The Vikings are 12-3 and sitting pretty for the #2 seed in the NFC. It is possible they get the #1 seed but Philly would have to lose both of their remaining games and the Vikings would have to win both. The Vikings winning the last two games at the Packers and at the Bears is going to be tough. They should do it but they more than likely will come down to the wire. I am hoping they can at least get the #2 seed. The team could face the Giants, Commandos, Seahawks, Lions, or Packers whether they get the #2 or #3 seed. All winnable games. It is going to be interesting for sure. Much better than the last two seasons at this time of year.
The defense is still the main concern and I do not believe scheme or player rotation is going to solve much the rest of the way. They really are going to have to rely on not breaking because they really are bending.
The defense is ranked ...
29th in points allowed
31st in total yards allowed
32nd in passing yards allowed
15th in passing TDs allowed (good)
20th in rushing yards allowed
13th in red zone attempts allowed
12th in red zone TDs allowed
15th in red zone TD allowed percentage
8th in third down conversion percentage
29th in first down allowed percentage
... clearly the stats confirm what we have witnessed all season. The defense allowing plenty of yards and points but do tighten up in the red zone. Not enough to overcome being 29th in points allowed. This gives plenty of reason to worry in the post season especially if another team tries to maintain time of possession to keep our offense off the field.
Before looking ahead to the offseason, I believe Rick Spielman and Mike Zimmer deserve a lot of credit for the construction of the majority of the roster that is doing so well this year.
On offense, you have Darrisaw, O’Neill, Cleveland, and finally Bradbury doing well and they were all draft picks by Spielman and Zimmer. Oli Udohn and Blake Brandel were their picks too.
Cook, Mattison, Nwangwu, Ham, JJ, Theilen, Osborn were all their picks.
Cousins was their acquisition.
On defense, Hunter, Tomlinson, Lynch, Wonnum, Jones II, Kendricks, Smith, Bynum, Metellus, Boyd, & Dye are all their picks or acquisitions. Peterson could be grouped in here as well.
Kwesi made some key additions though. Adding Phillips, Z. Smith, Hicks, and Sullivan on defense have been decent moves with Smith being very good.
Trading for Hockenson was the best move on the offense especially with Smith getting hurt again (unfortunately).
Their draftees have not contributed too much with the exception of Ingram who has been doing what many rookies do (struggle). Evans was doing some good things on defense before he got hurt which made the trade for him very good. Asamoah is starting to come on as well.
I think we could/should see more from this draft class next year. At least I hope we do (especially Booth).
Overall, the previous regime built most of this roster and the new regime adding in some nice pieces. At the end of the day, the coaching has been the difference to me. It seems the players are having more fun and playing looser without fear of the dog house. I still think making Zimmer the scapegoat is a simpleton way of looking at things. But his time was up for sure due to missing the playoffs two straight years.
So, looking ahead, the team is 6.656 over the cap next year. I do not believe that includes the NLTBE (not likely to be earned) bonuses that Za’Darius Smith is going to received. He has a 3M per game roster bonus for each season of his deal. He looks on track to get all of that this year and he has earned a 750K sack bonus this year with a chance at another 250K if he gets to 12 sacks. I’ll assume he gets all of his NLTBE bonus money which will take the team to 10.656M over.
overthecap and spotrac have Smith’s per game roster bonus included in the cap hit already. Maybe because they anticipate those will be deemed LTBE (likely to be earned)?
What are the options to create cap space, give JJ, Hunter, Bradbury, Hockenson, and probably Peterson extensions?
Cuts and/or trade are the first thing that comes to mind but why would they break up key parts of this team? Maybe they simply have no choice and do not want to push too much dead money into future years.
Both Kendricks and Hicks have good run defense grades according to PFF but their coverage grades are well below average. Asamoah has played 21% and 27% the last two games which is an indicator of the team wanting him on the field more. It is going to be hard to see them cut both starting linebackers.
Let’s do a quick plan with one caveat.
