These 5 Unsung Vikings Have Earned New Contracts

The Dalton Risner
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

It will be a massive offseason for the Minnesota Vikings and their general manager, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, who mentioned that the competitive rebuild is almost over. He wants to compete sooner rather than later. But to do that, he must add some high-end talent and depth to ensure a team that is primed to play meaningful football in January.

These 5 Unsung Vikings Have Earned New Contracts

5 unsung vikings
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

Kirk Cousins and Danielle Hunter are the poster boys of this year’s free agency class in Minnesota. Both have been staples in the organization and went to multiple Pro Bowls with their purple jerseys. While financial aspects might deny their future with the franchise, some underrated (and cheaper) players also deserve a new deal.

Brandon Powell

Not many targets left for other guys when Justin Jefferson, Jordan Addison, and T.J. Hockenson are on the team, but that changed when Jefferson missed time with his hamstring injury. It elevated Hockenson and Addison to the top options, and next to K.J. Osborn, the Vikes needed one more player to step up.

These 6 Unsung Vikings Have Earned a New Contract
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports.

Would it be Jalen Nailor, a breakout candidate entering the season, or practice squad player Trishton Jackson? It was punt returner Brandon Powell who showed his skills in the clutch, catching multiple significant passes, including the game-winner in Atlanta when Dobbs-mania began.

The 28-year-old contributed 29 receptions for 324 yards and 1 touchdown. Combined with sure-handed punt returns, that has undoubtedly earned him another contract. It isn’t easy to find reliable depth receivers, and keeping Powell, who is unlikely to command a relevant salary, is a no-brainer.

Jordan Hicks

The linebacker was an afterthought when last season ended, the most obvious release candidate on the roster with close to no dead cap hit. But he stuck around with a contract restructuring, and Brian Flores’ arrival helped him have a wonderful rebound season.

Track for Defensive
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports.

He handled the middle linebacker duties, earning praise from teammates and coaches for his leadership, and he had a big impact in his best season in years, producing 107 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 1 interception, and 1 forced fumble. The veteran also scored a touchdown in the team’s second win of the season when the Bears were on the schedule. He tabulated all those numbers despite missing four games with a scary injury.

Hicks will turn 32 in June, so there won’t be crazy demand for his services, but he could lead Flores’ defense for another year. Once his athleticism declines further, Ivan Pace and Brian Asamoah can take some of his workload.

Johnny Mundt

Another forgotten player because Hockenson is one of the league’s top tight ends, and the Vikings made sure to add Josh Oliver in free agency, demoting Johnny Mundt to the TE3 role. But all he does is work hard and contribute when asked to.

David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports

Once Hockenson got hurt, the Vikings had to rely on Oliver and Mundt to make plays. Kevin O’Connell teased a Mundt emergence, and he indeed emerged, catching nine of his 17 passes of the season in the final two games. Throughout the year, Mundt gained 172 yards and 1 touchdown despite limited usage.

He is a do-it-all player who can help in the running and the passing game, and as one of O’Connell’s guys, there is a decent chance he will return for another season on a veteran minimum deal. If Hockenson is forced to miss the early parts of the 2024 campaign, Mundt could have a significant role.

Dalton Risner

The offensive line was a serious problem for years, but the Vikings have fixed it by investing year after year in the position. Risner inexplicably floated in the free agency pool when the season began, and Adofo-Mensah signed him.

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

After spending some time on the bench, he started playing in Ezra Cleveland’s absence. The Vikings decided to trade Cleveland to Jacksonville, opening the door for Risner to start for the remainder of the season.

The left guard hasn’t allowed a single sack all season, and he is a fantastic player to have in the locker room. To keep continuity upfront, he should stick around for the future. It remains to be seen if he encounters more interest on the open market than last season.

D.J. Wonnum

Marcus Davenport was the expensive free-agency addition a year ago. Because of his injuries, it was once again D.J. Wonnum who had to step up and play giant snap numbers, logging 828 snaps on defense until a torn quad muscle ended his season in Week 16.

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

He posted a career-high 8 sacks while smashing his personal best in tackles with 62. Wonnum scored a crucial touchdown versus Carolina, helping the team to win its first game of the season. In his previous three seasons, Wonnum was quite the liability in the rushing game, and his pass-rush efficiency was shaky. But he took a big step forward in Flores’ defense.

It will be his first time hitting free agency, but with Patrick Jones and Andre Carter, only two pass rushers are under contract for another season, increasing the likelihood of a return for a fifth season.

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