + Ed Donatell.

1. A Prove-It Year for Cousins

Things We Know for Sure
Aug 26, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) reacts after a game against the Arizona Cardinals at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

Rarely do quarterbacks who toss 30+ touchdowns annually hit a contract year. Such men are typically a hot, guaranteed commodity, and general managers lock them up before the end of their contract.

But not Cousins.

By the books, Cousins is scheduled to depart in free agency next March unless the Vikings bring him back for a year or two. They showed no appetite for it this offseason, implying they’re in wait-and-see mode with the 35-year-old.

If the Vikings planned to build an off-ramp for Cousins under the new brand of leadership, sans a trade, this would actually be the way to do 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,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

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