Vikings GM Has 3 Problems
The Minnesota Vikings are in offseason mode, and their general manager, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah will be in his second one in charge. He’ll face some major problems to solve.
His first challenge will be to find the right defensive coordinator in collaboration with head coach Kevin O’Connell. Last offseason, he won the jackpot when he hired O’Connell as his first big move. The next few months will be critical for the future of the franchise.
Vikings GM Has 3 Problems
Lack of Cap Space
The first problem is the lack of cap space. According to overthecap.com, the purple team is $23,433,507 over the cap limit, and Adofo-Mensah has to make sure the team is under that cap when the new league year begins on March 15.
The easiest way to save cap space is by releasing players under contract. That usually weakens the team, but the Vikings have a few players under contract that didn’t meet expectations. Predicting a decline in performance, mainly because of age, is also a factor.
Eric Kendricks is a good example. The linebacker was the heart of the defense ever since Mike Zimmer and Rick Spielman added him to the roster. In 2019 and 2020, Kendricks was arguably the best linebacker in the business, but he clearly lost a step. The Vikings can save $9,500,000 by cutting their veteran. His dead cap hit is under $2,000,000, so it makes sense to part ways.
The contract of other players is a little more complicated. Adam Thielen was a feared player in his prime, and the Vikings signed him to a big deal a few years ago. However, in 2022, Thielen looked more like a random receiver and no longer like his prime self.
He is under contract for a couple more seasons with a bunch of guaranteed money. If the front office decided to move on, they would only save about a third of his nearly $20,000,000 cap hit, which makes it more likely that he’ll play for the purple team in 2023.
According to Spotrac, the Vikings save this much cap space by releasing a player:
- Dalvin Cook – $7,898,728
- Adam Thielen – $6,417,647
- Harrison Smith – $7,468,230
- Eric Kendricks – $9,500,000
- Jordan Hicks – $5,000,000
- Za’Darius Smith – $12,333,332
The front office has to either restructure or re-negotiate some contracts or release and trade some players.
Lack of Draft Capital
A second problem for Kwesi Adofo-Mensah is the lack of draft capital. The Vikings currently own only four draft selections in the upcoming draft but are projected to land another day three compensatory pick. Tyler Conklin’s departure in 2022 is projected to give Adofo-Mensah a fifth-round pick, according to OTC.
The many trades of the former Wall Street trader cost the organization a bunch of draft picks. However, no one can be mad when the return is a star tight end like T.J. Hockenson, who should be viewed as the second-round selection in the draft.
Last year, the GM traded down a lot, something that is possible again this season. The thought process is simple, teams that trade down get an extra selection but pick a little later — something that should be expected because of the limited draft picks in 2023. It will be crucial to find some contributors on days two and three. Developing the 2022 rookies is also essential for the future of the team.
The third problem is the aging roster. Many top players are older than 30, and diminishing athleticism is the logical consequence.
Quarterback Kirk Cousins will be 35 years old when the 2023 season begins. While passers nowadays can play longer than in the past, the level of play usually declines in the mid-to-late-30s. The Vikings must find his successor at some point, probably in the next few years.
Wideout Adam Thielen will be 33 when the season kicks off in September. Receivers have to rely on their speed, but Thielen lost a step, just like running back Dalvin Cook. He will turn 28 before the season opener, a near-ancient age for a player at his position. His decline has also been noticeable in 2022. Replacing him with a cheap free agent could be the way to go.
Both linebackers Kendricks and Jordan Hicks are on the wrong side of 30 years old, and the Vikings have to consider moving on from both. Star safety Harrison Smith is 34 years old and is still playing at a high level, even if it’s not prime ‘hitman’ anymore. He’s the oldest safety in the league, and his career will end soon.
Danielle Hunter and Za’Darius Smith are 28 and 30 years old. Both played fabulous football in 2022, but their age will catch up with them, and injuries have been a problem for both.
It’s possible, maybe even likely, that all of the mentioned players will be off the team when the 2025 season begins.
The purple team has to make sure to hit on a few draft picks. In addition to that, they have to insert the 2022 rookies into the lineup. Lewis Cine, Andrew Booth, and Brian Asamoah should provide much-needed youth into the defense.
Vikings GM Adofo-Mensah will have to make many tough decisions in the offseason. Some won’t make the fans happy, as they might lose some of their favorite players.
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
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