The Minnesota Vikings are Navigating a Wonderful Problem

Nov 21, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (33) and offensive tackle Christian Darrisaw (71) and wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) and guard Ezra Cleveland (72) in action against the Green Bay Packers at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings aren’t expected to do particularly well in 2024.

Moving on from Kirk Cousins opens up a fresh batch of uncertainty at the precise position where certainty is most welcome: quarterback. The veteran passer is being replaced by Sam Darnold — the journeman former No. 3 pick who hasn’t lived up his potential — and then J.J. McCarthy — the No. 10 pick in the most recent draft who led his Wolverines to the CFP National Championship.

Oct 10, 2021; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Carolina Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold (14) scrambles with the ball during the second half against the Philadelphia Eagles at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Until recently, a different issue was confronting Minnesota: Kwesi Adofo-Mensah had long been saying it would get done but Justin Jefferson was still unsigned. Well, that problem has been remedied, resulting in #18 being a Viking for at least the next five seasons. Rejoicing took place in all the land.

Maybe unsurprisingly, the attention has officially shifted toward stud left tackle Christian Darrisaw, a borderline elite player who is going into Year 4. PurplePTSD Managing Editor Janik Eckardt wrote about it recently, suggesting that the price could get pretty high. How big of a problem is the next major extension?

The Minnesota Vikings and The Wonderful Problem

Not that long ago, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah referred to extending Justin Jefferson as a “champagne problem.”

The basic idea is that Minnesota’s GM was very pleased to be working through that issue. The young receiver has been so sensational that there must be a major contract. Hear me, folks: the issue with Jefferson was far preferable to the one the Vikings dealt with a few years prior with Laquon Treadwell.

NFL: Combine
Feb 27, 2024; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah speaks during a press conference at the NFL Scouting Combine at Indiana Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

In one situation, the Vikings had a 1st-Round receiver who far, far surpassed expectations, resulting in the GM needing to put together a historic deal. In the other situation, the Vikings had a 1st-Round receiver who fell short of expectations, leading to an early divorce.

Which problem would you rather have?

A similar logic applies to Christian Darrisaw. Only 25, Mr. Darrisaw looks like a cornerstone player for at least five more seasons, but hopefully more. He will be going into his fourth season and then Minnesota has a 5th-year option attached at the end. In the worst case, the Vikings could even lean on the franchise tag afterwards, meaning Adofo-Mensah has a minimum of three years of team control with Darrisaw.

Questions Answered: One Injury Hiccup, 32nd-Ranked Defense, the Jets
Dec 20, 2021; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) and Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle Christian Darrisaw. Mandatory Credit: Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports.

Even better than that route, though, would be a major extension.

Eckardt’s piece responds to the work from Bleacher Report and the word that “Darrisaw’s likely average per year will land near $28 million.” And then the concluding thought that adds crucial context: “Paying Darrisaw seems all but a formality at this juncture, especially considering the allocation of capital to select quarterback J.J. McCarthy in the top ten in April.”

Therein lies the key, folks: the presence of McCarthy. If the rookie lives up to his potential — and a ton hinges on that tiny if — then there’s money to pay the LT1 some major money.

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Minnesota Vikings
Dec 26, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle Christian Darrisaw (71) and Los Angeles Rams outside linebacker Von Miller (40) chase a fumble by quarterback Kirk Cousins (not pictured) during the fourth quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Darrisaw recovered the fumble. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota’s problem is that Darrisaw has been so good that he is well set up to demand a huge extension. So, too, did Justin Jefferson find himself in that spot. A bit earlier, T.J. Hockenson was in the same position. Again, wonderful problems.

The Vikings could conceivably be moving into their future with an All-Pro level player at TE1, WR1, and LT1 and all of whom could be operating on deals kicking over major money. In a lot of instances, that problem would be backbreaking for the salary cap, but the wonderful part is that Minnesota is looking to sync up those deals with the rookie QB contract.

Add it all together and it could be a perfect storm in Minnesota. No, there’s no guarantee of success, but there’s major potential present for these Minnesota Vikings and the problem extensions that have been and are being worked out.

The Vikings currently have a bit more than $26 million in cap space (but the top picks haven’t signed yet). As of right now, the 2025 budget boasts more than $50 million.

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.