Vikings Rumors: The Flores Fear, Priced Out Free Agents, & The Questionable Camp

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers
Wm. Glasheen-USA TODAY Sports

Though we’re now into the portion of the year when Vikings rumors aren’t as abundant, we’ll still be highlighting some of the purple rumblings.

The “Vikings Rumor Wrangle” is a series that keeps readers informed on what’s being whispered about in Vikings Land. In this iteration, we discuss the growing fear surrounding Brian Flores, Minnesota being unable to retain all of their best free agents, and some notable Vikings sitting in questionable camp.

The Vikings Rumors: 11.22.2023

Rumor #1 — Vikings Fans are Fearing a Flores Departure

Are there really 32 coaches within the NFL’s orbit who are better qualified than Brian Flores to be a head coach? Not likely, folks.

The work he’s doing with Minnesota’s defense is commendable. Nay, downright miraculous. After all, this is a defense that looked thoroughly disinterested in slowing down the opposition in 2022. And that’s after a pair of very poor seasons in 2020 and 2021 when Mike Zimmer began losing his grip on winning football in Minnesota.

Somehow, Flores has proven capable of overcoming the recent trends. Critically, he’s doing so with some talent deficiencies on his side of the ball (a penetrating defensive tackle would do wonders for the pass rush, and so too would a true lockdown corner for the defensive backfield).

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears
Oct 15, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Brian Flores watches his team play against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

Last season, Camryn Bynum and Jordan Hicks struggled, so much so that they were commonly found within the league’s cut chatter. Fast forward a year and both have been playing at an exemplary level (though the veteran LB is now on the IR). The DC has also been able to coax better play out of guys like Harrison Phillips, Jonathan Bullard, Danielle Hunter, and Andrew Booth Jr., which is to say nothing of the contributions from rookies like Ivan Pace, Mekhi Blackmon, and Jaquelin Roy.

Well known for a scorcher of a fastball, Flores has also become adept at throwing his curve ball for strikes. Yes, the all-out blitzes are fun to see, but his max protection defenses have also proven to be difficult to overcome. Add it all together and the Vikings are averaging just 20.9 points against per game, 15th in the NFL.

Safe to say there will be plenty of teams interested in prying Brian Flores away from Minnesota during the offseason. Bittersweet news since it’ll be rewarding to see a Viking move onto a promotion and yet reason for some mourning since the defense has been doing so well under his leadership.

Would a hearty raise be enough to convince him to stay? What about a lifetime of free Caribou Coffee and juicy lucys?

Rumor #2 — Some Vikings FAs are Playing their Way Out of Minnesota

Very possible.

And, to be clear, we’re not discussing players who are struggling. On the contrary, we’re thinking of pending free agents — there are many — who will rightly demand a robust financial commitment. The Vikings will have a lot of money during the offseason, but the resources are still finite. In the NFL, money can disappear in a hurry.

Nov 12, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker D.J. Wonnum (98) celebrates his sack against the New Orleans Saints quarterback Derek Carr (4) in the second quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

One thinks of D.J. Wonnum as a great example of what we’re discussing.

We’re talking about a 26-year-old pass rusher with great length who has proven that he has a knack for finishing his sacks. Someone is going to pay this man; it remains to be seen whether that deal will arrive in Minnesota. He’s up to 6 sacks and 6 TFLs, so he has a great shot at surpassing his career highs in each category before the season concludes (8 sacks and 7 TFLs).

Few, if any, would have guessed that Wonnum would have a shot at hitting 10 sacks in 2023, but that possibility is alive and well.

Other names to monitor include Kirk Cousins, Josh Dobbs, Danielle Hunter, Jordan Hicks, K.J. Osborn, Dalton Risner, and Marcus Davenport (among others). Minnesota is currently projected to have roughly $52 million in cap space for next season. A strong amount, no doubt, and yet not enough to keep everyone around.

Rumor #3 — Key Vikings Still Sit in the Questionable Camp

Looking for ironclad certainty about who will play on Monday Night Football? Look elsewhere since none can be found here.

According to Kevin O’Connell, the Vikings don’t know if WR1 Justin Jefferson will be capable of playing when the Bears come to town this week. Plus, the head coach doesn’t yet know if CB2 Akayleb Evans will be ready to roll. One thinks back to the Courtland Sutton touchdown — a moment when the Denver receiver was too long and strong for the shorter Mekhi Blackmon — as a moment when having Evans in the lineup would have been helpful.

Nov 13, 2022; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Buffalo Bills running back Devin Singletary (26) runs with the ball against Minnesota Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks (54) and cornerback Akayleb Evans (21) during the first half at Highmark Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

Normally, the Vikings are quite cautious when it comes to welcoming players back from injury. One surprising development last week was seeing Alexander Mattison back on the field a mere week after suffering a concussion. The takeaway is simply that Minnesota will bring a player back if the person is legitimately back to full health.

At 6-5, the Vikings will be very keen about picking up a win heading into the bye. Going into the week off a couple games beyond .500 instead of sitting directly on .500 would feel entirely different, especially since the game occurs at home against an inferior foe (and a division rival, no less). Roster reinforcements would help accomplish the goal.

Overcoming the Bears would mean O’Connell’s squad is 3-0 against the NFC North in 2023. Games against the Packers and Lions (X2) await following the bye.

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

K. Joudry is the Senior Editor for Vikings Territory and PurplePTSD. He has been covering the Vikings full time since the summer of 2021. He can be found on Twitter and as a co-host for Notes from the North, a humble Vikings podcast.