Why giving up on 2023 makes sense for Vikings

giving on 2023 makes sense vikings

The Vikings are fleeing the ship.

Cap-strapped Minnesota is heading for a rebuild in 2023, so the team is jettisoning standouts. The moves will likely mean a rough season ahead for SKOL Nation, but they make sense.

The defending NFC North champs have already released wide receiver Adam Thielen, linebacker Erik Kendricks and cornerback Cam Dantzler in cost-saving moves.

Outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith and safety Harrison Smith might soon head to free agency as the Vikings remain $7 million over the cap, per Spotrac.  Per ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, star running back Dalvin Cook is also on the trade block.  

At a $36.25 million salary in 2023, QB Kirk Cousins — a free agent after the 2023 season — eats up a large portion of the team’s cap  He can’t be cut as his dead money is actually higher, so the team is saddled with the 34-year-old’s contract for now.

Neither draft picks nor bargain-bin free-agent replacements are likely to come close to the production of Thielen and the others.

Minnesota, which finished 13-4 last season, is heading for a fall from atop the division. In fact, it could challenge for the worst record in the league.

The Vikings project to have $120 million in cap space heading into 2024, a figure that could increase if Smith and Cook are moved. Minnesota is essentially throwing away 2023 and taking on large amounts of dead money. 

If the team struggles this season, it could have a shot at the No. 1 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, which many expect to be used on USC quarterback Caleb Williams. If Minnesota is fortunate enough to draft him, Williams would be a ready-made replacement for Cousins.

In 2024, the Vikings would also have cap space to add free agents or players via trade and be primed for a quick bounce-back. Minnesota must factor in a significant pay increase to All-Pro wideout Justin Jefferson, but the team should still have nearly $100 million heading into 2024 free agency.

By clearing bad contracts, the Vikings are giving up on 2023. This ride won’t be fun for Minnesota fans, but if the plan works, the Vikings could be competitive for a decade.

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Publish Date:2023-03-14 07:04:03

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