Mock 2024 Vikings Offseason, Part One: The “All-In” Plan

Oct 15, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) passes in the first half against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

If you’ve read anything on PurplePTSD, Vikings Territory – or anything about the Vikings – you know this is a critical offseason.

Heading into the third year of their tenure, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Kevin O’Connell have a ton of decisions to make. Kirk Cousins and Danielle Hunter are impending free agents, the defense lacks depth, and Justin Jefferson is due a huge payday. To solve at least the majority of these problems, the duo currently has just under $30 million in cap space and just two draft picks in the top 100.

With this in mind, I can view three different paths, each being discussed separately. Two of them involve keeping Kirk Cousins in Minnesota, while the other comes with a new QB under center. Even though each path comes with different decisions, there are a couple of things that I believe will happen regardless.

The first decision revolves around the Justin Jefferson extension. Adofo-Mensah doesn’t want to be the guy who lets a player like JJ leave, so he is a priority. I also think Hunter will be back in purple and gold with a big contract. The only pass rushers under contract in 2024 are Patrick Jones and Andre Carter II, so it’s not a matter of if the team will bring another edge, it’s a matter of when. Sadly, the third one is that we’ve probably seen the last game of Harrison Smith’s career. At 35 years old, I don’t know if he’ll be back for another run, so we will assume he’s retiring.

Betting On What Could’ve Been

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions
Jan 7, 2024; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) smiles with teammates prior to their game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports

As the title suggests, this path is betting everything in 2024. We’re hoping that Cousins’ Achilles injury will be completely healed and he will continue his pre-injury form. Let’s not forget that he was on pace for almost 5,000 yards, 38 TDs, and 10 INTs while completing nearly 70% of his passes. It’s also not crazy to assume that the Vikings would have had back-to-back 10+ win seasons if Cousins stayed healthy. Betting on his 2023 performance is why KOC and KAM could decide to go all-in in 2024, but this brings another situation to light: his contract.

Cousins’ contract history is probably the most debated topic in Vikings’ circles and around the league. Recently, the conversation has been around if he’ll give the team a hometown discount. In recent interviews, when asked about this, Cousins said that it isn’t about the money, but “what the money represents”. He wants to make sure that the team believes in him and wants him to be back. Some reports said that his asking price is $90 million in two years, but the only ones who actually know how true that could be are himself and the Vikings. What we do know is that he will account for $28.5 million in dead money in 2024.

This is the big picture with Cousins right now. A QB that, since 2022, started to be more appreciated by the fan base, and his involvement with the community and the Vikings even after his injury, shows that he loves the city and team. However, he will be 36 years old and coming off a torn Achilles, so it remains to be seen how healthy he will be for the season. A $90 million contract, I think, is too much, but a two-year, $70 million contract is right for everyone. Cousins’ camp would probably push for this to be 100% guaranteed again, and if the Vikings go for an “all-in” approach for 2024, the deal would get done.

Free Agency

Sep 14, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Danielle Hunter (99) against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Re-signing Cousins and Hunter, plus giving Jefferson a new contract could actually open up 2024 cap space, and more can be added with additional moves. The key in this scenario is having money now to spend on free agency to have the best possible roster this season, regardless of the future. Additionally, as we’ve seen in 2023, this is a defense that needs good players, so the majority of resources will be used to help it. It’s hard to do a mock free agency before the franchise tag period, but this could be a good offseason to need defensive players.

If available, names like Josh Allen (the pass rusher, not the quarterback), Brian Burns, and Bryce Huff can help Danielle Hunter pressure the QB. Justin Madubuike and Christian Wilkins can affect the pass from the middle and improve the run defense. Jaylon Johnson and L’Jarius Sneed can solidify the secondary by locking up opposing teams’ WR1. Antoine Winfield Jr. can play for his old man’s team and be the heir to Harrison Smith.

There are a lot of available players who can help this team win now, and some will indeed hit the open market. The question is: how willing would the front office be to pursue these players?

