Vikings Listed Among Bottom Half of the League for 2023 Offseason Moves
This offseason was one of the more eventful ones in recent memory across the NFL. Multiple teams made large overhauls of their roster, and one of those teams was the Minnesota Vikings. Minnesota saw multiple veteran players leave the team this spring, including Eric Kendricks, Za’Darius Smith, Adam Thielen, and Dalvin Tomlinson.
However, some are not exactly impressed with how the Vikings went about replacing these veterans and filling out the rest of their roster. One such analyst is Bill Barnwell of ESPN, who ranked the NFL’s worst 2023 offseasons this year from 17-32. Minnesota comes in at No. 20 on Barnwell’s list.
The analyst broke down his arguments for each team into three sections: what went right, what went wrong, and what’s left to do. For the Vikings, Barnwell declared the best parts of Minnesota’s offseason as the hiring of Brian Flores, drafting Jordan Addison, signing Byron Murphy, and trading Za’Darius Smith. On the hire of Flores, here is what Barnwell had to say:
General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah took steps to fix the Minnesota defense. After firing Ed Donatell, the Vikings landed a well-regarded replacement in former Dolphins coach Brian Flores. The league’s 27th-ranked defense by DVOA a year ago, Donatell’s Vikings were often criticized for being too conservative and comfortable allowing teams to march up and down the field. Flores will be more aggressive.
Indeed, it appears we are already seeing the benefits of Flores running the Vikings defense, and we are only a couple days into OTAs. Alec Lewis of The Athletic wrote about his early impact on the team, and this quote from Christian Darrisaw on what Flores’ defense is bringing to the practice field really says it all:
“We weren’t seeing these looks last year. Then we’d get into games, and teams would run a certain defense, and we’d be, like, negatively affected. Now, we’re getting to practice against it every day. It’s not just one certain 4-3 or 3-4. Like, (Flores) brings it all.”
Flores is one of the more creative defensive coaches in the NFL, and it should be no surprise that what he’s done to this point is having a positive impact. However, Barnwell points out a few negatives in Minnesota’s offseason that keeps them ranked in the bottom half of the league.
The biggest problem Barnwell has with the Vikings offseason revolves around a lack of commitment. Here is what he means:
The Vikings didn’t make a bigger commitment to contending or rebuilding. Given a difficult cap situation, it’s tough to feel as if they have a great handle on what sort of team they’re going to be in 2023 and 2024, given that they just won 13 games while being outscored by their opposition. They moved on from Kendricks and Thielen but held on to Harrison Smith. They were willing to keep Smith and Cook on the roster into May when that cap space and cash could have been budgeted elsewhere in March.
It’s easy to see where he’s coming from here. The Vikings didn’t truly commit to going out and getting a top defensive back in this free agency period like a Cam Sutton or even a C.J. Gardner-Johnson. Instead, both those players are now rostered by Minnesota’s division rivals, the Detroit Lions, a team that seemingly went all-in on being competitive for a division title.
Meanwhile, they didn’t completely tear things down, either. Harrison Smith is still around. Kirk Cousins is still the starting QB, and there isn’t any real set-in-stone plan to replace him. For now, Dalvin Cook still headlines the backfield.
This has been a consistent critique of the Vikings throughout the offseason, and it has landed them in the middle of the pack both in power rankings and playoff odds. Ideally, you’d like to land on either side of the spectrum rather than smack-dab in the middle, but Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has been adamant about Minnesota’s ‘competitive rebuild’ since he became the Vikings GM last winter.
Overall, there is still a lot of mystery surrounding this Vikings team. We don’t truly know how things are going to play out in the secondary with all the youth set to take on larger roles without Patrick Peterson, Duke Shelley, and Chandon Sullivan around. Similarly, we need to see the offense perform at a high level again to be sure that 2022 wasn’t just a ‘flash in the pan’ season during O’Connell’s first run as a head coach.
Those mysteries will begin to reveal themselves when Minnesota takes the field on September 10th against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to kick off the regular season.
Josh Frey is a Class of 2020 graduate of The College of Idaho and managing editor of PurplePTSD.com. When he’s not writing about the NFL, Josh enjoys running, gaming, or rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks. Check out his Twitter account: @Freyed_Chicken.