MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - The Minnesota Vikings’ season is over after a 7-10 finish and missing the NFC Playoffs for the first time under Kevin O’Connell and Kwesi Adofo-Mensah.
That front office, led by Adofo-Mensah, now has some very difficult offseason decisions ahead with as many as 20 players who could become unrestricted free agents in March. A major factor in many of those decisions hinges on whether the Vikings can get a long-term deal done with Justin Jefferson, who is set to make $19.7 million in 2024.
So among the big-name pending free agents, who stays and who goes?
Kirk Cousins signed with the Vikings before the 2018 season and has been in Minnesota for six years. He led the NFL with 2,331 passing yards and 18 touchdowns before going down Week 8 at Lambeau Field with a torn Achilles. He was playing at an MVP level, and after seeing Joshua Dobbs, Jaren Hall and Nick Mullens play while he was out, Cousins is unlikely to take an injury discount. He’ll want at least two more years guaranteed, and it’s in the Vikings’ best interest to keep him in Minnesota. In a perfect world, Adofo-Mensah brings him back and the Vikings use their first-round draft pick on their next quarterback.
Danielle Hunter might be the Vikings’ most difficult offseason decision. He wants to be back, and they want him back, but it won’t come cheap. He held in at training camp to get a new deal for 2023, then backed it up with a career-high 16.5 sacks, 23 tackles for loss and four forced fumbles. Keeping Hunter in Minnesota depends on where the front office wants to prioritize its money, but it’s difficult to see him with the Vikings in 2024.
Jordan Hicks had a crazy year, starting 13 games and missing four after suffering compartment syndrome in his right shin. He still finished with 101 tackles, 61 solo tackles, one sack, four tackles for loss and two fumble recoveries. He’s the heart and soul of the defense, and has the green dot duties. He’s highly-respected in the locker room, and the Vikings will certainly put in the effort to bring him back.
Dalton Risner started 11 games and played in 15 after the Vikings lost Oli Udoh to injury, and traded Ezra Cleveland. Risner thought he would get a call in free agency much earlier, but as he says, God’s plan sent him to Minnesota. A good locker room guy who became a fan-favorite quickly, it’s hard not to see him back in Minnesota for 2024.
Greg Joseph went from someone hoping to give him a chance to finding a home as the Minnesota Vikings’ kicker. He went 36-of-38 on extra points this season, and was 24-of-30 on field goals. He had three misses from 40-49 yards, and three from 50-plus. His other impact on special teams? Touchbacks. In 79 kickoffs, Joseph had 61 touchbacks, that’s 77%. He’s been steady and reliable, and the Vikings should bring him back.
The Vikings have another decision to make at edge rusher with D.J. Wonnum. He played in 15 games and made 14 starts before suffering a season-ending quad injury. He finished with 62 tackles, eight sacks, seven tackles for loss and 15 quarterback hits. He also returned a fumble for a touchdown at Carolina. Wonnum is at the end of his rookie contract, and the Vikings should bring him back, especially if they let Hunter walk.
K.J. Osborn made 12 starts and played in 16 games this season for the Vikings, figuring to compete for the No. 2 receiver role with Adam Thielen’s departure and picking up Jordan Addison in the NFL Draft. Osborn, despite Justin Jefferson missing seven games, only finished with 48 catches for 540 yards and three touchdowns. With Jefferson and Addison back, and getting T.J. Hockenson healthy eventually, Osborn might be seeking his next contract elsewhere in 2024.
Joshua Dobbs was a highlight reel for two weeks with the Vikings. Coming to Minnesota in a trade after Cousins went down and Nick Mullens being on injured reserve, Dobbs led the Vikings to a 31-28 comeback in Atlanta, and a 27-19 win over the New Orleans Saints. But Dobbs’ biggest issue, as it was for the Vikings all season, was turnovers. He played in five games and had four starts with the Vikings, threw five interceptions and fumbled six times. Dobbs made a career-high eight starts between the Cardinals and Vikings this season. A team will give him a look in free agency, but it’s unlikely to be the Vikings.
Brandon Powell came to the Vikings on a one-year deal, played in all 17 games and made two starts. He had 29 catches for 324 yards and one touchdown. If Osborn doesn’t come back to the Vikings, Powell gives them a third receiver option at an affordable price.
Marcus Davenport had nothing if not an odd year for the Vikings. Thought to be the edge rusher opposite Danielle Hunter, Davenport just could not stay healthy. He started three games and played in four but dealt with an ankle injury most of the season. He had just seven tackles, but did get two sacks. Odds are against Davenport returning to the Vikings in 2024.
It’ll be a little while before we get steam on any free agents, but the decisions made by the front office will shape what the Vikings look like in 2024.