Mock 2024 Vikings Offseason, Part Two: Goodbye Kirk

We’ve reached part two, continuing the “what the Vikings could do” topic.

For the first time since Kirk Cousins signed in 2018, the Vikings go into the offseason without a player locked in as QB1. Not having Cousins doesn’t mean the front office won’t be aggressive during the offseason – they’ll have to be.

If there’s one lesson to take from the 2023 season, it is that the Vikings don’t have a substitute for Captain Kirk. This means that the front office will have to take a big swing in the draft, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there. Not having Kirk also means that Adofo-Mensah has accepted Cousins’ $28.5 million cap hit for 2024.

A Mock 2024 Vikings Offseason

Mock Vikings Offseason
Dec 24, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah looks on before the game against the Detroit Lions at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

As mentioned in part one, three things will happen across all fictional scenarios. Justin Jefferson will get the huge payday that he deserves, Danielle Hunter is back after receiving his own big contract, and Harrison Smith retires.

The difference in this scenario is how these contracts are structured. If an “all-in” scenario is in play, the team needed as much cap space over the next two years as possible. The opposite happens here. Yes, Cousins’ dead money is a big obstacle now, but the Vikings would have a very healthy cap situation for 2025 and beyond.

The talks with Cousins will happen as they should. In this scenario, though, the two sides can’t get to an agreement, with the QB’s age and recent injury being too much of a scare for Adofo-Mensah to bet on him. With Cousins gone, the way the team approaches free agency and the Draft drastically changes.

Setting The Tone For 2025

Nov 11, 2023; Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Drake Maye (10) looks to pass in the first quarter at Kenan Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

One of the first things Adofo-Mensah does when free agency starts is pick up the phone. Usually, he would call an agent to discuss bringing some player to Minnesota. But the person on the other side is Adam Peters, the recently appointed Washington Commanders’ general manager. Yes, the Vikings are making a move for the second overall pick in March (I told you they needed to take a swing). A trade with the Bears would be difficult for some obvious reasons – the Bears don’t want to give Caleb Williams or Drake Maye to a division rival.

Trading for the second pick more than a month before the Draft gives the Vikings the flexibility to also plan for 2025 in 2024. It would make it obvious to everyone that they will pursue one of the two premium QB prospects in this class. But why is important to do this? As I said, Cousins will have a dead cap of $28.5 million in 2024, adding the salary of the rookie QB, the team would be on the books for a little over $35 million to the QB position in 2024. In 2025, however, this number would be closer to $10 million.

The idea is for the Vikings to go after younger players, give them longer contracts, and have their cap hit as low as possible in 2024. It means Adofo-Mensah and Kevin O’Connell could still go after high-quality players to put the best possible roster around the No.2 pick. We saw CJ Stroud settle right away in the pros, and, with a very good surrounding, the hope is that the new Vikings’ QB would perform similarly.

A main focus in free agency would also be on defense as the better potential available players play on that side and it’s where the team needs help the most. So, if possible, the Vikings would pursue guys like Jaylon Johnson, Antoine Winfield Jr., Devin White, Chase Young, and Mike Onwenu.

As for Minnesota’s trade with the Commanders, the Vikings would give the 11th and 42nd pick in the 2024 Draft and their first and second rounders in 2025 for the second pick in 2024, a fourth-round pick in 2025, and a conditional 3rd rounder in 2026.

The closest scenario to this one is when the 49ers traded 3 first-round picks to the Dolphins for the 3rd overall in 2021. Because they didn’t give any second-round picks, it’s possible to assume that two firsts and two seconds would seal the deal.

The Draft

Nov 25, 2023; Stanford, California, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish running back Audric Estimé (7) breaks free for another touchdown run against the Stanford Cardinal during the third quarter at Stanford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports

In the first scenario, the Vikings traded down a couple of times and ended with 13 overall selections. Now, only seven players will be added via Draft. This mock was also made using the NFL Mock Draft Database simulator. Although there are fewer players, I won’t go into detail about every player, just the first ones.

No. 2: Drake Maye, QB, North Carolina

Without having the first pick, the Vikings will pick the QB that doesn’t go to the Bears. For some reason, the first pick in the mock was Jayden Daniels. I went with Drake Maye here because I believe that the first player off the board will be Caleb Williams, so it’d feel like cheating, and I’d pick Maye regardless.

Maye is an unbelievable prospect and it’s very easy to fall in love with him. He plays with tempo, throws accurate passes with anticipation, and has that cannon for an arm. I believe he’s a very underrated runner and possesses the speed to escape the pocket and either find an open man downfield or get the yards himself. He sometimes can hold on to the ball for too long, but Kevin O’Connell should be able to help him in this area.

There aren’t many better scenarios for a rookie than the Vikings. A QB-friendly system and the possibility to throw to Jefferson, Jordan Addison, and TJ Hockenson, added to an elite tackle duo will help ease his transition to the league. I’m not too fond of the comparison between college prospects and NFL players but it’s very easy to see Maye playing and seeing Justin Herbert. The only bad thing for Maye is that he’ll need to pick a different number.

No. 108: Audric Estime, RB, Notre Dame

The fact that the Vikings used the first two picks to trade up, and the third-rounder was used to bring TJ Hockenson means that the Vikings will have to hit on late-round picks. Estime is a powerful runner that is perfect for short-yardage situations. He could make a very good 1-2 punch with Ty Chandler, similar to what the Lions have in their backfield. Estime would be the one to gain those tough yards and help in pass protection, whilst Chandler would give the juice with his elusiveness.

Estime may not be a sexy pick but he can contribute right out of the gate. The worst area in the offense was in goal-to-go situations and Estime would help tremendously in scoring sixes instead of threes.

No. 129: Cedrick Gray, LB, North Carolina

This was a tough choice between Gray and Clameon’s DL Tyler Davis. I absolutely love Ivan Pace and I truly believe he can anchor this defense for a long time. However, with Jordan Hicks going to free agency and Brian Asamoah having an up-and-down career, linebacker is a position to invest in. Gray is a great prospect, although he has a big flaw: he misses a lot of tackles.

If it wasn’t for that, Gray wouldn’t even be available at this point. He has the size, speed, and instincts to play the position at the next level. Gray is also an excellent blitzer and could see the field in some third-down situations. If he improves the tackling problem we could see a great and young linebacker duo again.

Complete Draft Class

2nd pick: Drake Maye, QB, North Carolina

108th pick: Audric Estime, RB, Notre Dame

129th pick: Cedric Gray, LB, North Carolina

155th pick: Delmar Glaze, iOL, Maryland

164th pick: James Williams, S, Miami (FL)

178th pick: Chau Smith-Wade, CB, Washington State

189th pick: Xavier Thomas, EDGE, Clemson

Two routes result in two different draft classes. If in the first one, the idea is to pick as many players as possible, focusing on players that can help right away, here the Vikings look to the future. Maye could be a very good quarterback in Week 1, but he’s being drafted for the future. The same could be said about Gray and Chau Smith-Wade. The front office would use the free agency to solidify positions like cornerback and defensive line, while the Draft would be used to address future needs.

After discussing the two opposite directions, the last path lies somewhere in the middle. It’s also something that some of you are probably tired of hearing. The third, and last path, is the “Competitive Rebuild”.