The 2022 Minnesota Vikings may lose in the 1st Round of the postseason — or they could win the Super Bowl with one of the wildest teams in franchise history. That’s where we’re at in evaluating the team’s efficacy through 17 weeks.
No matter what happens this month or in February, though, the team will enter the 2023 offseason in familiar territory with a customary problem — limited cap space.
It’s the same song with a usual melody and similar lyrics: Minnesota ranks near the bottom of the business for available cap dollars. Of course, general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah will conduct measures before free agency begins to wiggle numbers around, but heading into the offseason, these are the teams with the direst cap situations:
- Saints = $ -53.9M
- Buccaneers = $ -42.1M
- Titans = $ -18.5M
- Chargers = $ -8.7M
- Vikings = $ -6.6M
Vikings Will Enter 2023 Offseason with Familiar Problem
And this shouldn’t be fingerpointed at Adofo-Mensah as a “him” problem. This is the ball of wax the young executive inherited from the former leadership regime. The Vikings hired Adofo-Mensah after moving on from Rick Spielman about one year ago, so the new bossman will need a few years to mold the cap into a budget of his liking.
Just as Minnesota will endure the all too familiar “we have no money” issue, familiar topics will be on the agenda:
- What to do with Kirk Cousins’ contract?
- What to do with aging veterans’ contracts?
- Who are the splashy free agents to target?
Cousins will be 35 years old when the 2023 season kicks off, so even the most ardent of Cousins fans probably realize it’s time to start thinking about an escape hatch. He’s under contract for one more season, has a no-trade clause, and typically re-works his contract in March to add one more year on the ledger. Does Adofo-Mensah add another year onto Cousins’ contract, committing to the passer through the end of 2024 instead of 2023? If so, it’s likely to cost around $40 million per season.
After the annual “Cousins debate,” new headscratchers exist — what is the plan for large contracts held by older veterans like Adam Thielen, Dalvin Cook, and Eric Kendricks? None of the three perform at peak form anymore but remain vocal leadership presences in the locker room. Altogether, the three tabulate a cap hit of about $46 million in 2023. Truth be told, that’s their net worth [in terms of on-the-field output] from 2019 or 2020.
Finally, Adofo-Mensah will inevitably sign a couple of big-name free agents like Za’Darius Smith last year. Where does the money arrive for those acquisitions — and who are the players?
When he landed in Minnesota last January, Adofo-Mensah began talking ad nauseam about his “competitive rebuild” philosophy, where the Vikings remain relevant while rebuilding the roster on the fly. If you’ve witnessed the team’s operations for over five years, you’ll know the Vikings never rebuild. Now, they employ a general manager who seems opposed to a from-the-ground-up rebuild. A traditional Minnesota offseason is likely afoot, one where the club re-tools rather than burning the roster to ashes.
Limited cap space, the Cousins debate, finagling bloated deals — welcome to a Vikings offseason, folks.
Oh, and the Vikings will have to pay Justin Jefferson about $30-$35 million per season, but those numbers don’t hit the books until 2025. However, the chats will start this offseason cycle, too.
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 Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).