DISCLAIMER: I DOUBT THEY CUT OR TRADE THE VETERAN LEADERS AND WILL FIND A WAY TO MASSAGE THE CAP NUMBERS
Saves $28,935,881 in cap space
Adds $28,227,648 in dead money for 2023
Takes 2024 available cap space from $97,580,857 to $138,452,621 which is 40.87M extra for 2024.
Cook gets 2 void years added, an 8M signing bonus, with 11M gtd. Salaries of 2.4M, 6.4M, and 6.4M.
Cap hits of 7.7M, 11.7M, 8.6M, and 3.2M
Saves 6.4M in cap space in 2023, 3.9M in 2024, and 5.9M in 2025.
O’Neill gets 1 void year added and 12.5M of salary restructured.
Saves 10M in cap space in 2023 and adds 2.5M in cap space each year after
Hockenson gets a 4 year 60M extension with 1 void year, 12.5M signing bonus, and 8M option bonus in 2024
Salaries of 1.5M, 8.5M, 14.5M, and 15M
Cap hits of 4M, 13M, 19M, 19.5M, and 4.5M
Saves 5.239M in cap space in 2023
Hunter gets a 4 year 88M extension with 1 void year and a 25M signing bonus
Salaries of 1.5M, 8.5M, 14.5M, and 15M
Cap hits of 18.12M, 25.62M, 31.12M, 27M, and 5M
Adds 5M in cap space in 2023
Jefferson gets a 5 year 165M extension with a 40M signing bonus, and 10M option bonus in 2024
Salaries of 2.399M, 15M, 20M, 22M, 25M, and 33M
Cap hits of 12.175M, 25M, 30M, 32M, 35M, and 35M
Adds 8M in cap space in 2023
Peterson gets a 2 year 12M extension with 1 void year and a 4.5M signing bonus
Salaries of 1.5M and 6M
Cap hits of 3.75M, 7.5M, and 1.5M
Adds 3M in cap space in 2023
Bradbury gets a 4 year 50M extension with 1 void year and a 10M signing bonus
Salaries of 4M, 10M, 12M, 14M, and 2M
Cap hits of 6M, 12M, 14M, 16M, and 2M
Adds 6M in cap space in 2023
After these in-house moves, they’ll have $22,008,839 in cap space remaining in 2023 and $67,972,621 in 2024.
Cousins contract remains as is with the odds high that he’ll get extended again sometime in 2023 or after the season.
Who could they target with that much cap space remaining? Do they extend current players who will be free agents in 2024 like Cleveland, Wonnum, Dantzler, Osborn, Lynch, and Metellus? I’d say they do that first.
Obviously, they could extend Kendricks, restructure Thielen and Smith (again) or ask them to take cuts, and maybe keep Ham.
Let’s get to the draft.
Trade Partner: Seattle Seahawks
Sent: Round 1 Pick 29
Received: Round 2 Pick 3, Round 4 Pick 15
Trade Partner: Kansas City Chiefs
Sent: Round 4 Pick 15
Received: Round 4 Pick 23, Round 6 Pick 23
Trade Partner: Houston Texans
Sent: Round 4 Pick 23
Received: Round 5 Pick 1, Round 6 Pick 30
Trade Partner: Green Bay Packers
Sent: Future Round 6 Pick
Received: Round 7 Pick 18
34: R2 P3 CB Clark Phillips III - Utah 5-10 183
93: R3 P30 G Cooper Beebe - Kansas State 6-4 322
120: R4 P18 EDGE Mike Morris - Michigan 6-6 291
136: R5 P1 LB Ventrell Miller - Florida 6-0 221
165: R5 P30 DL Kobie Turner - Wake Forest 6-3 290
198: R6 P23 WR Trey Palmer - Nebraska 6-1 190
205: R6 P30 TE Cameron Latu - Alabama 6-5 244
212: R6 P37 S DeMarcco Hellams - Alabama 6-1 208
214: R6 P39 C Joe Tippmann - Wisconsin 6-6 317
233: R7 P18 QB Clayton Tune - Houston 6-3 220
Well, there you go. A little something for Xmas!