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I know we are only just into free agency, but I'm feeling very underwhelmed when I look at who we had signed compared to who we have lost. Maybe we don't have the cap space to re-sign who we would like as again Kirk Cousins' salary is putting a lot of strain on all our positions of need. Hopefully things get better as contracts are restructured and new signings come in.
— Andy T., United Kingdom
Andy starts us off with a vibe check for how he's feeling these days, but we have pointed out previously and will again that the Cousins extension actually created some cap relief for the Vikings.
I understand where Andy is coming from, especially if you were under the impression that the Vikings would do a significant reset and take a longer view toward the future this offseason.
Instead, as we wrote in last week's Mailbag, the Vikings approach appears to be keeping the core the same and making moves that help the team be competitive right away.
A few quotes from Vikings General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah stood out to me last week, the first being when he was asked about the possibility Minnesota could have traded away a couple of big-name players instead of retaining them for 2022.
"You try to be solutions-oriented with everything you have. You have challenges from all sides," Adofo-Mensah said. "Players have needs, we have needs; just trying to do the best you can for all parties involved. Sometimes that involves doing nothing, staying in the same place, coming back and 'Let's be great, together' and we'll figure out things after that."
To me, that's a clear-as-day signal that the Vikings are trying to maximize what (and who) they have on the roster right now. That also means trying to turn some close losses from 2021 into wins in 2022, with the hope that new voices in the front office and on the coaching staff help make that happen.
The other line that stood out to nearly everyone was when Adofo-Mensah was asked about trying to win now vs. looking toward the future.
"The way we look at it is we're trying to navigate both worlds. We're trying to live in today and tomorrow, or the competitive rebuild, however you want to phrase it or market it."
Doing both is perhaps the biggest challenge for a GM in today's league. A team like the Buffalo Bills, for example, is clearly in win-now mode. But a team like Detroit is building for the future.
The Vikings seem like they are somewhere in the middle of those two ideas.
That doesn't mean Minnesota's approach won't work in 2022. As stated before, more consistent play, a few breaks and the development of younger players could push Minnesota into the playoff picture this year.
But the Vikings are clearly operating on a year-by-year basis right now. They want to be competitive and they want to rebuild, but there seems to be more of an emphasis on the former.
View photos of Vikings CB Chandon Sullivan touring TCO Performance Center and getting introduced to the team for the first time.
I understand the organization believes we still are in a window to compete into the playoffs. And I had patience with the new GM given our cap situation...but Sean Mannion? Really? Did no one watch the game he played last year against Green Bay? Do we think so little of our third-round pick at QB last year that we feel like we need to take reps and playing time away from him? Meet the new boss (Kwesi) ... same as the old boss (Spielman). Wake up!
— Adam Ganser in New Brighton, Minnesota
Once the Cousins extension came down, it seemed like only a matter of time before Mannion came back, too.
Mannion is one of the smartest and well-respected players on the roster. But let's be honest, he isn't coming back to hopefully start a handful of games.
His role here is clear: help Cousins in meetings, throughout practices and on the sidelines Sundays as an extra set of eyes and experienced voice. If Mannion starts more than one game in 2022, that probably doesn't bode well for the Vikings overall.
And on the subject of Mond, he's a bit of an unknown right now.
What we do know is that he struggled in offseason practices, missed a significant chunk of training camp due to COVID-19 protocols and flashed a bit in the preseason finale … but essentially was not seen again the rest of the season.
That included Mannion's start in Green Bay (in which Mond played three total snaps), but you can't fully assess Mond based on that alone.
We're two weeks away from the Vikings returning to TCO Performance Center for the offseason program, which means we're more than a month from players actually hitting the field for practices.
Until that happens, we don't know how the pecking order between Mannion and Mond will shake out behind Cousins.
Maybe Mond shows tremendous growth and takes well to the new staff, cementing himself as the backup in 2022? Or maybe his early struggles from 2021 show up, and Mannion is once again the trusted voice behind Cousins?
