Skip to main content

News | Minnesota Vikings –

Vikings 2023 Free Agency Outlook: Offense

EAGAN, Minn. — When Kwesi Adofo-Mensah flew to Indianapolis for his second NFL Scouting Combine as Vikings GM this year, he didn't have quite as many things to worry about on the short flight as a year ago.

He noticed this time around the regional jet aircraft was smaller than he remembered.

"I was probably doing 80 different things at once and didn't realize it, so that dynamic has slowed down," Adofo-Mensah explained.

There are, however, plenty of questions for Minnesota to resolve soon.

Adofo-Mensah kicked off his combine week with a podium media session before smoothly landing on a couch for a talk with Twin Cities media members who made the trip. He explained from the third-floor lobby of the JW Marriott how much he appreciates the "real estate acumen and really good understanding of long-term thinking and vision" he's observed by Vikings Owners Mark and Zygi Wilf.

"I was in [U.S. Bank Stadium] with Zygi, and he's looking up [at the ceiling]," Adofo-Mensah began the anecdote. "You know, in football meetings I get one Zygi, but then I get to see the other Zygi, the visionary. This guy is brilliant. Mark is brilliant. When I'm listening to them, I get the advice from people who are really successful with what they do in terms of long-term planning and vision and investment space. I try to use them as a resource, but our communication is ongoing, and I want to make sure we're always aligned.

"There are a few people in my life that are visionaries, like my wife is actually a really creative visionary, and when you look at me and the numbers are turning, it's like that look, but it's in a creative space," Adofo-Mensah added. "He was looking at the ceiling and telling me why they came up with that design, the doors and different things. I'm just like, 'Man, I would have loved to have been here when the place was just gravel and you pictured it.' It's just cool, and I'm a very big fan of creatives as you'll probably learn about me, and I think he's a great creative."

Mortenson Construction deployed an impressive master schedule to keep the largest private construction project in state history on time, managing the arrival of materials and crew do deliver U.S. Bank Stadium.

Similarly, Adofo-Mensah and the Vikings leadership are trying to build the most competitive team through certain time horizons. They can feel good about the foundation laid in 2022 but know that the work must continue to reach the ultimate goal.

The first deadline is the beginning of the New League Year on March 15, and Minnesota is working its way to get under the salary cap for 2023.

A long-term vision for the overall optimization of the roster must be approached with creative problem solving.

Some outcomes, however, like this week's release of Eric Kendricks to save $9.5 million against the cap, are the result of not having many options for retaining players.

"I think it's positional value, it's value in the locker room, it's relative replacements. … It's hard because when you move on from a great player, the odds of getting another great player aren't that great, and it's just the truth of the matter," Adofo-Mensah said. "So you always want to do that carefully, but ultimately, every team has this problem. Sometimes I can think, 'Oh, I've got the weight of the world on my shoulders,' and I'll call another GM and they lay their problems on me, so we're all doing the same thing."

As Adofo-Mensah and the Vikings prepare for free agency, we're taking a look at Minnesota's roster ahead of free agency, beginning with the offense. We'll combine defense and special teams in a separate post.

Here's a look at which Vikings are under contract, those who are scheduled to become free agents, Minnesota's potential needs and notes on players from other teams who are set to become free agents.



Kirk Cousins

Cousins passed for 4,547 yards and 29 touchdowns while tying an NFL record with eight fourth-quarter comebacks, rising at the end of games to help Minnesota go 13-4.

He is entering the final season of his current contract in 2023 and will turn 35 in August.


Nick Mullens (unrestricted free agent)

The Vikings acquired Mullens in August for a 2023 seventh-round pick after he had suited up against Minnesota for Las Vegas in the preseason.

He completed 21 of 25 passes for 224 yards and a score with one interception in limited action.


The Vikings and Cousins have the option of reaching a short extension, signing a longer deal or playing out 2023 and seeing where things stand after this season.

Adofo-Mensah was asked about the potential of signing a QB for four to five years or if his preference is to keep that shorter.

"They want it as certain as possible, and from our side, we want flexibility," he said before adding how much emphasis he places on the position.

