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Dramatic changes could come as Vikings end another disappointing season

There will be a lot of goodbyes for the Vikings on Sunday. And some will be permanent.

Team Viking (7-9) played the season finale against Chicago at Bank of America Stadium with little meaning. They were eliminated from the knockout stages and were assured of a second consecutive losing season.

“We know this team won’t be the same next year,” said full-back Patrick Peterson.

The changes can be very drastic. Head coach Mike Zimmer likely won’t return for a ninth season in 2022, and general manager Rick Spielman likely won’t either. Defender Kirk Cousins ​​and several other notable players could play the final game in purple.

Cousin said he wants to be “the Minnesota Viking for the rest of my career.” But that may not happen because of his limited contract.

Cousins ​​will make $35 million fully guaranteed in 2022 with a whopping $45 million salary cap figure. With the cap set at $208.2 million, Cousins ​​will account for 21.6% of that.

“I don’t think they could trade him with another group that’s getting all that pay,” said salary cap analyst Jason Fitzgerald, who runs the site. OvertheCap.com. “But they could trade him if they paid $10 million for that contract, and then they would still save money.”

With Cousins ​​signing a three-year, $84 million contract as a free agent in March 2018 and then a two-year, $66 million extension in March 2020, Vikings has missed the knockout stages in three of his four seasons with the team. Because he took up too much of the cap and the Vikings had several other big contracts, this hampered their ability to spend their money on other players. And it affected the matter more after the coronavirus pandemic hit and the limit became lower than expected.

When hit, the Vikings had their moments when the cousins ​​mostly put up good numbers. And Minnesota has benefited from a number of steals in the draft, notably the relegation of Dalvin Cook in the second round in 2017 and wide receiver Justin Jefferson with a 22nd pick in the first round in 2020. But the lack of defense made it happen. difficult for the Vikings to maintain their once solid defence.

In 2017, Minnesota led the NFL in scoring defense and all-around defense on its way to the NFC Championship Game. But some of that team’s key defensive players have begun to show age or have signings too big to keep, and the Vikings haven’t always been able to find a suitable replacement. fit.

As the Vikings drop to 7-9 in 2020 with a 27th-ranked defense in the NFL, Zimmer calls it “the worst defense” he’s had in two decades as a coordinator and coach. chief officer. Well, this season, the defense is even worse, dropping to 31st in the table.

“You’re frustrated because it’s not us,” said Andre Patterson, who is in his second season as co-defensive coordinator and defensive line coach since Zimmer’s arrival in 2014. “We’ve been one of the better defensive teams in the league since I’ve been here, so it’s not us. But you are what the numbers say you are. ”

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Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer yells at the referee for not calling out the Los Angeles Rams during the third inning of an NFL game at Bank of America Stadium in Minneapolis on Sunday, December 26, 2021 The Los Angeles Rams defeated the Minnesota Vikings, 30-23. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

Considering Zimmer calls defensive playstyles, that doesn’t exactly give him a hold. But Peterson, who has said he wants Zimmer back, said players missing the game due to injury and on the COVID-19 reserve list must be considered for defensive struggles.

Peterson pointed out he’s missed four games, defender Danielle Hunter lost for the season after seven games, full-back Anthony Barr sidelined six games, spearhead handling Michael Pierce rested eight and Harrison Smith an All for two.

“We’ve never really had a consistent squad,” said Peterson. But he added, “We have to make sure that the next man, the next man mentality, is something that exists strongly in every dressing room.”

The Vikings have indeed suffered significant injuries on both sides of the ball and also have 25 different players from the 53-man roster to this season’s COVID roster. But other teams have similar problems and deal with them better than Viking.

The last thing the Vikings suffered was their inability to win close matches. They are 6-8 in games decided by eight points or less and 2-5 in games decided by four points or less. Blame both offense and defense.

The defense often withers in matches. And the offense, under first-year coordinator Klint Kubiak, too often faltered as games went on, leaving many leading in the final moments.

“I agree that consistency is going to be something we want to improve on,” Kubiak said of the offense. “Some of the games are really good and some of the games we want to come back to.”

The Vikings have finished 4th in the NFL for total offensives in 2020 under Kubiak’s father, Gary Kubiak, their highest rating since 2004. They’ve moved up to 3rd in 2021 around mid-season. before falling behind. Now they are number 12.