The Draft

Sep 23, 2023; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Terrion Arnold (3) carries the ball after an interception against the Mississippi Rebels during the second half of a football game at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

Another tough thing to do is a mock draft before free agency since it’s after the first couple of weeks that it’s made clear what the teams are doing, but I did a mock draft anyway, utilizing the NFL Mock Draft Database simulator. The Vikings currently have nine draft picks, but trades with the Cowboys, 49ers, and Browns meant that 13 players were selected. I won’t go into detail about the full 13 but rather highlight a few.

11th pick: Terrion Arnold, CB, Alabama

I admit that I wanted an edge rusher here, but Dallas Turner, Jared Verse, and Laiatu Latu were off the board. With every cornerback as an option, it was just a matter of preference. Arnold is a very gifted athlete and possesses the ideal frame for the position at 6’0″ and 195 lbs. A former safety, he excels against the run and can go step-by-step with the receivers, along with the IQ to be a very good in zone coverage. Arnold’s biggest flaw is in press coverage when he can be inconsistent at times with his hands, but that’s coachable

56th pick: Leonard Taylor, DL, Miami (FL)

Brian Flores did an exceptional job with the defense in 2023, but he needs better players. Adofo-Mensah and O’Connell grant him this wish, selecting a player who can be a force in the middle. Taylor checks a box that the Vikings desperately need, which is a 3-tech. His 2023 production wasn’t great, but he missed all of the spring practices and put on some extra weight for the season. With Hunter on the edge and Taylor in the middle, the team can drastically improve its pass rush.

87th pick: Blake Corum, RB, Michigan

There are two areas in which the offense can be better – interior O line and running back. Mattison didn’t show he could be a true RB1, Akers played well but tore his Achilles, and Chandler will need a partner in crime for 2024. Corum is not the biggest of runners but his elusiveness is second to none, being able to evade tacklers and gain additional yards. He is a patient runner who can be very productive in a zone-blocking scheme (like O’Connell’s), with the knock on him being his difficulty converting in short-yardage situations.

155th pick: Malik Washington, WR, Virginia

With Justin Jefferson and Jordan Addison on the roster, wide receiver isn’t a big need, but with KJ Osborn and Brandon Powell hitting free agency, it would be wise to draft one or two late-round wide receivers. Malik Washington is a favorite among draft circles to be a Day Three pick who turns out to have a great career.

He is a small player who’s more suited to be a slot receiver at the next level, but he plays way bigger than his 5’8″, 190 lbs frame. He does not shy away from contact and can win at the catch point. Pair that with the intelligence to find the soft spots in zone coverage and a special ability to get separation, and Washington can fit right into this offense.

Complete Draft class:

11th pick: Terrion Arnold, CB, Alabama

56th pick: Leonard Taylor, DL, Miami (FL)

87th pick: Blake Corum, RB, Michigan

108th pick: Sedrick Van Pran, iOL, Georgia

134th pick; Seau Brade, S, Maryland

154th pick: Ty’Ron Hopper, LB, Missouri

155th pick: Malik Washington, WR, Virginia

164th pick: Javion Cohen, iOL, Miami (FL)

178th pick: Justin Eboigbe, DL, Alabama

189th pick: Dwight McGlothern, CB, Arkansas

204th pick: Grayson Murphy, EDGE, UCLA

213rd pick: Trevin Wallace, LB, Kentucky

230th pick: Evan Williams, S, Oregon

Trades: Vikings get 56th, 87th, and 230th picks, Cowboys get 42nd pick; Vikings get 132nd, 213th, and 2025 5th round pick, 49ers get 129th pick; Vikings get 134th, 154th, and 204th pick, Browns get 132nd pick

As mentioned a couple of times, this is an all-in scenario. The idea during free agency is to open as much cap space as possible now, kicking the can down the road. The Draft is about getting as much help as possible, using the first picks on players that can have an impact right now. The lack of a pick on a quarterback is on purpose (Michael Penix Jr. and Bo Nix were available in the second round and Jordan Travis in the fourth). If the leadership believes they can win now, every move should be made to improve the odds of winning with Cousins in the next two years.

Next up in the series: the “No Kirk Cousins” plan.

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