Do you have a comment or question? Send it to the Vikings.com Mailbag! Every Monday we'll post several comments and/or questions as part of the Vikings.com Monday Morning Mailbag. Although we can't post every comment or question, we will reply to every question submitted.
Vikings mandatory minicamp came and went quickly last week, wrapping up the team's offseason program.
Players and coaches will now have a bit of downtime to best prepare for training camp at the end of July (specific dates and times for camp will be announced when available).
Justin Jefferson participated in the mandatory minicamp after not attending the voluntary offseason program. He seemed to politely scoff at the notion that he would not be at training camp. Jefferson turned 24 last Friday.
Danielle Hunter, on the other hand, did not attend minicamp, so there's still a bit for the team and the Pro Bowl edge rusher to work out. We have more on Hunter below.
As you might expect, the inbox continued to receive a bevy of fans' thoughts on the release of Dalvin Cook. Because there were so many — and the stature of the player in the organization's storied history — I'm leading this week's edition with more thoughts on the matter.
Before we dive into that, I'd like to wish Alexander Mattison a very happy birthday. He turns 25 today, which is kind of hard to believe given the fact that he's already logged four NFL seasons.
Releasing Dalvin Cook was not a very bright idea. Here is one of the best running backs in the NFL now. How are the Vikings going to cope without a premier running back? In this age of football, you need both a good running game and passing game to be a playoff contender. I think the Vikings just shot themselves in the foot as they say.
— Jeff Baines
What are you thinking [by releasing Cook]?
He has several years to contribute to this team's success! Even if he shares the running load.
I hope for him that, every time he plays against the Vikings, his new team embarrasses us!!
— Michael Akkerman
I am so, so disappointed because he was my favorite player and to see him go is so sad. But we've got a lot of other good players.
— Brooke Osborn
First off, and I think anyone who watched last week's podium sessions with Head Coach Kevin O'Connell or quarterback Kirk Cousins, will know the positive sentiment toward Cook and appreciation for who he is, the way he played and his commitment to the team.
Mattison is in line to replace Cook as the Vikings starter. We've seen him start a total of six games over the years, including two in 2020 and four in 2021. Mattison logged 21 or more carries and at least 90 rushing yards in four of those six games, which included three victories by Minnesota.
Because Cook was able to start all 17 games in 2022, we didn't see as much of a workload for Mattison in the first year of O'Connell's system. Will Mattison be able to deliver a similar level of production if featured on that many carries? Will Minnesota implement more of a committee style like the 2021 Rams effectively did on the way to winning Super Bowl LVI?
To counter Michael's point, the financial allotment on Cook's now-terminated contract would be quite high for a running back-by-committee approach. I can understand wanting good things to happen for Cook going forward, but I'm not sure many out there want an embarrassment of the Vikings to go along with his future personal successes.
To Brooke's point, I can relate to there being many fans who will be missing The Chef as their favorite player. I have a family member I've been helping work through the release of her favorite player. A lot of us in the Vikings Entertainment Network and the rest of the building will miss him, too, and we hope to welcome him back as a Vikings Legend in years to come.
By no means do I consider myself an expert as to running back techniques and skills. Nevertheless, as I watched last year, running backs who were on the same par as D.C., the greatest difference was those running backs, blasted through the holes. They ran with aggressiveness, and rarely, if ever, headed for the sideline. More often than not, it looked like he was trying to protect himself from an injury when he ran. Give credit to whom credit is due. He was and is still an outstanding RB. I just don't think he was giving 100% to the Purple.
— Joe Dokken
I enjoyed rooting for Dalvin. I think he gave his ultimate effort every play, touch and game. That being said, I was happy to see the Vikings move on from him. I'll hope he goes on to great things with his new future team but his ride with the Vikes was over!
