Vikings’ & Kwesi’s Checklist Shrinks Down to 5 Items

The Vikings Could Be Shaking Things Up in Their RB Room
Jan 15, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (4) runs on the field during warmups before a wild card game against the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Kwesi’s checklist got a little lighter when he finally found a trade partner for disgruntled edge rusher Za’Darius Smith.

However, the young general manager still has work to do. In fact, there are some complex situations he’ll need to sift through. Money considerations, potential trade partners, and overall roster construction (both now and in the future) are all in the mix for Adofo-Mensah.

Kwesi’s Checklist

Item #1 – Find a Dalvin Cook Solution

Moving on from the star pass rusher brings the focus around to Mr. Cook, who was chosen by Minnesota in the 2nd round of the 2017 NFL Draft.

The State of the Vikings: Week 11
Oct 31, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook. Mandatory Credit: Matt Blewett-USA TODAY Sports.

With a $14.1 million cap charge, Cook is difficult to justify in a RB room that also boasts Alexander Mattison, Ty Chandler, DeWayne McBride, and Kene Nwangwu. Cook, 28 on August 10, can still be a productive running back. He had 1173 rushing yards last season and 10 total touchdowns.

Expect late-round draft capital in exchange for the productive ball carrier.

Item #2 – Iron Out a Kirk Cousins Plan

The door remains ajar for a Cousins & Vikings long(ish)-term relationship.

Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has acknowledged that the void years and salary cap tomfoolery from back in March were just part of carving out cap space to make free agency work. Cousins, moreover, has suggested he wants to be in Minnesota the rest of the way.

Dec 5, 2021; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) yells out before the snap during the first quarter against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports.

Don’t be shocked if something happens here, folks. A deal keeping #8 in town for a few more seasons isn’t unlikely.

Of course, the solution for ’23 may be to just let the QB1 play under the final year of his deal. Cousins has certainly found himself in that position before and Adofo-Mensah has proven that he’s willing to stick to his guns. Regardless, we should get more clarity as the summer unfolds. My best guess continues to be that he’ll be sticking around a while longer.

Item #3 – Sign All of the Draft Picks

Presumably, this is the easiest of the bunch. The team doesn’t draft players unless the ultimate plan is to actually sign those players. There’s zero indication the Vikings are heading toward a messy standoff with WR Jordan Addison and RB DeWayne McBride.

Jersey Numbers
Apr 27, 2023; Kansas City, MO, USA; USC wide receiver Jordan Addison on stage after being selected by the Minnesota Vikings twenty third overall in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft at Union Station. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Last week, we learned that the Vikings formally added CB Mekhi Blackmon, DB Jay Ward, DT Jaquelin Roy, and QB Jaren Hall. The final pair should follow in not too long.

Moving on from Smith gives the team the cap space it needs to get the job done with Mr. Addison and Mr. McBride.

Item #4 – Get the Extensions Done

Justin Jefferson. T.J. Hockenson. Danielle Hunter. All three are massively important in both the present and the future.

Questions Answered: Hockenson's Revenge, Jefferson OPOY Update, Joseph Cured?
Nov 6, 2022; Landover, Maryland, USA; Minnesota Vikings tight end T.J. Hockenson. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports.

Jefferson is the team’s cornerstone player, an MVP candidate and the reigning Offensive Player of the Year. He’ll reset the receiver market when he signs. Hockenson and Hunter are unlikely to get to the very top of their positions, but they’re very deserving of sizable extensions.

Combined, extending all three can free up more than $10 million in 2023.

Item #5 – Add Another Defensive Weapon

Admittedly, reasonable minds can disagree on this one, but there is an awful lot of worry when it comes to Minnesota’s defense.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Washington Commanders
Nov 6, 2022; Landover, Maryland, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Danielle Hunter (99) sacks Washington Commanders quarterback Taylor Heinicke (4) during the second half at FedExField. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

The top pass rushers – Danielle Hunter and Marcus Davenport – are both excellent players. The concern simply rests in their health and the capacity of the depth options to get after the QB if forced into an expanded role.

Bringing in someone like Leonard Floyd makes a lot of sense. Brian Flores would likely welcome another pass rusher or two.

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