The top was harder than ever for the Minnesota Vikings, who exceeded expectations marred by an exhilarating end to the season and this fast exit from the playoffs.
Sting solely deepened with the truth of the record. The wage cap disaster will possible drive out some gamers who contributed closely to the robust chemistry that fueled this run behind 13 wins, an NFC North division title and new head coach Kevin O’Connell.
“We have got such an awesome group, and you recognize when the season is over, it is not going to be the identical going ahead,” quarterback Kirk Cousins mentioned after Sunday’s 31-24 house loss to the New York Giants. spherical.
“It is exhausting to just accept, particularly with what number of nice gamers there are.”
There’s at all times turnover from 12 months to 12 months within the NFL, however normal supervisor Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and his workers will face a very robust choice cycle over the following two months as he and O’Connell enter their second season collectively.
“This staff was fairly shut, it was an awesome relationship,” security Harrison Smith mentioned. “We needed to do extra and we could not.”
The Vikings have eight gamers slated to hit the eight-figure wage cap in 2023: Cousins, extensive receiver Adam Thielen, proper sort out Brian O’Neill, Smith, exterior linebacker Za’Darius Smith, operating again Dalvin Prepare dinner, exterior linebacker Danielle Hunter and inside linebacker Eric Kendricks. Solely Hunter (28), Prepare dinner (27) and O’Neal (27) are beneath 30.
There are weaknesses, notably alongside the inside of the offensive line and among the many defensive backs, that can take greater than the draft to deal with. Meaning a restructured contract or two will not minimize it. To make room, a priceless participant or two will most likely should be minimize — maybe with no clear alternative at the moment obtainable.
“We did issues from the start of the season that lots of people did not suppose we might do. We’re happy with it. I am not proud in any respect to lose tonight and never have the ability to transfer on,” mentioned Justin Jefferson, who leads the record with a league-leading 1,809 receiving yards. “It is undoubtedly going to be exhausting to not see a few of these faces within the locker room subsequent 12 months.”
NO MORE SHARING
One of many causes the job opened up for O’Connell was the current struggles of a once-dominant protection beneath his predecessor, Mike Zimmer, who specialised on that aspect of the ball. The group slipped additional beneath defensive coordinator Ed Donatel and questioned his standing on the staff. There was promise of a productive cross rush with Hunter and Smith on the sidelines, however along with ending second-to-last within the league in yards allowed, the Vikings ranked within the backside third of the NFL in stress proportion and sack proportion.
With final 12 months’s third-round choose speedy Brian Asamoah ready within the wings, Kendricks is the veteran defensive finish whose return is in query with the smallest lifeless cash shot among the many eight-figure group. Even when the bottom 3-4 scheme beneath Donatell would not match Kendricks and Zimmer’s 4-3 system, he can be exhausting to switch.
“Eric has a loopy, loopy means to know what’s coming,” linebacker Jordan Hicks mentioned. “He is without doubt one of the most proficient midfielders I’ve ever had the chance to play with.”
The ambiance across the staff’s entrance workplace was at a low level a 12 months in the past after a second straight dropping season that led to Zimmer’s firing, however enchancment in that space beneath the sunny O’Connell is an asset the Vikings can maintain on to. 2023 and doesn’t think about the restrict.
“The most important distinction is the tradition right here,” Prepare dinner mentioned. “The children believed we had been going to win each sport.”
talking of the cook dinner
Prepare dinner remains to be solely 27 years previous, however he is one other whose future is bleak because of the undervalued and punishing place he is performed coming into his seventh NFL season. He has no assured wage left in his contract, solely prorated signing bonus parts that include roughly $6.2 million in lifeless cash if he is launched earlier than free company.
Prepare dinner surpassed 1,000 dashing yards in his fourth season, however extra importantly, he was wholesome for all 18 video games — the one time in his profession he did not miss a minimum of three video games.
“That is at all times been my purpose, simply to complete with these guys. A couple of years in the past I did not end a variety of video games or ever, it was solely due to your integrity that I used to be in a position to assist these guys win a sport,” Prepare dinner mentioned. “It means quite a bit to me to be obtainable all 12 months for these guys.”
The Vikings have two extra years of contract management on Jefferson, however he shall be eligible to signal an extension this offseason. He’s certain to set the report for the richest extensive receiver cope with extra yards in NFL historical past than anybody else in a participant’s first three years.
“It is not likely a priority for me,” Jefferson mentioned. “I need to win a Tremendous Bowl. That is what I deal with probably the most. The cash comes with the job.”
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