I'm not going to quote a bunch of stats to defend cook or my position, but I'll refer to a few in general. I'll base my argument more on the eye test today. It was plain to see Dalvin's production had fallen off. Despite playing every game (admirable and answered some of our availability questions) he barely cracked 1,000 yards, his yards per rush was his career low and his expected yards per rush was second worst in the league. His perennial shoulder injury might not have cost him any games, but it did cost him effectiveness in a few and may have caused a fumble or two.
The Vikings were at the top of the league last year for negative rushes or rushes that gained ZERO yards. Many would like to blame the offensive line for that; they wouldn't be completely wrong, but how many times have we seen one tackler get one hand on Dalvin's foot and the play's over? He doesn't break tackles, he has trouble holding the ball and his position has been devalued year after year for the last 10. It was time to give a younger, less paid player this opportunity.
Running backs have become expendable. Look at the Giants and Saquon Barkley. They're having trouble reaching a deal for him and in my opinion, Barkley is a tier higher than Cook ever was. Super Bowl winning teams don't carry high-paid running backs on their roster! Yet I'm reading in the Mailbag seasoned Vikings fans allowing sentimentality to get in the way of a future championship. If you'd prefer to watch a past-his-prime Adam Thielen and an overpaid, underwhelming Dalvin Cook at the expense of winning, then you SHOULD stop rooting for the Vikings!
Educated and reality-based Viking fans see what [Kwesi Adofo-Mensah] is trying to do and have hope for the future. Much like the roster turnover that teams and players go through, I think shedding some outdated and irrelevant fans is a positive step forward! We'll continue rooting and watching and we won't miss you at the parade.
Thanks for the memories, Dalvin! At your best, you were electrifying. At your worst, we were only frustrated that you weren't playing to your potential. By all accounts a great teammate and person, and he will be cheered at U.S. Bank stadium whenever he visits. Good luck!
— Brian Marconett in Connecticut
Interesting contrast in opinion between Joe and Brian.
Having had the benefit of seeing how hard Cook practiced over the years, I'm not going to be in the camp that thinks he would ever give any less than what he had on any particular play.
He rushed 264 times for 1,173 yards, but 174 of those yards were on three carries. That means he averaged 3.83 yards on the other 261 carries.
Those Ferrari-on-the-freshly-paved-freeway moments like his 81-yard touchdown at Buffalo, 53-yarder at Miami or 40-yard scurry early against the Colts, which was followed by a fumble on the next play, showed up at times, but there were other instances where the run game was grinding gears in the backfield or bouncing on spring potholes near the line of scrimmage.
Maybe dealing with the shoulder injury, or trying to focus on ball security, or not thinking the blocks were convincing enough to read and zoom — or any other myriad of factors — could have been involved with top-gear moments feeling sparse, but those runs at Buffalo and Miami were huge in the outcomes of those games.
For the sake of the overall team and for a person in General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah's role, it is probably best to remove emotional factors from making tough decisions and base them on informational inputs. It sounds a bit cold, but that is not meant to diminish the weight of the human element.
View photos of Vikings players during minicamp at the TCO Performance Center.
I understand the business decision to release Dalvin Cook, but I have a hard time accepting the tactics of teams that just wait it out for him to become available rather than making a trade.
I assume we'd get a compensatory pick at least but nothing near the value of our RB1. Also, what are the chances that he will have to take a pay cut on the open market and decide to take a cut and stay in purple?
Thanks for all your spot-on insight!
— Rod from Reading, Pennsylvania
Thanks for reading and the compliment. I genuinely appreciate the opportunity to field fans' questions.
I think part of the waiting game/lack of a trade partner for the Vikings aligns with Brian pointing out the annual devaluation at the running back position.
Unfortunately, because Cook was released by the team, he will not factor into the compensatory pick formula next year.
Cook and his agent will have numerous things to evaluate as they consider offers. I'm sure he'll want the ball in his hands every chance he can.
I didn't mind the release, but we should get another running back after the season in the draft or free agency, if Mattison and the others don't do as well.
— Max Dehn
It's kind of interesting that the Vikings have drafted a running back in four of the past five drafts, despite having Cook as their undisputed starter.
