Vikings “A Move or Two Away” from Contendership per ESPN

Gets the CNN
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Most NFL pundits tend to be confused by the Minnesota Vikings’ foundational “competitive rebuild” strategy, expressing bewilderment about the team not outwardly tanking or pushing all chips into the middle of the table for a Super Bowl push. Some like a team’s trajectory in “either-or” buckets.

Vikings “A Move or Two Away” from Contendership per ESPN

The Vikings’ leadership has said for two years that it’s hoping to thread the needle and “live in both worlds” per team building, like the Kansas City Chiefs in 2016-2017 or the Buffalo Bills in 2017-2018.

A Move or Two Away
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

Well, this week, with a rare tip of the cap to understanding the strategy, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler recognized Minnesota could be a move or two away from contendership. He ranked all NFL teams by contender tiers, and the Vikings lived in one called Stuck in the Middle … But A Move or Two Away.

Fowler explained, “The first order of business is pretty clear-cut, and one the entire league is watching: Whether or not to re-sign Kirk Cousins. Minnesota will attempt to sign him. Coach Kevin O’Connell and Cousins seem to have a good thing going. But Cousins and his agent, Mike McCartney, have proved deft negotiators over the years, so anything feels possible here. If they can’t bring him back, moving up in the draft for a QB comes into play.”

Voice Suggests Justin
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

A decision on Cousins’ future should be around the bend within the next three weeks. Free agency begins on March 11th with “legal tampering,” and folks should know by that date if Cousins will remain a Viking or hit the open market.

“Paying Justin Jefferson should be an easy call. One potential hurdle: where the top of market lies. Tyreek Hill’s four-year, $120 million deal includes a $43.9 million, non-guaranteed base salary in 2026, which the Dolphins will most likely never pay,” Fowler continued about the stakes of the Vikings’ offseason and extending Jefferson’s contract.

Draft Analyst
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Minnesota has stated for over a year its desire to re-sign Jefferson for the long haul, but at some point, the deal actually has to involve pen to paper.

Fowler concluded, “Here’s to guessing Jefferson will try to hit or surpass the $30 million threshold without such back-loading. The Vikings could be in the market for a tight end due to T.J. Hockenson’s lengthy rehab on a surgically repaired knee. Adding secondary and pass-rush help in free agency or the draft will help the defense.”

the QB to Avoid
Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy looks to pass against Iowa during the first half of the Big Ten championship game at Luca Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Ind. on Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023.

Generally speaking, Fowler is correct. Minnesota is a bold offseason away from completing its competitive rebuild, and if it nails the draft choice of the future quarterback — that’s a big if — the Vikings can contend in 2024 and beyond. The franchise could also do both: re-sign Cousins for a year, two, or three, and use its 1st-Round pick on a quarterback to watch and learn behind Cousins.

The other teams living in the Vikings’ contender tier per Fowler? The Indianapolis Colts and Seattle Seahawks.

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,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

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