The Sneaky Good Aspect of the Vikings’ Offseason

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Usually when a Minnesota Vikings offseason kicks off, fans and pundits stare at the salary cap and try to determine how the franchise will get out of the red.

In the last eight years or so, Minnesota began offseasons with scarce available cap space or over the cap — and needing to restructure contracts just to have money for newcomers and rookies.

The Sneaky Good Aspect of the Vikings’ Offseason

But this go-round is different. Thanks to general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah’s salary cap management, it’s a new day for the Vikings where pinching pennies and scouring the market for bargain-bin free agents isn’t necessarily required.

The Sneaky Good Aspect of the Vikings' Offseason
Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah at the 2023 NFL Combine the Week of February 27th. The Vikings have the 23rd overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.

Remember last spring and summer when Adofo-Mensah said goodbye to Adam Thielen, Eric Kendricks, Patrick Peterson, Dalvin Cook, and other aging veterans? Well, that wasn’t because he disliked those men or felt they couldn’t contribute in 2024. Those cuts were measures to fix the long-ailing salary cap, and now, in 2024, Minnesota has newfound budgetary flexibility.

Here’s the skinny:

Vikings Cap Space:

Entering 2023 Offseason = -$24 million
Entering 2024 Offseason = $37.2 million

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That’s a $61 million difference and a glorious starting point compared to yesteryear. Of course, even with the underwater standings entering previous offseasons, the Vikings always found sneaky ways to finagle the cap, like backloading contracts or adding void years. But now that isn’t absolutely mandatory. In fact, if Minnesota wishes to employ its customary tactics — restructuring deals, asking for paycuts, adding void years, backlogging deals — the $37.2 million could climb upward of $70 million. We shall see.

So, this is how it works. This is Adofo-Mensah’s competitive rebuild. Under Rick Spielman, who was dismissed after the 2021 season, the Vikings were habitually “all-in,” renewing annual Super Bowl stakes that unfortunately didn’t work out. Minnesota hasn’t outwardly professed such stakes in the last two seasons — probably because it’s amid a competitive rebuild.

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

What’s a competitive rebuild, anyway? Adofo-Mensah defined it last March, “I think when people look at teams they sometimes do it in a very binary way. And they ask, ‘Are you either all-in or tearing down and rebuilding?’ And I don’t really look at the world that way.”

Minnesota wrapped both arms around the competitive and rebuild in 2023, finishing 7-10 while grabbing a Top 11 draft pick. The season was exciting, and the Vikings kept playoff hopes alive until the 4th Quarter of Week 18. They also fetched a fancy draft pick for their troubles. If one ever writes a book about competitive rebuilds, the 2023 Vikings season can be portrayed on the cover.

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Tennessee Titans general manager Ran Carthon chats with Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah during practice in Eagan, Minn., Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2023. © Andrew Nelles / The Tennessean / USA TODAY NETWORK.

“The way we look at it is we’re trying to navigate both worlds, we’re trying to live in today and tomorrow, or the competitive rebuild, however you want to phrase it or market it, and so I think that’s kind of how we’ve approached this offseason and our time horizons,” Adofo-Mensah added 10 months ago.

The result? Ample cap space in an offseason where the Vikings will extend Justin Jefferson, probably Danielle Hunter too — and maybe even draft the quarterback of the future.

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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