It seems that the proverbial "can kicked down the road" of the Kirk Cousins contract is finally here and new General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah is the one who has to deal with it. Unless the Vikings can somehow rework the deal for Cousins, their off-season plans might be limited. What else do the Vikings need to do to make a splash in the NFL North in 2022?
2021 Record: 8-9
GM: Kwesi Adofo-Mensah
HC: Kevin O’Connell
OC: Wes Phillips
DC: Ed Donatell
Statistical Leaders 2021
Kirk Cousins: 372-561 66.3% 4,221 33-7
Dalvin Cook: 249-1159-6, 34-224-0
Justin Jefferson: 108-1616-10
Adam Thielen: 67-726-10
KJ Osborn: 50-655-7
Eric Kendricks: 143 Tak, 2 Int, 5 Sacks
Xavier Woods: 53 Tak, 3 Int, 10 PD
D.J. Wonnum: 47 Tak, 8 Sacks
Harrison Smith: 114 Tak, 2 Int, 5 Sacks
Notable Free Agents:
Pos, Name, Age, Contract Status, 2021 Snap Count
LB - Anthony Barr (30), UFA, 64.9%
S - Xavier Woods (27), UFA, 100%
DT - Sheldon Richardson (32), UFA, 57%
CB - Patrick Peterson (32), UFA, 73.3%
CB - Mackenzie Alexander (29), UFA, 57.1%
(8) Projected Cost of Rookie Picks in 2022: $4.32
Round 1 #12
Round 2 #46
Round 3 #77
Round 5 #156
Round 4 #140
Round 6 #183
Round 6 #191
Round 6 #207
Round 7 #230
Odd as it may seem, Minnesota has no Compensatory Picks in 2022 and only owns one of their own picks (1st round selection). All other draft picks were acquired through other teams.
Minnesota walks into the 2022 offseason with a mere $16m over the $208.2m salary cap, which seems like a large number. It’s honestly really manageable. While some players with the largest cap hits are starting to become liabilities, the team does have value sprinkled among the roster. This will be a big season for GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah. He could continue to repeat mistakes of the past, signing players to really long term deals or he can finally let those aging players walk. Of the 20 players who are pending free agents, 13 of them are 30 years of age or older. Will Minnesota try and keep the band together for one more year, especially with the tire-fire happening within the division in Green Bay?
It’s funny to me that Kirk Cousins and Aaron Rodgers both had really similar statistical years in 2021 and you’d imagine the contract situation to be a bit different, with Rodgers counting more against the salary cap because Kirk Cousins is…well…Kirk Cousins; that consistently underwhelming and yet overachieving player. Well, Cousins is going to have $45m salary cap number and the only thing Minnesota can do to avoid it is to add a voided year to his contract (which, why would he sign that?), or give him a 2-3 year contract extension to help ease the pain this year.
Danielle Hunter’s $26.12m cap number is really a product of an $18m roster bonus, which the team could move to a signing bonus and spread over the remaining years of his contract, a move that would save $13.5m this year, but would push a cap number of $10.1m to 2024 when his contract voids and the team will have to still account for that salary.
Adam Theilen is probably the biggest issue here. At $16.94m, he still has 3 seasons remaining on his contract, all with high base salaries. This means that Minnesota could trade the 32-year old veteran receiver, but would ultimately only save $5.84m doing so.
Figuring out the Cousin’s situation is really the straw that stirs the drink with regard to what they will be able to do in free agency. Green Bay is absolutely falling apart and Minnesota will need to strike first to try and wiggle into first in that division. With free agents Anthony Barr, Everson Griffen, Patrick Peterson, Mackenzie Alexander and Nick Virgil, the defense probably needs a number 1 to determine which, of this group to resign, and which to address in either the draft or free agency.
Xavier Woods is the layup here, resigning him seems like the no-brainer if he wants to stay. With the 12th overall selection, quarterback is probably off the board for Minnesota but the conversation is going to keep circling about the future of the Vikings until Cousins is signed to an extension.
Minnesota will need to focus on adding another WR threat (look for value here, D.J. Chark is an ideal candidate), but that defense is taking a big time hit this offseason. Most of the pending free agents they probably should walk away from, as they can likely snag a pass rusher or defensive tackle in the first round and an LB in the 2nd.