Huge but Short-Term Debate Ignites among Vikings Fans

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Arizona Cardinals
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NFL free agency begins Monday as teams re-sign existing players and pluck external ones from the league’s open market.

The Minnesota Vikings have 1-2 days to clear cap space — to the tune of $7.4 million — and are expected to add new free agents on the defensive side of the ball, in addition to perhaps re-signing players like Patrick Peterson or Duke Shelley.

Huge but Short-Term Debate Ignites among Vikings Fans

Meanwhile, after the release of Eric Kendricks and Adam Thielen, a fresh new debate among fans and pundits arose involving a familiar topic — rebuilding.

The Theory

Huge but Short
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The theory goes something like this: the Vikings got rid of Eric Kendricks + Adam Thielen and haven’t extended Kirk Cousin’s contract. Ergo, they’re plotting for 2024, not 2023. They’re seemingly content with a meh 2023 campaign to reach the new 2024 Holy Grail.

Former NFL executive Joe Banner tweeted Saturday, “Vikings fans should be excited by everything they see. It will be a rough year or two but it gives the team the best chance to get to excellence.”

ESPN’s Jordan Reid opined on the same topic, “A well needed and long overdue roster purge happening in Minnesota. Kwesi and KOC getting a chance to mold the roster into what they actually want it to be. 2024 is the goal. A team headed towards a brand new identity and lots of young pieces.”

And SKOR North‘s Phil Mackey, who has vocally yearned for a Kirk Cousins trade for years, retweeted the Reid observation with his thoughts, “Vikings potentially setting up for $90-100 million in 2024 cap space with Justin Jefferson, Christian Darrisaw and TJ Hockenson as key offensive pillars in the prime of their careers.”

These three hypotheses suggest Minnesota is mailing it in for 2023 and expecting mediocrity as a ceiling, with the esteemed and undefined promise of 2024. There’s something special about 2024 that nobody knows about yet, evidently.

Why It Makes Sense

Overrated Combine
Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and head coach Kevin O’Connell at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland, after a 20-17 win over the Washington Commanders in Week 9 of the 2022 regular season.

Although neither man has said it out loud, there’s a small chance that general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and head coach Kevin O’Connell are disillusioned with Cousins and ready to explore the “next guy” at QB1. Cousins will be the quarterback in 2023, but after that, the sky is the limit on his successor, no matter that man’s identity.

To further sculpt the franchise in Adofo-Mensah and O’Connnell’s vision — not the blueprint of Rick Spielman — the Vikings apparently use 2023 as a blasé season, eyeing 2024 as the “this is our year” new campaign.

Cousins will theoretically be gone, the team will take a stab at the quarterback of the future in the draft, and the Jefferson, Hockensons, and Darrisaws, mentioned above, will just have to suck it up and deal with losing football in 2023.

Banner said, “rough year or two.” Reid claimed, “2024 is the new goal.” Mackey referenced 2024 cap space. Per the trio, 2023 will be a forgettable year of Vikings football, which would have to be perfectly fine with Adofo-Mensah and O’Connell after a 13-win season. But, if the theory is accurate, this is what it takes to effectuate the “competitive rebuild” routinely touted by Adofo-Mensah.

Why It Does Not Make Sense

Vikings Probably Have 1 Full
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports.

Last month, the Vikings hired the man most likely to become a “one and done” defensive coordinator on the open market. If they wanted 2023 to serve as a transformational rebuild year, the club could’ve hired an assistant linebackers coach (or something similar) from the Los Angeles Rams, O’Connell’s former employer.

Do you really think Minnesota hired Flores with the assurances of a “Well, we’re just going through the motions this year, Brian” pretense? Why would Flores want anything to do with that — a man seeking to polish a resume for his return to head coaching? Hiring a top-tier defensive coordinator to effectuate a mini-tank would be baffling.

Moreover, the Vikings just won 13 games and an NFC North title. Have they convinced themselves everything about their own work in 2022 was a mirage? Teams that win 13 games in a single season rarely scorch the depth chart because they’ve decided it was all for nil. In fact, such teams typically do the opposite — improve the coaching staff and depth chart to, you know, get better.

Thankfully, this riddle will begin to fetch answers as early as next week when Adofo-Mensah signs free agents. Banner, Reid, and Mackey will be onto something if the Vikings boss signs forgettable names on bargain-bin deals. But should he sign big-name free agents to enhance the roster, the “there’s always 2024” angle be rendered false.

Too, if Cousins is extended, the 2024-not-2023 theory will die quickly, much like this ill-fated declaration from 14 months ago:

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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