MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - The Minnesota Vikings’ 2023 season came to an end on Sunday after a 30-20 loss to the Detroit Lions at Ford Field.
The Vikings, without their starting quarterback since Week 9, lost four straight and six of their last seven to end the season. Simply put, the Vikings never recovered from losing Kirk Cousins to a torn Achilles at Green Bay. Kevin O’Connell tried every button he could push between trading for Joshua Dobbs, getting Nick Mullens healthy and trotting out rookie Jaren Hall.
Turnovers and injuries were too much for the Vikings to overcome, and now they have four huge roster decisions to make this offseason, among several moves. Here’s a look at four of the biggest names:
If we thought the Vikings might get an injury discount from Cousins, think again. He was playing at an MVP level when he tore his Achilles at Green Bay. He had 2,331 yards passing, 18 touchdowns and five interceptions in eight games. Cousins is set to become a free agent in March, and will get paid. It’s in Minnesota’s best interest to bring him back for at least next season, and try to find the next quarterback after him in the NFL Draft.
The Vikings and Jefferson tried to come to an agreement on a contract extension before the season, but it didn’t happen. Despite missing seven games with a hamstring injury, Jefferson still managed 68 catches for 1,074 yards and five touchdowns. He joined rare company in Michael Thomas, Mike Evans, A.J. Green and Randy Moss in recording four straight 1,000-yard seasons.
Jefferson is due to become the highest-paid receiver in the NFL, and part of the decision hinges on if Cousins stays in Minnesota. He made it clear after Sunday’s loss that as long as he’s with the Vikings, he thinks they can win a ring.
"Always, as long as I’m a part of the Vikings, I’m always going to think we have a chance at the Super Bowl. With the guys we have in this locker room, it’s a great locker room. Great players, great opportunities to go out there and make plays, just a couple plays short [this season]," Jefferson said.
Danielle Hunter’s season started with a "hold-in" at training camp. He eventually agreed to a one-year deal with the Vikings. It will pay off, as Hunter got a sack on Sunday to finish the regular season with 16.5, a career-high. He finished the season with 54 tackles, and 24 tackles for loss. He’s also headed to the Pro Bowl. It will be difficult to figure out the money with a long-term contract, but Hunter said Sunday he wants to stay in Minnesota.
"It’s all I know. I came into this league, I don’t know any better. Purple, ever since middle school I’ve always been wearing purple so I’m here now. Perfect. Yes sir," Hunter said.
Harrison Smith is the longest-tenured player on the Vikings, having just finished his 12th season. But he’s due $19 million in 2024, and already took a pay cut on a restructure to play the 2023 season in Minnesota. He’s a leader and one of the most respected players in the locker room, but for just the second time in his career, didn’t have an interception this season. It’s fair to wonder if Smith’s days with the Vikings are coming to a close.
"I obviously haven’t played for any other organization. The locker room, it’s always been strong, it’s really never been something that’s been missing here. That’s a great piece to have," Smith said Sunday. "Winning is all people care about, and it is the only thing people care about. To be honest, I don’t know. However it unfolds, whatever cards are dealt, it doesn’t matter. I’m proud to be a part of this group, and part of this organization, staff."