Adofo-Mensah said during his podium session that Cousins is beyond the threshold for what teams need at the position to win.

Head Coach Kevin O'Connell said the following in his session with Twin Cities media members: "I'm really proud of the way Kirk played this year and look forward to seeing him build on it in 2023."

Cousins' durability has been impressive, but the Vikings will definitely need a backup, whether that's Mullens again or someone else. Teams usually open training camp with three or four QBs.

Josh Rosen was with Minnesota's practice squad late last season, but he is also a free agent.

View the best photos of Vikings quarterbacks Kirk Cousins and Nick Mullens during the 2022-23 season.

WHO'S POTENTIALLY OUT THERE?'s Gregg Rosenthal recently released his list of the top 101 potential free agents, which has been updated to remove players who were franchise tagged or have signed new deals.

The following quarterbacks are listed in order of their overall rankings: 22. Jimmy Garoppolo, 37. Jacoby Brissett, 56. Teddy Bridgewater, 79. Andy Dalton, 91. Gardner Minshew II and 101. Baker Mayfield.

Garoppolo handled his situation in San Francisco last season, transitioning from an exiled starter/backup to going 7-3 while filling in for an injured Trey Lance. Garoppolo, who also missed time because of injury, is 40-17 in 57 career starts.

The Vikings faced Bridgewater, a first-round pick by Minnesota in 2014, and Dalton last season with the Dolphins and Saints, respectively.



Ty Chandler, Dalvin Cook, C.J. Ham (FB) and Kene Nwangwu

Cook has been the pacesetter of the room since his selection in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft.

Nwangwu and Chandler have played sparingly on offense but could be primed for increased roles in 2023, in addition to their contributions on special teams, as Minnesota's offense evolves in its second year.


Alexander Mattison (unrestricted free agent)

Mattison drew credit from coaches last year for allowing them to keep their entire offensive system available when he spelled Cook.

Minnesota's shift to a pass-first offense in 2023 led to the lightest load of Mattison's career with only 74 carries, which was down from his career-high 134 in 2021.


Cook has three years remaining on his current contract with cap hits in the double digits of millions each year.

Nwangwu has two seasons remaining on his rookie deal, and Chandler, who missed time because of injury, has three.

Ham, who was a special teams captain in 2022, is entering the final season of his current contract. He made his way into the end zone for a career-best two rushing touchdowns that were his first scores on the ground since 2017. He's played in at least 15 games every season since 2017.

The Vikings are trying to establish more consistency in the run game going forward. There were a couple of home runs, but there were also too many strikeouts to put the offense behind the chains. O'Connell discussed the run game in depth at the combine.

"A main goal of mine is to have some improvement in our running game," O'Connell said. "It's one thing to want to call more runs, but what do those runs look like when you call them and what is the attempt? What are we trying to get accomplished schematically? How are we using our players to do the things they do well while sticking to the philosophy of marrying the run and the pass, and ultimately, how are we coaching the smallest of the details that matter so much when it comes to trying to gain literally inches of advantage?

"I think the home runs and the long ones are great, but as a play caller, I would love to be second-and-5," O'Connell added. "I think the number one rushing team in the league averaged over five yards a carry, and if you tell me I'm in second-and-5, here we go. We're in a position to do a lot of different things, regardless of field position, score in the game, the personnel groupings."

Chicago (5.40), Buffalo (5.19) and Baltimore (5.17) were the top three in yards per rush, but those numbers include gains by running quarterbacks. Fifteen teams averaged at least 4.54 yards per carry in 2022. The Vikings ranked 26th with 4.11.


Rosenthal's list of the top 101 potential free agents includes 49. Miles Sanders, 65. Damien Harris, 74. Jamaal Williams, 81. Devin Singletary, 82. Raheem Mostert, 86. Mattison and 98. David Montgomery.

This year's free agency class features a crowded backfield. Sanders ranked fifth in rushing yards (1,269) and scored 11 touchdowns on the ground for Philadelphia. Williams, who has spent his entire career in the NFC North, led the NFL with a whopping 17 rushing touchdowns after totaling 13 through his first five seasons.

