Did the Vikings Get Younger? Here Are the Numbers.

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Dec 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah looks on before the game against the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

The Minnesota Vikings had a fantastic 2022 campaign, at least in the regular season, before the lone postseason contest was a major letdown.

Entering the offseason, the Vikings and general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah faced many questions as he looked at a significant problem with the cap space — or lack thereof. He also had no second-round draft pick, which limited the impact his second draft class could have. At the end of the offseason, we know more about the organization’s future.

Did the Vikings Get Younger? Here Are the Numbers.

Did the Vikings Get Younger? Here Are the Numbers.
Feb 28, 2023; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo‐Mensah during the NFL combine at the Indiana Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

Some kind of rebuild was inevitable, but Adofo-Mensah has always claimed it would be a ‘competitive rebuild,’ which means he tries to overhaul the aging roster but wants to stay in the mix at all times. Many observers think parting ways with those aging players is a problem, but it was necessary. If the most important players are declining and still getting paid like elite players, that only leads to misery instead of the promised land.

The Vikes had the third-oldest defense in 2022 and the eighth-oldest team in general, according to Bill Barnwell on Twitter. It was time to change that. That process is a long one; one of the oldest teams won’t suddenly become one of the youngest. It takes time and a few decent drafts. However, it is essential to start at some point, and the Vikings did that in the 2023 offseason.

The following picture shows the Vikings starters in 2022 and the projected starters in 2023 – and their age in Week 1. The average age is in red at the bottom.

Some of the chosen players are certainly debatable, especially on defense. Andrew Booth is in the mix to start at cornerback and Lewis Cine at safety, and it could be Jay Ward or Josh Metellus in the slot. There’s also a chance that James Lynch or Jaquelin Roy will clinch a starting spot on the defensive line. Most of those alternatives would make the team even younger. The defense shows 12 players because both the 3-4 base defense and a nickel cornerback are often-used in today’s NFL.

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Apr 27, 2023; Kansas City, MO, USA; USC wide receiver Jordan Addison on stage 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.

Intriguing is the new offense, even though it barely got any younger. The major upgrade in terms of age is obviously the addition of Jordan Addison, who takes the place of Adam Thielen in the lineup. Besides quarterback Kirk Cousins, no other player will be older than 28 in Week 1. The core guys, Justin Jefferson (24), T.J. Hockenson (26), Brian O’Neill (27), and Christian Darrisaw (24), can stay together for another half-decade.

The Vikings’ next move is to find a replacement for Cousins. Despite the possibility of extending his contract, Cousins is turning 35 in August and nearing retirement. As time waits for no man, inevitably, a new quarterback will eventually take his place within the next few years. If the Vikings can discover a new franchise quarterback through the draft, they can enjoy long-term continuity on offense.

A little different is the defense. Former GM Rick Spielman hasn’t drafted a single 2023 defensive starter between 2016 and 2020. That lack of new youthful talent led to an aging unit. It was inevitable. Camryn Bynum stopped the bleeding in 2021. Because of those drafting issues, the team has to sign free agents to fill the holes, and those are usually at least in their mid-to-late 20s.

Top player Harrison Smith is coming close to the end of his career. He agreed to a pay cut to stay with the Vikings and is the oldest safety in the league. Danielle Hunter will turn 29 in October. The two are the top players on the defense. Free agent signings Byron Murphy and Marcus Davenport have the skills to join them.

Lewis Cine Pitched a Shutout vs. Lions. And Not in a Good Way.
Aug 20, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings safety Lewis Cine (6) warms up before the game against the San Francisco 49ers at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

Adofo-Mensah has been trying to add some young talent to the unit since he took over for Spielman in 2022 – with mixed success. His top draft picks in 2022 – Booth and Cine – are no more than fighting for starting gigs in a suspect secondary. Brian Asamoah succeeds the departed Eric Kendricks. It is almost a safe bet that at least one, maybe even two, 2022 or 2023 draft picks will start at cornerback.

The defense has become younger by over a year on average, but there is still much room for improvement. It is now the responsibility of the younger players to develop into skilled NFL athletes. Although the offense may maintain continuity, significant changes should be anticipated for the defense in future offseasons.

Despite the roster getting younger by 0.74 years on average, it requires more action before Adofo-Mensah can quote Nikola Jokic, the star of the Denver Nuggets, and say: “The job is done. We can go home now.”

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt