1 Opportunity the Vikings Can’t Afford to Miss

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Green Bay Packers
Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Currently, the Minnesota Vikings are experiencing a bit of a financial windfall (cap space windfall?). Moving on from Za’Darius Smith comes with the benefit of improved draft capital alongside increased financial flexibility. The end result is an opportunity the Vikings can’t afford to miss.

Per Over the Cap, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah is now working with more than $11.1 million in cap space. The Vikings are thus in the top half of the league when it comes to cap space. Even more encouraging is that the 2024 budget looks pretty tidy, sitting at a rotund $44.13 million cap number.

Vikings Trade Down from No. 87
Feb 28, 2023; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo‐Mensah during the NFL combine at the Indiana Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

The wild thing, of course, is that Dalvin Cook still awaits a resolution. Waiting until post-June 1 to trade him would involve kicking an extra $11 million onto the pile for 2023 (which is to say nothing of getting out from his $15,601,273 cap charge in 2024).

Add it all together and we’ve got a team that can be aggressive with the league’s remaining free agents.

Whoever has followed my past offseason writing knows that my philosophy for building a roster would begin with loading up on pass rushers. Just as Mike Zimmer coveted corners, so too do I covet those who can get after the QB. A leaky secondary won’t matter too much if the team can trot out a fearsome, formidable, ferocious pass-rushing group.

The opportunity is there for Minnesota, folks. Building off of Danielle Hunter and Marcus Davenport rather than just relying on them is the key.

Consider some of the veteran pass rushers who are still hanging out in free agency:

FA Pass RusherSacksQB HitsTFLsPFF
Leonard Floyd, 309221065.7
Justin Houston, 349.517777.1
Jadeveon Clowney, 3024475.8
2022 Stats

Are all of these players getting older? Yes, of course. Follow-up question: should we really care? No, not really.

Any deal with these players would be about getting strong production in the immediate, not in ’24 and beyond. Plus, the vets would have the benefit of being the EDGE3 in Minnesota, helping to keep their legs and lungs fresh. Floyd really stands out since he has a history with Kevin O’Connell. The two were together in LA when the Rams won the Super Bowl.

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Los Angeles Rams
Dec 4, 2022; Inglewood, California, USA; Seattle Seahawks cornerback Xavier Crawford (37) runs past Los Angeles Rams linebacker Leonard Floyd (54) in the first half at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Surprisingly little has be done to improve the defense apart from shedding veterans and making a handful of youthful additions. Byron Murphy and Marcus Davenport have plenty of upside (and Troy Reeder may surprise us). Waiting until the very end of the 3rd, though, to bring in more help for the secondary is notable. The team’s current top corner trio – Murphy, Booth, Evans – all missed significant time last season due to injury.

Does that concern anyone within Minnesota’s leadership cluster? If so, they’re doing a good job of projecting confidence.

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals
Nov 6, 2022; Phoenix, Ariz., United States; Arizona Cardinals cornerback Byron Murphy Jr. (7) breaks up a pass intended for Seattle Seahawks wide receiver DK Metcalf (14) during the second quarter at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Michael Chow/Arizona Republic-USA TODAY NETWORK

Obviously, bringing in a veteran pass rusher isn’t going to be the cure-all for a secondary that has struggled in recent seasons. The upside, though, rests in being able to trot out a pass-rushing trifecta that prompts offensive coordinators to adjust their play calling: Hunter, Davenport, and Floyd are on the field; we can’t call that deep shot since it’ll take too long to develop.

Furthermore, if either Hunter or Davenport succumb to injury, the Vikings would have another edge rusher capable of picking up the slack.

Pitchers in baseball, 3-point shooters in basketball, centers in hockey: there’s no such thing as having too many. In football, the same could be said for pass rushers (just ask the Eagles).

Brian Flores wants to have an aggressive defense. He wants to make life difficult for the opposition’s QB. Giving him the necessary weapons to bring that vision to fruition strikes me as a worthwhile goal.

Editor’s Note: Information from Pro Football Reference, PFF, and Over the Cap helped with this piece.