Vikings Rumors: MIN Getting Defensive, A Displeased Hitman, and More Problem Than Champagne?

Sep 10, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) stiff arms Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Carlton Davis III (24) in the second quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Since we’re officially into the portion of the year when Vikings rumors are arriving fast and furious, we’ll be highlighting some of the purple rumblings.

The “Vikings Rumor Wrangle” is a series that keeps readers informed on what’s being whispered about in Vikings Land. In this iteration, we discuss the Vikings prioritizing defense in RD1 of the 2024 NFL Draft, The Hitman being less than pleased with a rule change, and Justin Jefferson being a champagne problem.

Vikings Rumors: 03.27.2024

Rumor #1 — Minnesota is Very Willing to Prioritize the Defense in RD1

Kwesi Adofo-Mensah can commonly be found talking about the merits of being flexible. So, too, does Kevin O’Connell understand that being able to pivot is valuable.

A piece from Lindsey Young on relays some of the head coach’s thoughts from recent discussions at the Annual League Meeting: “That flexibility with that move that Kwesi made to get pick 23 was about the flexibility but also looking at a draft where I do believe there’s going to be a lot of offensive players go in the top 10.”

The coach thinks some elite defensive talent may get pushed down toward 11: “When that first defensive player goes, when that second or third goes, I wouldn’t be shocked if it’s right around our pick at 11, and at pick 23, what does it mean if defensive players that might have been top-five picks, top-seven picks are now in the teens or 20s?”

NFL: Combine
Feb 27, 2024; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell speaks during a press conference at the NFL Scouting Combine at Indiana Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Adofo-Mensah agrees: “I don’t think [those two picks] lock us into any one strategy. You know, the mock draft season is here, so I think people are probably thinking they know with more certainty what we’re gonna do than the Vikings do.”

Obviously, there’s some danger in taking the GM’s and HC’s words as gospel. They tend to be genuine when chatting with the media and yet the basic reality is that every NFL team is looking to keep their true draft plan and strategy close to the chest. Minnesota benefits if they can actually convince people from outside of TCO Performance Center that they’re fully willing to stay put at 11 and 23. Doing so helps the team to maintain leverage in trade negotiations.

One does wonder, though, about a future where Minnesota snags a fantastic defender at No. 11 before sinking No. 23 into a QB like Bo Nix or Michael Penix. Would they even double dip on defense, fully loading up Brian Flores’ side of the ball?

Rumor #2 — The Hitman Doesn’t Love the New Rule Change

The players may not be pleased, but the NFL is moving forward regardless.

The “hip drop tackle” will be penalized. Ian Rapoport confirms as much: “The NFL has banned the hip-drop tackle, source said. The Competition Committee was unanimous on it.” A piece on relays the words from Troy Vincent, who offers this thought: “When you have a play that has a 20-25 times the injury rate, it doesn’t allow [players] to fulfill [their] dreams.”

Harrison Smith, who has played in the NFL for a dozen seasons, has mixed feelings about the new change.

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings
Dec 31, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings safety Harrison Smith (22) enters the stadium before the game against the Green Bay Packers at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

In fact, Smith breaks things down into tiers, parsing through separate responses based on his views as a “human,” “business person,” and as “Hitman.” The initial category — mere humanity — leads to being “mostly indifferent.” The businessman part of him offers a bit more intrigue, “The NFL is protecting the merchandise. National audience tunes in to see offense. Further protect offensive players/potentially weaken tackling attempts (win-win).”

And then there’s the final thought as The Hitman, the moniker that’s been attached to Smith for a long time: “Dislike, more defensive fines, true sport weakens.” At this point, Smith has more than earned widespread respect, so we should hold his opinion in high regard.

Not altogether unlike Smith, Josh Metellus isn’t pleased with the rule change.

Rumor #3 — Is the Justin Jefferson Extension Becoming More of a Problem?

Last offseason, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah brushed off the idea that he was navigating a true problem with the yet-to-be-completed Justin Jefferson extension. Instead, the GM pointed toward the team dealing with a “champagne problem.”

In other words, there’s tremendous luxury standing alongside the need to extend the WR1. After all, the receiver was 23 at the time and coming off of a season where he snagged a first-team All Pro nomination alongside being the winner of the Offensive Player of the Year Award. His 128 catches, 1,809 yards, and 8 touchdowns were pivotal in Minnesota’s 13-4 record.

Dec 24, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) celebrates his touchdown against the Detroit Lions during the second quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

And yet we’re now into the next offseason and an extension is still incomplete. Meanwhile, Kirk Cousins has travelled to Georgia to become a Falcon and Sam Darnold is scheduled to be the Vikings’ new QB1. Within that context, Adofo-Mensah is looking to get an extension put together for the cornerstone player of the franchise he’s being entrusted to lead.

Only 24, Jefferson is a team captain and is among the NFL’s top 10 players. One could reasonably make the case that he’s the most valuable non-quarterback in the league.

He heads into 2024 playing on his 5th-year option, which puts a fully guaranteed $19,743,000 cap charge onto the books. An extension could toss close to $15 million back into Minnesota’s 2024 budget. Is it a problem for Minnesota that an extension still isn’t done?

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.