With Cousins still in Purple, he is the starter, period. But there is certainly an intriguing storyline behind him for whichever player can earn the backup job.
View photos of Vikings DT Harrison Phillips touring TCO Performance Center and getting introduced to the team for the first time.
I'd like to see Anthony Barr re-signed and moved to edge rusher, just like Chris Doleman. Chris moved to linebacker as a rookie, and played himself into the Hall of Fame. I'd like to see us learn something and see if history repeats. Possible?
— Brian Duncan
Note: Brian is correct that the late Doleman played linebacker as a rookie, but he switched to defensive end for the final three games of his second season (1986) and became an iconic figure from that post in a 4-3 scheme on his way to the Vikings Ring of Honor and Pro Football Hall of Fame.
A week ago, maybe Brian's email would have been a possibility.
Now? I just don't see if after the Vikings kept Danielle Hunter on the roster and signed Za'Darius Smith to be their starting edge rushers in 2022.
Adofo-Mensah was delicate with how he answered a question about Barr last week, but his message also wasn't hard to decipher.
"I had a conversation with him the other day. That's going to be a tougher situation to navigate. Never say never. Obviously, there are things salary cap related with acceleration and things like that that made that kind of a challenging deal," Adofo-Mensah said.
He added: "There is an emotional side of things. There is a relationship element to this business. Those decisions can be tough, but ultimately, sometimes they just have to be made."
Barr hinted before and after the 2021 season finale that his time in Purple was likely coming to an end. Now we know that is all but certain based on recent moves.
Smith is bringing experience as an edge rusher/outside linebacker in a 3-4, which the Vikings are shifting much of their base defense to this season. He also had glowing recommendations from Assistant Head Coach Mike Pettine and outside linebackers coach/pass rush specialist Mike Smith from their time together in Green Bay.
Just watching all of the crazy trades going in the league, and it made me think that the Vikings could get some serious players in the draft. I've read that the Giants are looking to trade their first-round draft picks for future picks. What if the Vikings traded some future picks to draft Ahmad 'Sauce' Gardner and Derek Stingley, Jr., in the first round? Thoughts? Wouldn't this be the cheapest way to improve the secondary with plug-and-play players?
— James Price
James' email got an emphatic 'yes' from me to start, but that turned into a stern 'no' by the end.
Yes, it has been a WILD offseason in the NFL. Just look at this tweet from ESPN's Field Yates.
But there is almost no chance that the Vikings are able to get both of those cornerbacks in the draft.
From everything I've seen, Gardner and Stingley are widely regarded as the two best cornerback prospects in the draft. And both are going in the top 10 in many mock drafts these days. (Programming note: Vikings Mock Draft Tracker 6.0 drops Tuesday).
The Giants currently hold the fifth and seventh overall picks in the 2022 NFL Draft. The price tag — in terms of current players and/or future picks — to get either of those could be too high.
And, as we covered above, the Vikings chose to retain those assets with a focus on now, not the future.
A fun thought to ponder, but extremely unrealistic if you ask me.
View photos of new Vikings CB Chandon Sullivan who joined the team during free agency.
Why haven't we signed any corners? There's still a lot out there. How about Trae Waynes? Bring him back.
— Warren W.
Chandon Sullivan, come on down!
At the time of this post, he is the only cornerback signing the Vikings have announced this offseason. And he has some experience, too, with 54 career games (21 starts) and five total interceptions.
That's a good start for the cornerbacks room, but that group is still small.
As for Waynes, the biggest factor with him right now is his health.
He was a solid player from 2016-2019 here, but he's played in just five games since then. In fact, he's only played 243 total defensive snaps since leaving Minnesota. If he's healthy and there's an interest from both sides, then it's a possibility.
But whether it's Waynes, other free agents or draft picks, I wouldn't be surprised if cornerback continues to be a focus for the Vikings going forward.