Minnesota Vikings NFL Offseason preview: The Kirk Cousins ​​question looms – Minnesota Vikings Blog

Eagan, MN – The Minnesota Vikings underwent an overhaul after finishing 8-9 consecutive seasons of playoffs.

Kevin O’Connell was named head coach on Wednesday, three weeks after Kwesi Adofo-Mensah was appointed general manager. They would guide Minnesota through what could be the turbulent upheaval of a team with a tight salary cap.

O’Connell, who has spent the past two seasons as the Los Angeles Rams’ offensive coordinator, sold the Vikings based on his vision to maximize the offensive, which ranked 14th in scoring and yards. The concepts the Rams used in their attack will “completely” appear in what Minnesota does in 2022, according to O’Connell. Of course, it all starts with a decision about the future of quarterback Kirk Cousins, which is uncertain as he enters the final year of his contract. O’Connell said he expects Cousins ​​to be “part of what we’re doing” and has already considered building systems to better support QB, but next month that leads to free agency could determine if Cousins ​​plays in Minnesota or any Another place next season.

The Vikings will once again need to invest heavily in their defense (which ranked 31st last year) but will have to figure out what to do with a handful of expensive veteran contracts – likely Daniel Hunter, Harrison Smith, Adam Tillen and even Dalvin Cook – to create a salary cap room. Necessary to be an active player in a free agency.

Expected maximum salary area: $15,499,562 over expected salary cap

The most important free agents: LP Anthony Barr, CB Patrick Peterson, DT Sheldon Richardson, S Xavier Woods, LP Nick Vigil, CB Mackenzie Alexander, TE Tyler Conklin, WR Diddy Westbrook, QP Sean Manion, O’Rushwood Hill, P Jordan Berry

Possible candidates for cutting: Aside from Cousins, Hunter is the next priority for the Vikings. The team rewrote their deal ahead of the 2021 season, but after missing the entirety of 2020 with a neck injury at the end of the season, Hunter was limited to seven games after tearing his pectoral muscles on October 31. His restructured contract includes a bonus of $18 million. Due on the fifth day of the league year. He can either sign an extension (likely well below his projected earnings before injuries) or become a free agent if the Vikings don’t catch it, which will create $14.64 million in cap space. Another potential victim could be DT Michael Pierce, who played just eight games due to injury in 2021 after withdrawing due to COVID-19 in 2020, and that would save the team $6.5 million. Given the way Armon Watts and James Lynch filled Pierce’s place, the team might consider it a viable cost-cutting move.

The big question: What do you do with cousins? The quarterback is entering the final season of the two-year extension he signed in 2020, which comes with a $45 million cap (which is 20.2% of Minnesota’s total cap). His base salary of $35 million is fully guaranteed, so trading it live could be tricky, given that another team will undoubtedly have to extend it to distribute the cap. Minnesota has three options with QB: arrange a deal, extend Cousins’ deal on another short-term deal or allow him to execute the remainder of his contract before relocating in 2023. If they do the latter, they’ll have to get the maximum health in other ways than Road cuts and restructuring for other expensive veteran players.

Best off-season scenario: Cousins ​​are traded, and the Vikings in return land a quarterback who can carry out O’Connell’s scheme and keep the team competitive. Although the Minnesota ownership will likely have to pay a large portion of what the Cousins ​​owes, the team can go in a different direction and create the cover space needed to address other areas of need, such as the passing dash, corner and the inside offensive lineman.

Worst case scenario off season: The Vikings only supply Cousins ​​to help cap their salaries. His cousins ​​tend not to offer a discount after the statistically impressive season he had in 2021, so this creates additional financial stress. It’s worse to go 8-9 again in 2022 than to have a bad record while actually giving up on rebuilding key parts of the roster. why? Because the Vikings will be in the exact same place again next year asking themselves the same questions.

An early look at the NFL Draft, from ESPN analyst Jordan Reed: Improving defense is likely one of the main areas of focus for Adofo-Mensah. Classified near the bottom in multiple categories, the Vikings need depth at the defensive end and cornerback. When attacking, the improvement in the center and the right goalkeeper can also be two areas that must be addressed.

Most important needs: CB, EDGE, IOL

Best choice for: number 12