After breaking out with San Francisco in 2019 with 772 yards and eight scores on the ground, Mostert endured injuries that limited him to nine combined games from 2020-21. He rebounded with 891 rushing yards and 202 receiving yards for Miami last season.

Vikings fans are well familiar with Montgomery, who has rushed for between 801 and 1,070 yards and five to eight touchdowns in each of his four seasons with the Bears. His yards per rush for a season have ranged from 3.7 to 4.3 in that span.



Trishton Jackson, Justin Jefferson, Jalen Nailor, K.J. Osborn, Blake Proehl and Jalen Reagor

Jefferson, Osborn and Reagor are entering the fourth year of their rookie contracts. Jefferson and Reagor are eligible for fifth-year options by the team as former first-round picks.

Nailor averaged 19.9 yards per catch in limited action on offense (nine receptions for 179 yards and a touchdown on 13 targets). His first reception — a 13-yarder on a fake punt in London — was quite memorable.

Jackson and Proehl contributed on Minnesota's practice squad last season and signed futures contracts when the season ended.


Adam Thielen

Minnesota announced the release of Thielen on March 10 ahead of free agency.

View the best photos of Vikings wide receivers, Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, K.J. Osborn, Jalen Reagor and Jalen Nailor during the 2022-23 season.


Bisi Johnson (unrestricted free agent)

Johnson appeared on track for a great comeback story after suffering a torn ACL during 2021 training camp until his fourth pro season was sidetracked by another ACL injury in a preseason game at Denver last August.


Jefferson led the NFL in receptions and receiving yards in 2022 as he, Thielen and Osborn each recorded 60 or more receptions, along with tight end T.J. Hockenson.

The Vikings offense can be built on Jefferson's abilities, but Minnesota wants opponents to think twice about trying to double team Jefferson throughout a game.


Rosenthal's list of the top 101 potential free agents includes 9. Odell Beckham, Jr., 12. Jakobi Meyers, 19. JuJu Smith-Schuster, 28. DJ Chark, 47. Darius Slayton, 66. Allen Lazard, 83. Robert Woods, 96. Nelson Agholor and 99. Mack Hollins.

Teams kicked the tires on Beckham, but he remained unsigned after working his way back from an ACL injury suffered in Super Bowl LVI.

The Vikings played against Meyers (three catches for 62 yards), Chark (nine for 140 and a touchdown in two games), Slayton (four for 79 in the regular season and four for 88 in the postseason), Lazard (five for 59 in one game) and Agholor (six for 65 and one TD) in 2022, so they saw firsthand some of the damage that each could do.



T.J. Hockenson, Johnny Mundt and Nick Muse

After joining Minnesota via a trade, Hockenson caught 60 passes for 519 yards and three touchdowns in just 10 games. He quickly picked up the offense and caught all nine passes thrown his way at Washington in his Minnesota debut.

He caught four or more passes in eight games with Minnesota, including 13 for 109 yards and two touchdowns in Minnesota's Week 16 win over the New York Giants. Hockenson recorded 10 catches for 129 yards in the Wild Card Round rematch.

Mundt brought a deep knowledge of Minnesota's offense from his time with the Rams and recorded 19 of his 29 career receptions for 140 of his 233 career receiving yards. He also reached the end zone for the first time (54th career regular-season game).

Muse played exclusively on special teams (108 snaps across 10 games) going back and forth from the practice squad. He signed a futures contract when the season ended.


Ben Ellefson and Irv Smith, Jr. (unrestricted free agents)

Injuries undercut the 2022 campaigns of Ellefson and Smith in 2022. Ellefson caught three passes for 26 yards on three targets; Smith bounced back from missing all of 2021, but his yards per reception dropped from 12.2 in 2020 to 7.3 in 2022.


The acquisition of Hockenson can continue to have impact through this season's fifth-year option — or maybe well beyond if he and the Vikings work out a multiyear contract.

Mundt is more of a blocker but showed he can diversify the attack a bit. We'll see what kind of jump Muse makes this offseason as a former seventh-round pick.

