While it seems the 2022 Minnesota Vikings intend on pursuing the playoffs in 2022 – instead of a rebuild – the roster in September will be significantly different than last year’s edition.
A new coach and general manager are in charge of the enterprise, ensuring widespread change is afoot, at least philosophically. The Vikings preached defense, defense, and more defense amid the last eight years, but now the tide will turn toward balance with a pronounced emphasis on the offensive side of operations. That’s the implication when an offensive coordinator from the Super Bowl champions is hired as skipper.
But first, the Vikings must massage the salary cap. They’re about $ 15 million underwater as of February 19th, needing to rework some contracts – paging Kirk Cousins and Danielle Hunter – and tap the 2022 NFL Draft for defensive replenishments.
Too, just like every offseason, the Vikings must make some tricky roster decisions, often involving some players connected to the team for several seasons. In 2020, it was trading Stefon Diggs to the Buffalo Bills for Justin Jefferson (via the draft) and others. Last season, Minnesota cut ties with tight end Kyle Rudolph, who manned the TE1 position for an entire decade.
And this was confirmed by wide receiver Adam Thielen on Friday on KFAN.
Thielen, who began his on-the-field career when Mike Zimmer was hired in 2014, predicted “tough” roster decisions upcoming. He basically confirmed the obvious.
Because Thielen is excited about the direction of The O’Connell Era, it is unlikely he’s referring to himself as a player on the chopping block. He’s probably talking about longstanding teammates like Anthony Barr, Michael Pierce, or Danielle Hunter. The extent to which general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah severs ties with existing Vikings players is unknown. He’s unpredictable, mainly because he has no documented track record as a general manager.
Kirk Cousins is the player soaking up the bulk of the salary cap, set to incur a $ 45 million cap hit against the Vikings ledger in 2022. That number is mammoth, and Cousins will not see the field with that number hanging over US Bank Stadium. Instead, Minnesota will probably extend Cousins, scattering the money over an additional two years or so – as Rick Spielman did in the spring of 2020. Such a move would enable cap flexibility for the Vikings in March.
As Thielen is foreshadowing, the only inevitable outcome right now is that change is coming. Every season at this point on the calendar, the Vikings rub up against the extreme boundary of the salary cap, requiring fancy finagling by Rob Brzezinski, the executive vice president of football operations. This year is no different.
These transactions – the reports of releases, a Cousins extension or trade, etc. – could hit any moment. ‘Tis the season.
Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).