Vikings’ Reason for Optimism Is a Strange One

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Minnesota’s division rivals have been elated with their weeks. Green Bay and Detroit pulled off fascinating victories in the playoffs. For the Lions, it was the first win in the tournament in three decades, while the Packers apparently found their next franchise quarterback. Chicago, meanwhile, holds the first overall pick and will presumably draft highly-touted passer Caleb Williams.

Vikings’ Reason for Optimism Is a Strange One

reason for Optimism Is a Strange One
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For Minnesota, the silver linings are not as obvious, especially coming off a 7-10 season in which the team failed to defend the division title and couldn’t make a trip to the playoffs. The season fell apart after starting 6-4, with Kirk Cousins on IR and Joshua Dobbs’ magic dwindling.

Overcoming adversity with some skeleton crews on Sundays was the mantra for Kevin O’Connell’s operation, which continued to shoot itself in the foot by committing costly turnovers.

There are some reasons to look positively into the future, even after a disappointing season like this. Justin Jefferson and Jordan Addison shape up to be a wonderful receiver duo, and T.J. Hockenson will be back on the field after overcoming his knee injury.

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And whoever is under center will be protected by Christian Darrisaw and Brian O’Neill. On the defensive side, Brian Flores appears to return to the franchise for at least another season, as he’s not gaining any steam in the head coaching cycle.

But Thomas Valentine from Pro Football Focus offers a different reason for optimism for the purple franchise:

A competitive roster that needs its quarterback back: The Vikings showed a lot of competitive spirit in 2023. After starting 1-4, they responded with three straight wins before losing Kirk Cousins to a season-ending injury. It would have been fair to write off Minnesota, but the team never quit, finishing with a 7-10 record despite a revolving door at quarterback.

The defense looked reinvigorated under Brian Flores, and the offense is full of playmakers. If the Vikings re-sign Cousins in the offseason, they’ll likely walk into 2024 with justified optimism.

Referring to a player no longer under contract as the reason for optimism is a weird concept. But if Cousins indeed is re-signed, it should also be questioned if he can be that guy, coming off a ruptured Achilles tendon in his age-36 season.

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After 88 regular season games in six years since signing with the Vikings, Cousins, a steadily excellent player for the Vikes, is slated to be a free agent in March. The Vikings have roughly two months to find common ground with their longtime passer.

Both parties have stated their interest in a continued relationship but have also mentioned that they won’t sign any deal on the table. Cousins wants a contract structure that gives him long-term security, while the team wants to protect itself from a potential decline from the veteran.

A much better reason for optimism is that the Vikings have the previously mentioned offensive cornerstones in place, paired with an offensive-minded head coach. All of that combines to create a perfect place for a young quarterback who could or even should be the target with the 11th overall pick.

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J.J. McCarthy, Bo Nix, Michael Penix, Jayden Daniels, or trading up for one of the two top guys, Williams and Drake Maye, could fill the void Cousins leaves in case of a divorce between him and his franchise. If the Vikings find the right guy to steer their offense, the unit will be one of the league’s best for years to come. That should be the reason for optimism in Minnesota.

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