EGAN, Minn. (AP) — The Minnesota Vikings’ end game hit harder than usual. A season of exhilarating finishes, surpassing expectations tainted by this quick exit from the playoffs.
The sting was only deepened by the reality of the roster. A salary-cap crisis weighed heavily on the strong chemistry that fueled this run behind 13 wins, an NFC North division title, and new head coach Kevin O’Connell. It is likely that some of the contributing players will be forced to leave.
Quarterback Kirk Cousins said after the game, “We have a great group and we know this group won’t stay the same when the season is over.” Lost 31-24 to New York Giants First round at home on Sunday.
“It’s hard to accept, especially given the number of great players out there.”
There’s always an annual turnover in the NFL, but general manager Kwesi Adfo-Mensah and his staff face particularly tough decisions over the next two months as he and O’Connell enter their second season together. wax.
“This team was very close and we had a lot of good relationships,” said safety Harrison Smith. “We wanted to do more, but we just couldn’t get it done.”
Vikings has 8 players scheduled 8-figure salary cap hit 2023 order: Cousins, wide receiver Adam Thielen, right tackle Brian O’Neill, Smith, outside linebacker Zadarius Smith, running back Dalvin Cook, outside linebacker Daniel Hunter, linebacker Inside Eric Kendricks of. Only Hunter, 28, Cook, 27, and O’Neill, 27, are under 30.
Draft isn’t the only thing that needs to be addressed, especially with weaknesses inside the offensive line and defensive backs. That means he likely won’t do well with one or two restructured contracts. He will need to cut one or two of his worthy players to make room.
“We did something that a lot of people never thought we would do since the beginning of the season. I don’t think list of achievements“It will definitely be hard not to see these faces in the locker room next year.
One of the reasons O’Connell’s job was open was the recent struggles of the once-dominant defense under his predecessor Mike Zimmer, who specialized on the other side of the ball. the group slipped further Under defensive coordinator Ed Donatel, his place on the team was called into question. A productive pass rush with Hunter and Smith on the edge was promised, but in addition to finishing penultimate in the league in yards allowed, the Vikings were bottom of the NFL in pressure percentage and sack percentage. Ranked 1/3.
Backed by quick third-round pick Brian Asamoah of last year’s draft, Kendricks is the defensive veteran with the lowest dead-money hits and most questionable return among a group of eight-figure players. Even if his 3-4 scheme on Donatel’s base didn’t fit Kendricks or Zimmer’s 4-3 system, he would be hard to replace.
“Eric has this crazy ability to see what’s going to happen,” said linebacker Jordan Hicks. “He’s the most talented middle linebacker I’ve ever had the chance to play with. is one of
The environment around team headquarters a year ago was at its lowest point after a two-game losing streak that led to Zimmer’s firing, but improvements in that area in the direction of sunny O’Connell are an asset the Vikings can maintain. am. 2023 and does not count towards the cap.
“The biggest difference is the culture around here,” Cook said. “Everyone believed we could win every game, every game.”
Speaking of Cook
Only 27 years old, Cook is one of those with an uncertain future in his seventh season in the NFL and an underrated and tough position. There is no guaranteed salary left on his contract, only a prorated signing bonus portion with dead money of about $6.2 million if he is released before the start of free agency.
Cook broke 1,000 rushing yards for the fourth straight season, but most importantly, he was healthy in all 18 games. He is the only player in his career who has not missed at least three of his games.
“Finishing with these guys has always been my goal. Years ago, or in a lot of games where I didn’t finish all the time, I was able to help them win games. It was your conscience,” Cook said. “Having year-round availability for these guys means a lot to me.”
The Vikings have control of Jefferson’s contract for two more years at rookie contract percentage, but he’s eligible to sign an extension this offseason. He is almost certain to gain more yards on the , and set the wide receiver record for richest trade.
“That’s not really what I’m worried about,” Jefferson said. “I want to win the Super Bowl. That’s what I’m most focused on. Money is with work.”
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