Vikings 1st Offseason Domino Could Hit at Any Minute

General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah in August of 2022 at Minnesota Vikings headquarters in Eagan, Minnesota.

The Minnesota Vikings currently own the NFL’s third-worst cap situation, a financial standing that is a recurring film every year. And at this time of the calendar, just a couple of weeks before free agency beings, the franchise enacts measures to clear cap space.

The league’s “legal tampering” phase of free agency starts in two weeks, so the Vikings first offseason domino could hit at any minute.

Vikings 1st Offseason Domino Could Hit at Any Minute

These are the possible options to expect for that event.

A Kirk Cousins Extension

Vikings 1st Offseason
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports.

Kirk Cousins has muttered multiple times his desire to retire with the Vikings. He probably means it. Now, he just has to hope the Vikings current leadership regime agrees with the objective.

Minnesota’s QB1 is under contract through the end of next year, but handsomely-paid quarterbacks rarely play on the final years of their deals. A Cousins extension for one or two extra years — on top of the one year remaining — is the most likely outcome for him and the Vikings this offseason because he provides the team its best chance to win 2023 and arguably 2024.

Extending Cousins could free up nearly $15 million in cap space for this free-agency period if Kwesi Adofo-Mensah moves the money around accordingly.

This will probably be the first offseason domino — a Cousins contract extension.

Release of an Expensive Veteran

Vikings Squander Golden Opportunity
Minnesota Vikings linebacker Jordan Hicks (58) against Green Bay Packers during their football game on Sunday, January 1, 2023, at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis. © Wm. Glasheen/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin / USA TODAY NETWORK.

If not a Cousins extension to open the festivities — this might imply the Vikings are content with letting the quarterback play out his contract as-is — the cap space still must be discovered. Releasing an expensive veteran would be the go-to maneuver.

These are the candidates:

  • Dalvin Cook (RB)
  • C.J. Ham (FB)
  • Jordan Hicks (LB)
  • Eric Kendricks (LB)
  • Chris Reed (G/C)
  • Za’Darius Smith (OLB)
  • Adam Thielen (WR)

Get ready — because a handful of those players won’t return to the 2023 Vikings. It’s absolutely inevitable.

Large Contract Extension

Explained: Fallout from Vikings Win against NYG
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Should you prefer prolonging existing relationships rather than jettisoning beloved vets, contract extensions for Justin Jefferson and T.J. Hockenson are on the menu, too, and either man could kickstart the Vikings offseason.

Jefferson is under contract through the end of 2024 — probably about the time Minnesota explores the popular and fiendishly sought-after “QB on a rookie deal” idea — and the Vikings will lock up the phenom All-Pro this offseason. The money won’t hit the books until 2025, but now is when superstars on rookie deals get rewarded.

Hockensons will fetch a huge deal, as well. His contract ends at the end of 2023. Either move could be the first “big news item” of the offseason.

An Expensive Player Traded

Game to Help Shape 2023
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports.

Theoretically, the Vikings could trade Cousins, but nothing about their demeanor or verbiage suggests that’s the action plan. More realistically, Adofo-Mensah could send Adam Thielen or Dalvin Cook elsewhere for low-round picks while accumulating capital for April’s draft and clearing cap space.

A trade would involve one of these players:

  • Dalvin Cook (RB)
  • Kirk Cousins (QB)
  • Danielle Hunter (OLB)
  • Harrison Smith (S)
  • Za’Darius Smith (OLB)
  • Adam Thielen (WR)

Again, Thielen and Cook are the common-sense candidates here. Still, the likelihood of a trade bankrolling the beginning of the offseason is low.

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,’ and The Doors (the band).

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