The run began with Mattison in 2019 and resumed with Kene Nwangwu in 2021, followed by Ty Chandler in 2022 and DeWayne McBride in 2023.
I'm looking forward to preseason games and seeing what the Vikings do at the position during those contests.
70-year-old lifelong Vikings Fan now living in glorious Alaska.
I believe the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing but expect different results.
Vikings history regarding some of the greatest players ever to play is that ownership/management didn't know when to hold 'em, didn't know when to fold 'em. It was more a matter of filling the stadium with fan favorites and then riding those horses too long.
Imagine the return that would have accrued if certain players had been traded at prime time. Anyway, there is a new approach now.
Who knows if this approach will work to expectations?
I do know that under today's rules it would be impossible to keep the Purple People Eaters together for more than a season or two without reallocating tons of money from the rest of the team. This is an entirely different game from a roster-building standpoint.
Folks, ya don't criticize the cook, especially in public if you don't like what the cake looks and tastes like when it is HALF-BAKED. *For me, so far, I am impressed on all levels with the new management team, except certain coaching selections last year, but that is pathetic 20/20 hindsight and really not worth writing. Slap myself.
I wish the entire Vikings organization the luck and success that superior organization, preparation and execution can bring.
SKOL from the Kenai Peninsula
— Mark S.
I don't understand lifelong Viking fans being so upset over the recent releases of favored players. Yes, they were good in their prime, but do you really believe Adam Thielen was worth $19 million? If you watch the games at all you realize that Eric Kendricks could not cover receivers like he had in previous years. As you age, you slow down, that's just a fact. To constantly bash our new general manager who has a different way of thinking — (analytics) — is a bit premature in my opinion. Relax, give the coaches and leaders a chance to fill the roles that they have been asked to fill before longing for players that no longer possess the skills they once had.
— Bruce in Gilbert, Arizona
Appreciate the opportunity to pair these emails from fans in Alaska and Arizona — the Vikings ardent fanbase stretches so far.
Side note: I have a Hatch Show Print at the house from my Nashville days with lyrics from "The Gambler," which was written by Don Schlitz for Kenny Rogers. Schlitz, a member of the Opry and the Songwriters Hall of Fame, played a monthly show at The Bluebird for $1 cover, which was greatly appreciated while I was in grad school/very early in my career. Even though I've had the poster for 10 or so years, I've never really tied it into the way sports executives must approach that part of the business until reading Mark's email. Knowing when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em can be important.
Loyalty and genuineness to individual players can exist alongside trying to build the overall best roster possible.
It's still so early in the cake baking process for Adofo-Mensah and O'Connell.
Kendricks and Thielen are guys I'll be pulling for going forward, but teams and systems do change.
So much negativity in the comments from last week's article. The team building to me is inspired. Cutting veterans, who I did love, before they decline, and relying on youth will lead to years of winning, especially with this new young defensive core.
— Charlie Joy
Somewhat minimized by the tough departures has been the reasons for fans to be optimistic, even if cautiously optimistic, about a potential young group of defensive players the Vikings will need to take steps forward.
Although there have been departures of significant leaders this offseason, the Vikings are returning leaders like Harrison Smith, Jordan Hicks and Harrison Phillips who can be nice pacesetters for the younger players at different parts of the defense. Incoming veteran Byron Murphy, Jr., also has seemed to have a nice impact on young cornerbacks.
Wins are never guaranteed, but the Vikings are trying to set up long-term, sustained success as they build off last season's 13-4 mark during a transition period.
It amazes me in today's NFL how they don't want to pay the running backs and they aren't so important anymore. Yet, all these coaches say they want a stellar running game to complement their passing game. If their running game is working well every Sunday, then they want to run them 25-30 times every game plus catch some passes. They've all pretty much gone to a one-back offense, so it's no wonder they burn these guys out. Then, they get injured, and management complains that they are not very durable and missed some games. And then they don't want to reward them???
