1st Down: Bud Grant coached his final game for the Minnesota Vikings about a month after I was born (November 1985). Suffice it to say, I can't exactly speak to his legend status personally. But from everything I've heard about him from my parents' and grandparents' generation, he was the perfect head coach at the perfect time for the perfect region. If there was a Mount Rushmore of Vikings legendary figures, his steely visage would be guaranteed a spot. His demeanor and coaching style (again, second-hand here) seemed to remind me of my late maternal grandfather--able to command respect and admiration simply for the way he carried himself and thus never having to do much outright discipline because nobody wanted to let him down in the first place! Just going by his record alone, 11 division championships and 4 Super Bowl appearances in 18 seasons is astounding. If he won just one of those Big Games, he'd basically be Andy Reid-status in today's terms. Perhaps the biggest under-the-hood view of his coaching genius? After initially retiring following the 1983 season, replacement Les Steckel plummeted the team to a 3-13 debacle. Desperate to right the ship, ownership asked Bud to return in '85 and he immediately got them back to a respectable 7-9 mark. He resides alongside Harmon Killebrew, Kirby Puckett, and the North Stars in terms of most beloved MN sports institutions.
2nd Down: The first major "cap casualty" of the Vikings' offseason was the release of Eric Kendricks. The bushy-haired LB was certainly fun to watch roaming sideline to sideline. It always seemed that whereas Anthony Barr came to MN with a reputation he never quite lived up to, Kendricks got every ounce out of a lesser physical presence. I'll never forget him swatting away a Dak Prescott passed intended for Ezekiel Elliott to preserve a Monday Night Football victory over the Dallas Cowboys in 2019. All that said, his release was a move that almost had to be made staring down the barrel of salary cap tightness. The classic example of letting go "a year too early" rather than "a year too late". NFL business is tough sometimes.
3rd Down: While the Adam Thielen release was also precipitated by cap concerns, there seemed to be some discontent involved from the player side. Discontent that quite frankly I do not understand. I realize that Thielen and Stefon Diggs were 1A & 1B during their Purple heyday, but Thielen is over 32 now, oft-addled with back or leg issues, and clearly isn't the same caliber of receiver as a Justin Jefferson. That is simple the reality of the situation. Sure, TJ Hockenson would theoretically siphon away future targets, but I don't know where Thielen thinks he will land with a higher performance potential than had he simply stayed put in his home state (now featuring a passing attack rivaling any other in the NFL). Again, though, Thielen was a tremendous story and equally as fun to watch. Though his signature MN moment might be the deep-bomb connection from Kirk Cousins to set up the Wild Card win in New Orleans, my specific favorite memory will always be him taking that slant pass from Keenum in 2017 against the Los Angeles Rams and housing it with a speed I did not know he possessed. It was at that exact moment I began believing the '17 Vikes could be something special.
4th Down: I know that the Vikings are in a cap crunch and could have saved a little dough by letting Harrison Smith go. There's no guarantee he'll be able to still perform at a relatively high level next season due to his 35 years of age. But selfishly, I'm really glad the Hitman is back. He's a fan-favorite who might be able to immediately (when his time is ultimately through) step from the playing field to the Vikings Ring of Honor. Fortunately, there is also a very real chance he is again utilized to his best ball-hawking, disruption-creating form under the aggressive Brian Flores schemes--not playing CF coverage out in the parking lot under Donatell (grr...)
(I realize that a plethora of other moves have been made--but the ones above are where the most emotional connections lie with me. The two big dominos yet to fall are Dalvin Cook--traded or retained?--and Za'Darious Smith (he seems to have a foot out the door--but nothing official yet)).