MINNEAPOLIS - The Minnesota Vikings are in offseason mode after a 31-24 loss to the New York Giants in the NFC Wild Card Playoffs, now two weeks ago.
It can be argued that Kevin O’Connell and Kwesi Adofo-Mensah over-achieved in their first seasons as head coach and general manager, guiding the Vikings to 13 wins, the franchise’s first division title in five seasons and earning a home playoff game. Now, they have to look ahead to 2023 and face salary cap issues. That means tough conversations are ahead with some veterans expecting a pay day.
The Vikings have 15 players entering free agency, and are currently more than $24 million over the salary cap. So who stays and who goes? Here’s a look at some of the big names.
When he was healthy, Dalvin Tomlinson clogged up the line of scrimmage. His biggest issue was health, after missing five games with a calf injury. He finished the 2022 season with 20 tackles, 2.5 sacks and one forced fumble. If they can find the right price, they should bring him back.
Patrick Peterson just finished his 12th NFL season and proved he can still play. He was among the best in the Vikings’ secondary with five interceptions, and had 71 tackles in 17 games. He’s a leader in the locker room, and the Vikings should try to bring him back. He said recently on his podcast he wants to return for 2023.
The uncertainty on Garrett Bradbury’s face at locker room clean out day said it all. For the first time in his football career, he’s not sure what his future holds. The 2019 first round pick missed five straight games this season with a back injury. Bradbury now has chemistry with Kirk Cousins, and is a valuable asset to the offensive line. The Vikings should try to find a way to bring him back.
The Vikings have had their kicker issues, not excluding Greg Joseph, but he’s more than established himself as a capable kicker. He was 40-of-46 on extra points this season, and largely only had kicking issues from 50-plus yards out. He won NFC special teams honors twice this season, and should be the kicker going forward.
The Vikings need a quarterback if Kirk Cousins gets hurt, and Nick Mullens has proven to be capable in the No. 2 spot. He went 11-of-13 for 116 yards in the second half of the season finale at Chicago, and had a touchdown pass the week before at Green Bay. The Vikings could do worse than Mullens playing behind Cousins, a lot worse.
With Cam Dantzler and Akayleb Evans missing chunks of time due to injury issues, Chandon Sullivan got plenty of snaps at defensive back. He had 60 tackles, seven passes defended and one fumble recovery in 17 games and 10 starts, but it’s a safe bet that Sullivan won’t be in the Minnesota secondary in 2023.
IRV SMITH JR.
Irv Smith Jr. was set to be the next highly-touted Vikings tight end after Kyle Rudolph, but Smith hasn’t been able to stay healthy since being a second round pick in 2019. He played in just eight games this season, finishing with 25 catches for 182 yards and two touchdowns. He had a score against the Giants in the playoffs, and it’ll be interesting to see how the offense could look next season with Smith and T.J. Hockenson, if they decide to bring Smith back.
Behind Dalvin Cook, Alexander Mattison had 74 carries for 283 yards and five touchdowns in 17 games this season. The Vikings have a decision to make on Cook, which also impacts Mattison’s future. He can be an effective runner, but can he be a lead back? In the interest of cost-cutting, the Vikings could opt to release Cook and keep Mattison.
A seventh-round pick in 2019, Kris Boyd has primarily left his mark on special teams. He had 13 tackles this season in 17 games. He forced and recovered a fumble against the Saints in London. We’ll see if Boyd is back next season.
The Vikings also have decisions to make on veterans on the defense with expensive contracts, as well as wide receiver Adam Thielen, who has a near $20 million cap hit next season. Kirk Cousins is also due $36 million next season, barring a re-negotiated deal.
The roster decisions the Vikings make over the next few months will be telling to how the 2023 season might look.