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Offseason Overview: Minnesota Vikings’ Challenges and Decisions for 2023

The 2023 season has just ended, and on March 14, the 2023 campaign will open its doors. Touchdown Actu therefore takes this opportunity to offer you an overview of the different franchises during the offseason. Which players to keep and cut? Which free agents to extend? Which recruits to observe? Here are some ideas, franchise by franchise. In the spotlight today, the Minnesota Vikings. You will find the files for each team on this page.

How frustrating this season was for Kevin O’Connell’s men. After a failed start, the Vikings started to believe again, until their playoff dreams were shattered at the same time as Kirk Cousins’ Achilles heel on the lawn of Lambeau Field.

Josh Dobbs was an illusion for two games. Then the Minnesota franchise crashed. In the last seven matches, the purple have won only one match, for six defeats.

After the disappointment, the Vikings are now turning towards an uncertain future. Quarterback of the franchise since 2018, Kirk Cousins ​​is not sure of extending his adventure in Minnesota. Key man in the defense, Danielle Hunter is also at the end of her contract.

As for several years, the place on the salary cap is not very high and Kwesi Adofo-Mensah will have to make difficult choices. Will he succeed in convincing his best elements to continue in Minnesota or will he lose them all? Are we heading towards a change of regime?

The captains

1. Justin Jefferson (WR)

2. Christian Darrisaw (LT)

3. T.J. Hockenson (TE)

The star of the team doesn’t change, it’s still Justin Jefferson. So, yes, the team did very well in his absence. But it remains the main threat. Having played only 10 games, the 2022 offensive player of the year managed to once again exceed the 1,000 yard mark. His last game in Detroit, where he approached 200 yards, shows that he is in good shape. At only 24 years old (25 in June) Justin Jefferson still has good years ahead of him.

Behind, it would have been logical to see Kirk Cousins ​​and Danielle Hunter, but the two players are no longer under contract. We therefore find Christian Darrisaw who continues to be the sure value of this offensive line. Although he missed two more games due to injury, the Vikings left tackle once again proved invaluable in protecting the four quarterbacks he saw pass this season.

Before his injury, TJ Hockenson was statistically the best tight end in the league. Finally he finished, within 24 yards, with the same performance as Travis Kelce. With 960 yards and 5 touchdowns, the former Lions is coming off his best career season. Unfortunately for him and the Vikings, his knee injury at the end of the year will greatly disrupt his preparation for the next season. His participation in week 1 of 2024 is also uncertain.

The undesirables

1. Harrison Smith (S)

2. Dean Lowry (DE)

How heartbreaking to put Harrison Smith at the top of this list. In Minnesota, since his selection in the 2012 draft, the safety no longer has the influence he may have had in the past. He has another good statistical season, including 93 tackles, 3 sacks, 3 forced fumbles and 3 passes defended. But visually, Smith looks like his 35-year, 12-year NFL career is starting to take its toll. By releasing him from his contract, Minnesota would save almost $8 million on its payroll. Unless the player decides to say stop himself. After the final game of the season, Smith hinted that retirement was an option.

For Dean Lowry the situation is radically different. Arrived in Minnesota last year from Green Bay, the defensive end should bring depth to the Vikings pass rush. In 9 games, he only made 14 tackles, for 1 fumble recovery and no sacks. His complete lack of production should convince Minnesota to make him a free man again. His cut will allow the Vikings to recover 4.5 million.

The summer man

Kwesi Adofo Mensah (General Manager)

This may already be his last chance. Arriving 2 years ago in Minnesota, at the same time as Kevin O’Connell, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has not yet convinced. In his first year, he could have picked up Kyle Hamilton. Instead, he preferred to go back in the draft, and ultimately select Lewis Cine. Two years later, the difference in success between the two players is abysmal.

In the 2023 free agent market, major signing Marcus Davenport turned into a flop. In its “plus” column we can note the selection of Jordan Addison who has already shown, from his rookie year, his great qualities as a receiver. But one success out of 16 players drafted is not much.

Now, given the important work this offseason represents for Minnesota, Adofo-Mensah has the opportunity to prove he can be the man for the job. Among the first things to manage, the extension(s) of Kirk Cousins ​​and Danielle Hunter.

In addition to these two executives, the general manager of the Vikings must also take care of the star of the franchise. Justin Jefferson reaches the end of his contract in 2025 and Minnesota will therefore seek to extend it before the start of the next season. A delicate operation since Jefferson will most certainly claim a salary equivalent or even higher than that of Tyreek Hill. We will also have to convince him to stay in Minnesota. And for that, we will have to bring him a quarterback other than Nick Mullens.

