The Vikings Are Setting Themselves Up for a Chaotic 52 Hours

NFL: Combine
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

On Monday, March 11th at 12 p.m. ET, NFL teams will move into the offseason’s “Legal Tampering” window. On Wednesday, March 13th at 4 p.m. ET, NFL teams will officially get into a new league year, meaning deals can get carried across the finish line with signatures.

There’s a total of 52 hours between the above listed days.

The Vikings are setting themselves up for a chaotic couple days. There has been a resolution for neither Kirk Cousins nor Danielle Hunter even though there’s a desire all around for the relationships to continue. Moreover, Marcus Davenport is now on the same timeline as the previous pair, so he’s another notable name who will have the chance to gauge the market in legal tampering without being able to firmly agree to a deal. Is this all part of the plan?

The Vikings Are Staring Down a Chaotic 52 Hours

There’s some comfort in the simple fact that Minnesota is intentionally moving into the chaos.

According to Senior Vice President of Player Personnel Ryan Grigson, the Vikings are in the process of working through scenarios aplenty. Consider what he had to say in a recent sitdown with Paul Allen. The executive explains how the team has been preparing.

“Having scenarios, like across the board, and us looking at those scenarios. If X happens, what will Y look like? That’s something that has been really good to see,” Grigson notes. He goes on to unpack the importance of running through the hypotheticals, explaining that the leadership team is able to “extrapolate things, just actual feeling from it […] so then you’re prepared.”

NFL: Combine
Feb 25, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts general manager Ryan Grigson speaks to the media during the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Grigson — and the Vikings more broadly — knows that things are “murky” and that “limbo” can be “unsettling.” But, crucially, Minnesota has “communicated and talked so much about so many different angles that I think we’ll be prepared at a moment’s notice.”

Kwesi Adofo-Mensah is an outside-the-box thinker who puts in a pile of work to prepare his team for success. And while some of his decisions have ended up going poorly, Adofo-Mensah still has the Vikings on a promising path. The roster has young, improving talent, a beefy budget, and nine selections for the 2024 NFL Draft.

The GM is shepherding his team into an uncertain future by anticipating eventualities so that the team can pivot “at a moment’s notice.” What does that actually mean? What are the dominos that need to fall?

Feb 28, 2023; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo‐Mensah speaks to the press at the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Perched above all other decisions, of course, is the Kirk Cousins conundrum. Some think that leaving things until March 11th would be misguided, but the Vikings likely don’t view things the same way.

Adofo-Mensah loves getting more information when he’s making huge decisions. In fact, the GM craves extra data points to help make the correct call. Giving Cousins 52 hours to get ironclad certainty about the deal that’s out there certainly qualifies.

Maybe a team wows Cousins with a humongous offer. Or, maybe, the market is more tepid than people realized. Either way, both the Vikings and the passer will get a clearer sense of what kind of deal is needed. Minnesota can likely keep their QB in town if the difference is a couple million, but a team offering $5-$10 million more per year almost certainly means Cousins is gone.

Kevin O’Connell seems pretty comfortable with this approach. He tells Rich Eisen and Daniel Jeremiah that Cousins will go through the “process” and that the veteran passer “earned the right to be a free agent.”

The key point, folks, is that Cousins can (sort of) be a free agent while still coming back to Minnesota. He can flirt with other teams on March 11th, March 12th, and most of March 13th without dead money getting shifted onto Minnesota’s books. If, in the end, a team like Atlanta or Pittsburgh doesn’t make an ultra compelling offer, then the Vikings and Cousins can continue working alongside each other. No (financial) harm, no (financial) foul.

Jun 7, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell looks on during mandatory mini camp at TCO Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

The same can be said for Hunter and Davenport, as well. The pair have the potential to be among the league’s best pass-rushing duos but injury undermined that possibility in 2023. Minnesota hasn’t firmly closed the door on pursuing that potential in 2024. The market can offer critical guidance to the Vikings when it comes to how high a contract needs to for one or both for next season.

Grigson’s words reveal that the Vikings likely feel comfortable moving into a chaotic 52-hour period. The team has been hard at work running through a myriad of possibilities. If Cousins stays or goes, Minnesota will be prepared. The same can be said for Hunter, Davenport, and then any number of other decisions.

Waiting until legal tampering to fully finish off some outstanding business comes with risk; the players in question could get monstrous deals that pry them away from Minnesota. However, the benefit is that Minnesota will gain firm clarity about the market value of several central players.

Armed with that certainty, the Vikings will be looking to move quickly through whatever reality confronts them next week. The current cap space is sitting at roughly $38 million.

Editor’s Note: Information from 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.