— Kerry Knoff
We hear the concept of load management discussed quite a bit regarding today's NBA.
Baseball generally tries to manage workload for season with nearly 10 times as many games as an NFL season.
Again, it's a little unclear if the Vikings are going to try to direct 20-plus carries to Mattison each week, spread the ball around or try to identify their favorite matchups from week to week.
The market for every position is dynamic as league trends change. As teams continue to shift from the featured running back model to the committee for a bit of load management, they'll try to spread their dollars against the salary cap.
I like what our coaches and Kwesi are doing. I'm excited about this upcoming season and what our defensive coordinator is going to bring. We are losing a lot of veterans, but I'm OK with that. Like Bill Walsh used to say, "I want the best of you, not the rest of you. Do we have enough money to keep
Hunter, T.J. [Hockenson], [Christian] Darrisaw, Kirk and K.J. [Osborn] together?
— David Gandolfo "VikingMan"
David brings up another round of players who could be important for the Vikings this year and beyond.
Hockenson, Cousins and Osborn are all entering the final years of their current deals, and all are expected to have strong seasons — it will likely be best for Minnesota if that's the case.
Darrisaw will just be in the third year of his rookie contract, which will run through 2024 and then provide Minnesota with a fifth-year option.
Future decisions — and creating liquidity to approach them with the most opportunities — are all part of the considerations for Adofo-Mensah, who freed up cap space for this year and beyond.
The Vikings are my lifelong team. I was there in Hastings, Minnesota, when they first started playing in 1961 and have followed ever since. I don't understand the release of so many key players on the team. Dalvin, Eric, [Patrick Peterson], Adam, [Za'Darius Smith], [Dalvin] Tomlinson, and now Hunter is about to go? Tell me why so many key players had to go. Is it only the money? They were a winning team; a new D coach and a couple tweaks is all that should be needed. Now I don't know what to think or expect. We will have to trust that Kevin and Kwesi know what they are doing. I wonder if they are thinking of 2024 and beyond. A Super Bowl win before I die. Please.
— Gill Sorg in Las Cruces, New Mexico
I am a huge fan of Danielle Hunter. However, it seems to be more and more common that players sign contracts and then want to revisit that contract before it is halfway complete. There is no doubt that Danielle is an elite player, but does his production over the last few years really justify his pay? What other players could we get for $72 million? How do those stats compare to Danielle?
— Doug Bjoin in Troutman, North Carolina
I'm combining these two emails because of the related questions to Hunter, who signed a five-year contract extension back in June 2018 as he was heading into the final year of his rookie deal.
Because of reworkings over the years, Hunter's base salary is scheduled to be $4.9 million but he has a restructure of more than $7 million, according to spotrac.com, leading to a cap hit above $13 million. The Vikings have stretched some of his contract's impact to void years in 2024 and 2025.
The edge rusher will turn 29 years old in October, so it makes sense why he's interested in another multiyear deal.
Hunter has totaled 71 sacks in 73 career starts and bounced back from missing all of 2020 with a neck injury suffered in a non-padded practice to start seven games in 2021 before a torn pec on a freak play. Hunter started all 17 games in 2022 and wound up leading the team with 10.5 sacks as he transitioned to a new system.
The defense is changing again this year under new Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores. I'm sure Flores would like to design some things to maximize what Hunter has shown he can do as an elite edge rusher.
If players of his ability were super common, the top-dog edge rushers would not fetch the kind of contracts you see these days.
I have cheered for the Vikings since 1/12/75. I would love to see the Vikings win a Super Bowl but, at 61, maybe/maybe not. The Vikings have had MANY very exciting seasons.
For now, I have a complaint. There are way (way) too many letters in MMMB from super-duper geniuses complaining that: 1) The coach is an idiot. 2) The GM is an idiot. 3) I'm not going to cheer for the Vikings, anymore. 4) I'm gonna take my jersey and go home. And on and on.
