Vikings GM Has 4 Main Problems to Solve
After signing Justin Jefferson’s extension, which should occur before too long, Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has a full plate this offseason.
The young executive has been on the job for two years, revamping the Vikings roster from head to toe, with the lone exception of QB1. Only 11 players are scheduled to be under contract in 2024 compared to when Adofo-Mensah took over in January 2022.
Vikings GM Has 4 Main Problems to Solve
Meanwhile, Adofo-Mensah mentioned earlier this month that his team will soon shed “rebuild” from his competitive rebuild strategy, meaning this offseason must be efficient and fruitful.
On the whole, these are the four main problems that Adofo-Mensah must solve this offseason, ranked in ascending order (No. 1 = most important).
4. Enhance Defensive Personnel
During this offseason, the Vikings risk losing Danielle Hunter, Marcus Davenport, Jordan Hicks, and arguably Harrison Smith to free agency. That’s four starters — or 36% of the starting defensive lineup.
Of course, Hunter is likely to return — he has said for months that he wishes to remain a Viking for life — and Hicks + Smith should be easily gettable for a reunion. However, Minnesota’s improving defense could still stand to sign some heavy-hitters like Christian Wilkins (DT, Miami Dolphins), Bryce Huff (EDGE, New York Jets), or La’Jarius Sneed (CB, Kansas City Chiefs).
Minnesota’s defense climbed to 11th per defensive DVOA in 2023, up 13 spots from a 24th ranking in Kevin O’Connell’s first season. No matter what, Brian Flores’ defense will probably be formidable in 2024, but the more talent — the better.
3. Fix the Ground Game
The Vikings have several running back under contract in 2024:
- Ty Chandler
- Alexander Mattison
- Kene Nwangwu
- DeWayne McBride
But is that enough to get better? The Vikings’ ground attack ranked 27th per DVOA, the same spot it placed in 2022. Put bluntly, Minnesota’s rushing game did not improve one iota in 2023. And that was after an offseason where all the Vikings’ leaders said ad nauseam that enhancing the ground game was a priority.
Whether firing up a smarter scheme, signing a free agent like D’Andre Swift, or drafting a Top 3 RB prospect in the draft, Minnesota can’t simply rank 27th per rushing DVOA in 2024 and hope the offense will be efficient.
2. The Need for EDGE Rushers
These are the Vikings’ outside linebackers under contract for next year:
- Andre Carter II
- Patrick Jones II
This is not good, at least not in late January. Indeed, Hunter will probably return on a three-year deal or so, but if he does not, EDGE rusher would move to the top of Minnesota’s priority list, maybe even replacing quarterback.
If the Vikings re-up with Hunter — fabulous. But they’ll still need one or two more EDGE defenders, presumably from free agency and the draft. Thankfully, Adofo-Mensah owns the 11th overall pick and has a 2nd-Rounder this year, and a productive rookie outside linebacker can be chosen with one of the picks.
But beyond belief, the Vikings can’t skimp at the EDGE spot.
1. The Path Forward at QB
The Vikings’ front office must decide if re-signing Kirk Cousins is wise, whether they should draft a rookie quarterback with high-round draft capital, or both. They could also explore a trade for Justin Fields, for example, but that feels like a longshot.
The most important aspect of the Vikings’ offseason — so much so that not much else matters until they get this choice right — is solving the quarterback riddle in Year No. 3 of Adofo-Mensah’s rebuild. If that’s recommitting to Cousins, so be it. The team should only do that if it believes in its heart of hearts that it can win the Super Bowl in 2024.
Otherwise, the other mammoth stakes apply to the rookie quarterback selection. Nailing that draft pick will determine Kevin O’Connell’s employment status henceforth and set the tone for Vikings football over the next 3-5 years. Should Adofo-Mensah get the pick wrong, Minnesota will return to the Christian Ponder era of 2011-2014 (with no Adrian Peterson). Hopefully it finds a Justin Herbert or Josh Allen-like prospect, setting sail on a new era with comfort at QB1.
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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).