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State of the Vikings: Rebuild or Retool?





Tanishka Mhaskar
March 22, 2020
Photo: Star Tribune

The Minnesota Vikings have impressively managed to keep their roster intact for many years, especially their defense. In the last few years, to keep their Super Bowl window open, the Vikings have restructured and backloaded many contracts. Now that’s coming into full effect, and the team is strapped on cap space. During the first week of free agency, Minnesota parted ways with many beloved players and longtime Vikings, leading many to wonder if the Vikings are in a rebuilding year.

I am here to say that the Minnesota Vikings are not rebuilding. They are, in fact, retooling. There are still plenty of reasons to look forward to the 2020 season. 

It’s important to understand that football is a young man’s game, as said by HC Mike Zimmer at the NFL Combine. The Vikings want to fill the team with youth by a one to two year retool which would potentially create a new Super Bowl window instead of leveraging their entire future to run it back in 2020. 

Why?

If they fail, they would send their team into a three to four year rebuild. This simply wouldn’t be worth it because the Vikings still have plenty of talented players in their prime such as Kirk Cousins, Eric Kendricks, Danielle Hunter, Dalvin Cook, etc. 

Back to the retool: for starters, the Vikings lost five defensive starters with the names: Everson Griffen, Linval Joseph, Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes and Mack Alexander. 

For a team strapped on cap space, the Vikings had to evaluate every player in comparison to the amount they were making. Minnesota first terminated the contracts of DT Linval Joseph and CB Xavier Rhodes. Both players who had once been great for the Vikings severely under performed in 2019.

DE Everson Griffen voided his contract but the thoughts were that the Vikings would bring him back. Reports surfaced on Friday that the Vikings and Griffen had broken off contract talks. Griffen, who played at a high level, is yet another Viking that will not return.

In place, the Vikings have breakout DE Ifeadi Odenigbo and newly signed DT Michael Pierce, a former Raven. 

The Vikings secondary was the weakest link of the team, particularly the cornerback position. Due to this, the Vikings cut Rhodes and let CBs Trae Waynes and Mack Alexander walk. It won’t be terribly hard to find another group of corners or even lean on their younger CBs in Mike Hughes and Holton Hill to take over. 

Mike Hughes was playing phenomenally before his ACL tear, and it’s about time he breaks out. He’s shown incredible signs of promise.

The Vikings also have 12 picks in a draft deep in the cornerback position.

On the offensive side of the ball, Minnesota started free agency by extending quarterback Kirk Cousins for two years. Extending a talented quarterback in his prime points to anything but a rebuild. 

Even though the Vikings lost Stefon Diggs, who wanted out, they received a huge haul for him, including a first round pick. In this deep wide receiver class, the Vikings gain much flexibility in replacing Diggs. 

The Vikings also have Irv Smith Jr, the second year man from Alabama, who they could lean on more as they find their next WR project. 

The main goal of this retool is to develop the youth. Who’s better than Mike Zimmer and Gary Kubiak to develop these young guys to run it back in 2021 and beyond? Zimmer took over the worst defense in the league in 2014 and turned it into an elite unit, when the players were young. Why can’t he do that again? Gary Kubiak won a Super Bowl with the Denver Broncos and many no name offensive players. The Vikings have more than that. 

The draft hasn’t happened yet. There are more free agents out there. The Vikings have enough money to make a run at one or two of them.

The proven coaching staff in addition to the loads of talented players still on this team can still give the fans an enjoyable season and it brightens the future for the Minnesota Vikings.

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