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Lunchbreak: Commitment to Cousins Makes it Clear Vikings Not Rebuilding'

Vikings Owner Mark Wilf emphasized earlier this spring that although the team made changes at general manager and head coach, the Vikings were not entering rebuild mode.

Chad Graff of The Athletic said that point was doubled down on Sunday night when the Vikings agreed in principle to a contract extension with Kirk Cousins. Graff wrote:

The agreement … leaves the Vikings committed to the 33-year-old quarterback in a clear sign that they will be doing everything in their power to snap a two-year skid without a playoff berth.

Graff quoted new General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, who has expressed his belief in Cousins since being hired by Minnesota.

"Kirk was one of the first players I called when I joined the Vikings, and it was immediately clear how much he cares about this organization and about winning," Adofo-Mensah said. "High-level quarterback play is a prerequisite to building a championship team, and we are confident Kirk will continue along that path."

For the Vikings, the move provides salary cap flexibility at a time when it's badly needed. Additional moves to lower their cap number are expected in the coming days, which will allow them to sign a few players, including likely a guard and cornerback, when free agency officially opens Wednesday.

The deal also gives Adofo-Mensah and [Head Coach Kevin] O'Connell a quarterback they feel they can win with at a time when ownership has made its desires clear. O'Connell is convinced, according to sources, that he can help Cousins achieve the best season of his career with an innovative scheme while connecting with him off the field.

The NFL free agency negotiation window opens today, and fans are watching to see what moves the Vikings may make after agreeing to a contract extension with Cousins.

Andrew Krammer of the Star Tribune wrote Saturday that Minnesota has "plenty of holes to fill."

Of course, it remains to be seen if the Vikings will address areas of need through free agency additions or the upcoming NFL Draft. But as the team's new brass faces its first opportunity here, Krammer evaluated specific positions that could use bolstering. He first tackled cornerbacks, writing the following:

Only four cornerbacks — Cameron Dantzler, Kris Boyd, Harrison Hand and Parry Nickerson — are currently under contract. Patrick Peterson and Mackensie Alexander will become free agents on Wednesday. While Dantzler could hold on to a starting job, the Vikings need both starters and reserves. New [Defensive Coordinator] Ed Donatell often deploys five defensive backs — more than Mike Zimmer did in Minnesota — which makes corner a top priority.

Krammer noted "best fits" for the Vikings at the corner position in free agency:

The Vikings need to upgrade from Alexander in the slot. A slam-dunk fit is Bryce Callahan, who has played all seven NFL seasons under Donatell and Vic Fangio in Chicago and Denver. When healthy, the 30-year-old Callahan has been one of the league's best slot defenders. But he has landed on Injured Reserve each of the past three seasons. The Vikings also need outside corners who can cover man-to-man like the Chiefs Charvarius Ward, Eagles Steven Nelson, Cardinals Robert Alford and Packers Kevin King, who had his best season in 2019 under new Vikings [Assistant Head Coach] Mike Pettine.

On defense, Krammer also listed defensive line and linebacker as places of need for Minnesota.

Offensively, while the Vikings seem pretty well set at tackle, they could use some support on the interior of the offensive line.

Two interior offensive linemen are currently signed beyond this season: guards Ezra Cleveland and Wyatt Davis. That's it. The Vikings need long-term depth and, [since] they are sticking with Cousins, they need immediate help in front of him. Center Garrett Bradbury is entering the final year of his rookie contract after briefly losing his starting job last year. Oli Udoh also enters a contract year after struggling as a starting guard. Mason Cole and Dakota Dozier are free agents.

Krammer noted there are multiple options of interior linemen set to hit free agency.

This seems a good year to need interior O-line help. Need a new center? The Ravens Bradley Bozeman, Titans Ben Jones and Rams Brian Allen are available. A new right guard? The Rams Austin Corbett looks like a fit. The 49ers Laken Tomlinson would be a strong addition if the Vikings can afford him. The Colts Mark Glowinski and the Jaguars Andrew Norwell have been reliable veterans and might be better for the salary cap puzzle.