The main free agents

1. Kirk Cousins (QB)

2. Danielle Hunter (DE)

3. DJ Wonnum (DE)

4. K.J Osborn (WR)

5. Jordan Hicks (LB)

Others : Marcus Davenport (DE), Dalton Risner (OG), Oli Udoh (OT), Brandon Powell (WR), Greg Joseph (K), Joshua Dobbs (QB), Cam Akers (RB), Chris Reed (OG), James Lynch (DT), Khyiris Tonga (DT)

This has already been mentioned several times. Kirk Cousins ​​and Danielle Hunter will be free at the beginning of March. Worse for the Vikings, both players have “void” years on their contracts. In total, Cousins ​​and Hunter will be worth more than $43 million on the payroll in 2024, while potentially no longer playing for Minnesota.

In addition to Hunter, the Violets could also see their second defensive end fly to other skies. At 26 years old, DJ Wonnum is coming off his best career season. For his fifth year in the league, the fourth round of the 2020 draft could well take advantage of his recent form to raise the stakes.

Used to being the third receiver on the team, KJ Osborn could have taken advantage of Jefferson’s injury to highlight himself. But his year 2023 was the worst of his young career. Drops, duels lost in key moments, Osborn clearly did not do what was necessary to convince the Vikings to extend him.

Finally, Losing Jordan Hicks would leave a hole in a group of linebackers little provided. Despite a leg injury that left him on the sidelines for 4 games, the former Eagles finished third best tackler in his franchise. While he will be 32 years old at the start of next season, his experience could help the development of promising Ivan Pace.

The top 5 needs

1. Quarterback

2. Defensive end

3. Defensive tackle

4. Guard

5. Running back

Minnesota can’t start next season with Nick Mullens and Jaren Hall. Whether through the open market or the draft, the Vikings must recover a quarterback capable of making Justin Jefferson shine.

The defensive line is the second big project this offseason. Whether inside or outside, the current situation is catastrophic. Among the players under contract, only Harrison Philips (DT) looks like a starter. There are currently only 3 defensive ends under contract. Among them, only Pat Jones II managed a sack in 2023. In a defense guided by Brian Flores, a big blitz fan, adding players capable of putting pressure is a priority.

Ed Ingram and Henry Byrd are the only two guards under contract. If the first named started 15 games in 2023, the second has never set foot on an NFL field.

The Vikings were one of the worst teams on the ground in 2023. 29th in number of yards and fumbles, last in touchdowns, Minnesota’s running backs were disappointing. Extended last year to take over from Dalvin Cook, Alexander Mattison showed he doesn’t have the shoulders of a number 1. Despite his participation in 16 games, he did not score a single touchdown on the ground.

Target

Christian Wilkins (DT)

Strengthening the interior of the defensive line is one of the priorities this offseason for the Vikings. Among the free players, Christian Wilkins appears to be a very solid solution. He is also an old acquaintance of the defensive coordinator of Minnesota. It was in fact under Brian Flores, when he was head coach of the Dolphins, that Wilkins was selected in the draft by Miami.

According to the ranking of PFF, he is the 23rd best player (out of 131) at his position in 2023. He was 9th in 2022 and 6th in 2021, when he was still under Flores’ management. A regression which can be explained by a decreasing number of tackles: “only” 65 in 2023 compared to 89 in 2021. But it was last year that he exploded his number of sacks. Nine times he managed to put his hands on opposing quarterbacks, more in one season than in the previous three.

The problem for Minnesota is cost. The Vikings have holes to fill at many positions. The remaining available space on the payroll is too low to fill them all with major players. Another pitfall, the Dolphins could choose to pose their tag on Wilkins. But this seems unlikely, given the cost of such an operation for the Florida franchise.

New blood

J.J. McCarthy (QB)

With the eleventh pick, Minnesota could turn to the most valued position in American football. Whether to replace Kirk Cousins ​​or to learn behind him, one or two years, JJ McCarthy could be the lucky one. Holder of Michigan since 2022, recent winner of the national championship, McCarthy notably shone with the precision of his passes (72.3% in 2023).

He was certainly little exposed, in an attack favoring ground play. Less use which can explain less “flashy” statistics than the other big quarterbacks who present themselves in the draft. But when we needed to call on him, McCarthy was there. In the end, he finished his last college season with 2,991 passing yards for 22 touchdowns and only 4 interceptions.

In the 21st century, Minnesota has only twice selected quarterbacks in the first round. And we cannot say that Christian Ponder (twelfth choice, 2011) and Teddy Bridgewater (thirty-second choice, 2014) met the expectations placed on them. If McCarthy is indeed the player called for by Adofo-Mensah, let’s hope for him and the Vikings that he enjoys more success.

Other possible choices: Jared Verse (DE), Byron Murphy II (DT), Laiatu Latu (DE), Bo Nix (QB)

2024-02-13 11:00:56
#Intersaison #Minnesota #Vikings #simple #revolt #revolution

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