3 Vikings Who Could be Playing their Final Home Game at U.S. Bank Stadium
Perhaps the most obvious benefit of winning the division is that Minnesota gets a chance to host a playoff game. After there was some chatter about the fans not being particularly loud in Week 16, I expect the crowd to be pretty raucous. The team does benefit from the support, so hopefully we’ll see an exuberant bunch on Sunday.
An unfortunate reality of NFL football is that there is roster turnover every year. Players who have long contributed to Minnesota’s success will need to find work elsewhere. Last week, Josh Frey considered some who were possibly heading toward their final regular season game in a Minnesota uniform. This week, we consider 3 Vikings who could be playing their final game at U.S. Bank Stadium.
The 3 Vikings & U.S. Bank Stadium
1) Eric Kendricks, Linebacker
Kendricks is a great linebacker, someone who provided elite play for several years. A second-round selection in 2015, Kendricks will go down as one of the very best players of the Mike Zimmer/Rick Spielman era.
Unfortunately, the 2022 season has been a touch more modest than his prime. For the second consecutive year, Kendricks has allowed 74.1% of passes into his coverage to be completed. QBs have a 100.3 passer rating when targeting him, and he has allowed an average of 9.3 yards per completion.
The more basic stats – 137 tackles, 1 sack, 6 PDs – look reasonably strong, but Minnesota’s management team will have to consider what the future holds for #54. Releasing him would free up $9.5 million in cap room. Keeping him on his current deal would mean the team has him counting for $11.43 million on next season’s cap.
My best guess is that the team will look to workout an extension, one that lessens the hit in the immediate. That being said, we’ll need to wait and see what Kwesi Adofo-Mensah decides to do.
Kendricks is 30.
2) Dalvin Tomlinson, Defensive Tackle
The monster in the middle has been excellent in 2022. The only thing that slowed him down was injury; he missed 4 games. In 13 games, though, Tomlinson made a sizable difference, playing 62% of the snaps for the games he was in.
He finished his season with 42 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 3 TFLs, a FF, and a FR. He hit the QB 10 times.
The most obvious issue with his return rests in the simple fact that he’ll be a free agent. He currently counts for $7.5 million on the 2023 budget since Rick Spielman relied on void years to lessen Tomlinson’s cap charge in 2021 and 2022. Seeing Tomlinson remain in Minnesota will require some clever cap work from Adofo-Mensah.
His previous deal was for 2 years and $21 million. Tomlinson is 28.
3) Dalvin Cook, Running Back
Similar to Kendricks, the issue for Cook is that he’s being paid a ton of money by a team with a very tight budget.
Cook is an excellent running back and he can still thrive in Minnesota. Nevertheless, there is the possibility that the Vikings’ leadership will decide to go in a different direction.
If they keep him on his current deal, Cook will have a cap hit that just exceeds $14.1 million. Releasing Cook means the Vikings would free up just under $7.9 million in cap room while leaving behind a touch more than $6.2 million in dead money.
For the season, the Vikings rank 27th in rush attempts and rush yards. Their per carry average is 26th. The passing, in contrast, comes in at 2nd in yards and 3rd in attempts. In other words, Kevin O’Connell has leaned far more Kirk Cousins’ arm than he has on Cook’s legs.
Cook played in all 17 games, finishing with 264 carries, 1173 yards, and 8 TDs. He added on 39 catches for 295 yards. He’s still only 27.
Editor’s Note: Information from Pro Football Reference, StatMuse, and Over the Cap helped with this piece.