Ellefson's opportunities were when he landed on Injured Reserve. He tried to return to action late in the season but was unable to. Smith's combination of skills as a receiving target who can create mismatches and as a blocker always sounded enticing, but some bad luck with injuries resulted in Minnesota not seeing as much of him as they would have liked.

View the best photos of Vikings tight ends during the 2022 season.


Rosenthal's list of the top 101 potential free agents includes 16. Dalton Schultz, 23. Mike Gesicki, 76. Hayden Hurst, 84. Robert Tonyan and 95. Smith.

Schultz played last season on the franchise tag and finished with 57 catches for 577 yards and five scores in 15 starts.

Gesicki's offensive snap counts dropped from a career-high 828 in 2021 to 478 last season, and his production decreased from 73 receptions for 780 yards to 32 for 362, but his touchdowns increased from two to five.

The production by Hurst (52 for 414 and two scores) and Tonyan (53 for 470 and two) was quite similar in 2022.



Blake Brandel, Ezra Cleveland, Christian Darrisaw, Ed Ingram, Vederian Lowe, Brian O'Neill, Chris Reed and Josh Sokol

Darrisaw and O'Neill have ascended nicely for Minnesota. O'Neill is recovering from a Week 17 injury at Green Bay.

Brandel was already retained as an exclusive rights free agent. Cleveland and Reed are entering the final seasons of their current contracts.

Ingram was the only Vikings player to be on the field for all 1,168 offensive snaps.

Lowe played sparingly, helping out on offense and special teams. Sokol, and undrafted free agent who spent his rookie season on Minnesota's practice squad, signed a futures contract when the season ended.


Garrett Bradbury, Austin Schlottmann and Olisaemeka Udoh (unrestricted free agent)

Bradbury has started all 57 regular-season games he's played through four seasons, but he suffered an injury in Week 13 that sidelined him for the rest of the regular season. He returned to play in Minnesota's playoff game.

Schlottmann started four games in relief of Bradbury before suffering a leg injury in Week 17 at Lambeau Field.

Udoh relieved O'Neill at Green Bay and started in his place in the regular-season finale and playoff game.

View the best photos of the Vikings offensive line during the 2022 season.


A group that's endured changes over the years but has been invested in with high picks since 2018, the Vikings offensive line might undergo another significant change if Bradbury is not brought back. Coaches were complimentary of Bradbury's grip on the offense in his first season in it.

The Bradbury decision could affect Minnesota's remaining approach to free agency and/or the draft.

The Vikings think they have their starting tackles for years to come with Darrisaw and O'Neill, but Minnesota's opponents found success last season when pressuring from the interior of the offensive line.

Cleveland has started every game in the past two seasons and was starting to mesh well with Darrisaw on the left side of the line. Ingram was thrown in the deep end, starting immediately.


Rosenthal's list of the top 101 potential free agents includes 2. Orlando Brown (T), 6. Mike McGlinchey (T), 21. Jason Kelce (C), 26. Jawaan Taylor (T), 27. Kaleb McGary (T), 33. Ben Powers (G), 36. Nate Davis (G), 41. Dalton Risner (G), 44. Isaiah Wynn, 53. Isaac Seumalo (G), 55. Kelvin Beachum (T), 58. Ethan Pocic (C), 60. Connor McGovern (C), 62. Donovan Smith (T), 88. Bradbury (C), 89. Andrew Wylie (T) and 93. Bradley Bozeman (C).

Brown is a four-time Pro Bowler who played 2022 on the franchise tag, but it was money well spent by the Chiefs on the way to winning Super Bowl LVII.

Among guards: Powers has started 36 of 47 games played; Davis has started 54 of 55 games; Risner has started all 62 games played; Seumalo has started 60 of 81 games.

Pocic has started 53 of 70 games, including all 13 for Cleveland in 2022, after beginning his career with Seattle in 2017.

McGovern has made at least 15 starts every season since 2018 with the Broncos and Jets. He played every offensive snap last season for New York.

Bozeman has started 60 of 79 games for Baltimore (2018-21) and Carolina (2022).