The Ongoing Process of Minimizing the Rick Spielman Era

Last offseason, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Kevin O’Connell were fairly bold in their handling of the final draft class of the Rick Spielman era.

The 2021 draft haul brought 11 new players to Minnesota, Christian Darrisaw foremost among them. Unfortunately, only 4 made it past the roster cuts to make it onto the 53-man roster for 2022. Anyone who was still uncertain about the transition to the new leadership group got a rude awakening: the team was heading in a new direction, so players brought in by the previous crew weren’t going to receive the same loyalty.

A Vikings executive from 2006-2021, Spielman has been hugely influential on the Vikings. His influence, though, will dwindle the more time proceeds.

The Ongoing Process of Minimizing Rick Spielman

For the record, Rick Spielman wasn’t a bad GM. Far from it.

True, there were some notable misses (especially at quarterback). However, Slick Rick generally did a nice job of equipping his team with the necessary talent to push for the playoffs and (at times) make a bit of noise once there.

Rick Spielman
Jun 11, 2019; Eagan, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman during a press conference following practice at TCO Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports

As we venture further in 2023, though, it’s fair to wonder if we’re going to keep seeing some drastic moves away from the roster Spielman built.

Long-time stalwarts like Eric Kendricks, Dalvin Cook, Adam Thielen, and C.J. Ham are all in the purple headlines. Speculation is swirling that any one of them could be cut. Without being privy to private conversations, it’s near impossible to know which way the restructure conversations are going. That being said, no one could really be surprised if all 4 end up playing elsewhere in 2023.

C.J. Ham
Nov 8, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings fullback C.J. Ham. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

To be sure, the Vikings will continue demonstrating plenty of Spielman influence in the upcoming season. Just consider the offense. The Christian Darrisaw/Brian O’Neill tandem is elite, and we have Spielman to thank for that. Adofo-Mensah and O’Connell seem reasonably happy with Kirk Cousins, confirming in a recent press conference that he’ll be the QB1 this season.

Oh, and there is a certain WR who recently won Offensive Player of the Year who is going to stick around. The chuckling Spielman will live on in infamy as one of the great moments in Minnesota’s history. Nothing quite like laughing at another team’s draft blunder in real time as the GM rushes to draft a historically-great player.

Purple Headlines of the Week
Jan 15, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) looks on during warmups before a wild card game against the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Defensively, we can be thankful for players like Danielle Hunter and Harrison Smith. Somewhat ironically, it’s the defensive side of the ball that has undergone the most change, a notable reality given Mike Zimmer’s continual push for building a formidable defense.

The more time passes, the more this team is going to look like Adofo-Mensah wants it to look. Ditto for Kevin O’Connell. They’re the two most significant leaders for this team, so they’ll be the ones largely responsible for deciding who ought to get brought aboard.

Limited Draft Picks,
Dec 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah looks on before the game against the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Some expensive vets are going to be let go. That much is a near certainty because of the salary cap.

One does wonder if Adofo-Mensah will favor his own signings over those from the previous leadership group. Take the linebacker situation. Jordan Hicks, like Kendricks, is in the rumors as a cut candidate. How significant is it that the veteran linebacker was signed by the current GM rather than the former one? We may soon get a clue.

For the next several years, Rick Spielman is going to have considerable influence on the roster. That’s what happens when a man is in charge for several years. Expect Kwesi Adofo-Mensah to keep moulding the roster in his image, though, slowly creating a team that mirrors the new GM’s vision for NFL success.

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