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Welcome to the Final Month without Vikings Football until 2023


Welcome to the Final Month without Vikings Football until 2023
Kevin O’Connell

The Minnesota Vikings preseason schedule begins on August 14th at the Las Vegas Raiders, meaning July is the final month sans football for the team until January or February of next year.

The 2022 season will feel different than the eight previous years as the franchise terminated general manager Rick Spielman and head coach Mike Zimmer six months ago. Spielman had been attached to the Vikings since 2006 and Zimmer from 2014 to 2021.

Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, a young and analytics-based economist turned football executive, took over for Spielman, hiring Kevin O’Connell about a month later from the Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams. The addition of O’Connell marks a hard pivot away from “defense-first” football fostered by the Vikings since 2011 with Leslie Frazier as head coach.

Gotta Hear It: Vikings Quote of the Day -- February 26, 2022
Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Kevin O’Connell

Based on recent stagnation, Minnesota had every reason to rebuild the roster with the possibility of trading quarterback Kirk Cousins and EDGE rusher Danielle Hunter this offseason, the two salary cap hogs. But Adofo-Mensah and O’Connell seem to want a shot at “running it back” with those two men plus a roster largely similar to 2021.

Not everything is the same, however. Adofo-Mensah concocted some noteworthy free-agent moves to address the team’s weaknesses. These men were signed in free agency:

Jesse Davis, OL (MIA)
Jordan Hicks, LB (ARI)
Nate Hairston, CB (DEN)
Andre Mintze, EDGE (DEN)
Johnny Mundt, TE (LAR)
Harrison Phillips, DT (BUF)
Chris Reed, RG (IND)
Austin Schlottmann, G/C (DEN)
Za’Darius Smith, EDGE (GB)
Chandon Sullivan, CB (GB)
Jullian Taylor, DT (TEN)

Vikings Praised for Stealthy Signing
Za’Darius Smith

Davis, Hicks, Phillips, Smith, and Sullivan (slot CB formations) are expected to start, so that’s about a 45% change for defensive starters. Smith was the splashy offseason move by Adofo-Mensah, proving to fans that the 2022 Vikings don’t intend to slither through another season with 7-9 or 8-9 expectations, as was the outcome in 2020 and 2021.

After that, Adofo-Mensah enacted a flurry of trades in the 2022 NFL Draft — some of those moves controversial — and landed 10 rookies on the summer roster.

R1: Lewis Cine, S (Georgia)
R2: Andrew Booth Jr., CB (Clemson)
R2: Ed Ingram, G (LSU)
R3: Brian Asamoah, LB (Oklahoma)
R4: Akayleb Evans, CB (Missouri)
R5: Esezi Otomewo, DE (Minnesota)
R5: Ty Chandler, RB (North Carolina)
R6: Vederian Lowe, OT (Illinois)
R6: Jalen Nailor, WR (Michigan State)
R7: Nick Muse, TE (South Carolina)

The Vikings have around $11 million in cap space if they wish to explore the summer free-agent candidacies of JC Tretter, Ndamukong Suh, Landon Collins, Odell Beckam, or Julio Jones.

And unlike the 2021 season, the Vikings upcoming schedule isn’t terribly daunting. While it isn’t a cakewalk, Minnesota plays nine home games, seven road games, and one neutral site contest in London versus the New Orleans Saints. Overall, based on 2021 win percentage of opponents, the Vikings have the NFL’s 13th-easiest schedule.

Most Vikings fans are excited about the new tandem of Adofo-Mensah and O’Connell, eager to see what a new regime can extract from Kirk Cousins. A sect of fans, though, still insists Cousins isn’t the answer. Adofo-Mensah re-upped with Cousins for an extra year in March, gluing the passer to the roster through the end of the 2023 season. Cousins even has a no-trade clause in the new contract, which was not there in 2020 and 2021.

Vegas forecasters predict the Vikings to win eight or nine games — the same territory inhabited by the New England Patriots, Philadelphia Eagles, and aforementioned Patriots.

Minnesota hosts Green Bay in Week 1 at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Vikings haven’t missed the playoffs in three years consecutively since the 2005-2007 era.

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 Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).

Rick Spielman


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