I have the game on the TV or radio on Sundays and this website for a fix in between. PLEASE, for the sake of better and more informative reading, GROW UP.
— Robert M. in Columbia Falls, Montana
I've been a Vikings fan since before I knew names. And there have been some really great names over the decades. I knew of the Purple People Eaters but was too young to identify them by name. That was when they played on the frozen tundra of Met Stadium. For me, I remember people like Chris Doleman, Keith Millard, Scott Studwell and Joey Browner. Those were some bruisers.
But of all the ups and downs the team has faced over the years nothing stings so much as the NFC Championship Game in … 1998. [Randy] Moss's first season, [Randall] Cunningham at QB. They lead the league in scoring. They had the most accurate kicker in the league, Gary Anderson, who had missed his only field goal of the season earlier in the day. It was [third-and-3], with 30 seconds to go in regulation, and they have two timeouts and are past midfield… And what do Dennis Green and Cunningham do?
They take a knee and lose in overtime.
That one act, more than anything, sums up to me why the Vikings don't have the moxie to jump over the hump instead of falling down in front of it.
Maybe it's too much of that Minnesota niceness. I mean our college football team is named after a ferocious, carnivorous, rabid rodent.
Cousins has done a good enough job, as have many others on the team. I'll admit that. But whether it's our team or someone else's, when "elite players" take so much of the salary cap and then their play drops off the next year, maybe it's time to front-load the contracts with incentives instead of all this guaranteed money. I mean, Tom Brady is indeed the GOAT, but now that he's officially retired again aren't the Bucs still paying him millions? He retired!
Was there a way to keep Thielen and Cook and Smith and Hunter? And while we're at it, how many other great players have fans seen move on the last few years because the grass (cash) was greener?
They didn't do it this year, but I hope the Vikings trade up in next year's draft and take one of the top quarterbacks. I think they should have taken Hendon Hooker this year and let him heal and learn behind Cousins. But I guess Detroit saw more value there.
— David A. from Duluth via North Carolina
Will someone explain to me why some of our purple people are now, all of a sudden, turning their backs and disowning the Vikings now? For the first time in I don't know how long I am intrigued and feel like anything can happen. It seems like for decades we, like a lot of other teams, just kept beating a dead horse and figured it would get up and run us to the Promised Land. So now that our GM is doing things differently … [I have] greater respect and confidence with our Vikings. What's the worst that can happen? We continue to fall short. But the way our GM is setting up his chess pieces, it looks to me that he is in the present but working for the future of this great franchise.
Your always and forever loyal fan,
— Spliffy (Stephen S.) in Cloquet, Minnesota
Gonna close this week's edition by stitching together these three emails.
I think the impassioned criticisms do come from a place of love, and we include a wide array of opinions, but there have been a couple times when "end-of-the-road" phrasing has been used this offseason, and I've thought to myself, 'That was the final straw?'
Vikings fans in general have been a loyal group bonded together with the hope and optimism the team will one day reach its ultimate goal of winning a Super Bowl. There have been times of endearment and times that have tested endurance, but there's a general in-it together mentality that can be common when supporting team sports. It seems even more powerful when comparing commitments by Vikings fans to their favorite football team against other fan bases.
After the expansion years under Norm Van Brocklin, the Bud Grant era instituted a reliable competitiveness by the team that was either elite, above average or middle of the pack in.
Whether the Purple People Eaters, the great defensive talents on the teams of the '80s that David mentioned or the high-flying 1998 offense that captivated fandom in hearts and minds, there's usually been highly competitive squads that have called Met Stadium, the Metrodome, the University of Minnesota and now U.S. Bank Stadium home.
As for David's questions about retaining guys, it seems like the cap limitations did not enable that. We'll find out more about Hooker with the Lions, but you could see Detroit showing some savvy with the way they moved down the draft board before selecting the QB.
What we do know is that the 2023 roster is pretty much in place, even if it looks different than last year, and the team has an opportunity to defend a division title and return to the playoffs.