The Vikings 2nd Offseason Domino — What Will It Be?

The Biggest Mistakes
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A surprise for some, the Minnesota Vikings released linebacker Eric Kendricks Monday, the shot-fired moment of the team’s offseason.

Parting ways with Kendricks saved $9.5 million for the 2023 salary cap, and more moves are on the way.

The Vikings 2nd Offseason Domino — What Will It Be?

So, what’s the second offseason domino? There are a handful of possibilities, Here they are ranked in ascending order of probability.

4. Big Extension for Jefferson or Hockenson

Vikings 2nd Offseason
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The least likely on the list regarding “what happens now,” a large extension for Justin Jefferson or T.J. Hockenson could reasonably be the next domino.

Both men will be paid this offseason and attached to the Vikings roster thereafter for 4-5 or so more seasons apiece. And sometimes when extensions are reached, the team can be creative with cap hits in the current year to alleviate some pain and enable the general manager to sign other free agents.

While Jefferson and Hockenson extensions feel more like a next-week or couple-weeks-from-now matter, don’t be totally shocked if one or both are the next news tidbits.

3. Restructure for Harrison Smith or Other Veteran(s)

1 Viking Significantly More
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Sources tell VikingsTerritory that Harrison Smith isn’t going anywhere. Whether on his existing contract or via restructuring, he’ll like remain with the Vikings during the first part of the Brian Flores era on defense.

But the cap-space situation remains — the Vikings have to surmount around a $16 million hurdle after Kendricks’ exit. Usually when a club must wiggle under the cap, releases, trades, or restructures are on the menu.

Monitor the contract of Harrison Smith, foremost, followed by Dalvin Cook, Adam Thielen, and Brian O’Neill. The “big-money guys” may accept measures where money is moved around.

2. A Kirk Cousins Extension

NFL: New England Patriots at Minnesota Vikings
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Yes — the move that will drive about 20% of Vikings fans bonkers.

Teams rarely let proven QB1s hit the final year of their contract. Don’t look now, but Cousins is about to enter the last year of his extension from 2022. It is unclear if Kwesi Adofo-Mensah is content letting it ride with Cousins, meaning 2023 could be his swan song in purple.

If he wants more Cousins for longer, now is the time to extend him — before free agency commences next week. Adding more years to Cousins’ current deal can free up between $15 and $23 million in cap space. For a cash-strapped team, that sounds glorious.

This is perhaps the most interesting Vikings storyline in March because if they “do nothing,” 2023 may be Cousins’ last hurrah in the Twin Cities.

1. A Release of Hicks, Ham, Cook, or Thielen

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.

The most likely next step — the release of another player like Jordan Hicks, C.J. Ham, Adam Thielen, or Dalvin Cook. Chris Reed could walk, too, but his cap savings are teensy compared to the others.

If Adofo-Mensah releases all those players — Hicks, Ham, Thielen, and Cook — the Vikings would save nearly $20 million and be “out of the red” by sundown.

The clear takeaway here? More releases are coming; it’s just a matter of when and if they are next on the offseason itinerary.

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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