It didn’t help at the end of the season that Cousins ​​and Cook missed games while on the COVID list, Cook was sidelined for another game with a shoulder injury and wide receiver Adam Thielen suffered an eye injury severe ankle injury in Week 13 that ultimately ended the season. surgery. Doing what he can to keep the Vikings afloat is Jefferson, the team’s MVP with no brains with 103 catches so far in 1,509 yards.

Jefferson and Cook both expressed disappointment at missing out on the knockout stages for the second straight season, with Jefferson saying, “We should have one of the best records in the league.” Given the talent the Vikings have, Cook believes they can succeed by keeping most of the cast the same.

“My head coach and everything, I’ve been with these guys for five years, fighting and trying to win games, losers, good times, bad times,” Cook said. . “I don’t want to go to war with anyone other than these people. … You see the weapons we have. ”

The futures of Zimmer and Spielman will play a major role in that players return in 2022. But regardless of who’s running the show, the Vikings must take some pay cuts before March 16 at the start of the tournament year. new match. When the Vikings signed a number of young players shortly after the season, Fitzgerald said they would receive about $12 million over the salary cap. And since the British surname cannot be traded until after the start of the new league year, he cannot be used to sell any wages immediately.

The pay cuts could start with the release of Hunter, the two-time Pro Bowl player who missed all of 2020 with a neck injury and a torn pectoral muscle much of this season. Hunter, who had his contract restructured last June at his request, will receive a $18 million roster bonus on Thursday of the new and currently recorded league year. books with a limit of $26.12 million.

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Minnesota Vikings linebacker Danielle Hunter (99) celebrates the elimination of Detroit quarterback David Blough (10) during the first quarter of the NFL’s game against Detroit at Bank of America Stadium in Minneapolis on Sunday, Aug. December 8, 2019. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

“I guess he’s going to be cut,” Fitzgerald said. “But they can reduce his cap (for 2022) by converting $18 million into a signing bonus and then splitting it up next year and then up to two years of nullity ( on his contract), and that would reduce his cap to $13.5 million. ”

Vikings may also seek a restructuring agreement with Hunter.

Smith, who turns 33 on February 2, will receive an $8 million roster bonus on the third day of the tournament year and his $2.95 million base salary will be guaranteed. secured that day for a total of $10.95 million. It’s highly unlikely that Smith, who was recently named for his sixth Pro Bowl, is ever released, but Fitzgerald said he doesn’t believe a transaction won’t happen if there’s a new general manager.

“A lot will depend on who the general manager is because a new general manager won’t have a personal relationship with some of these players the way Spielman does with Hunter, Cousins, Smith and Thielen,” Fitzgerald said. .

Thielen, who turns 32 in August, will be on the books in 2022 for a limited run of $16.945 million. While it looks like he will return to the Vikings in 2022, there is a chance he could restructure his contract.

Fitzgerald said one possible way to save $6.5 million in room fees is to free Pierce, whose $7.9 million base salary for 2022 will be guaranteed on the third day of the tournament year. new. Pierce, who has opted out of the 2021 season due to the pandemic and a history of asthma, has played only eight of the Vikings’ 32 possible games since signing with the team in March 2020. And Armon Watts, who played well when Pierce came on. season, can be an alternative.

When it comes to retaining freelance agents, it remains to be seen how much money the Vikings will want to spend. They have 19 unrestricted free agents in addition to the restricted free agent Greg Joseph.

After agreeing to reduce his salary from $12.9 million to $10 million to avoid being released from prison last spring, Barr became a freelance agent. Fitzgerald expects the market value of Barr, who will turn 30 in March, to be around $5 million in 2022. It’s likely Barr will play his last game for the Vikings on Sunday, especially Especially if Zimmer, the only NFL coach he has, gets fired.

Peterson, who turns 32 in July and is playing on an $8 million-a-year deal, said he wants to return. Fitzgerald believes its market value is also around $5 million.

Younger agents the Vikings want to keep include Tyler Conklin, bodyguard Mason Cole and safety Xavier Woods. Fitzgerald said Conklin, who makes $920,000 in 2021, could get $6 to $8 million a year, and Cole, who makes $2.15 million in 2021, could get around $4. millions of dollars. Fitzgerald said Woods’ value is harder to predict because safety is a “tough” position with salary, but he’s sure to get a raise in one year, a $1.75 million contract next year. 2021.

Let’s put it all together and there could be big changes in the store for the Vikings. Cook, who is sure to return, doesn’t quite know what the cast around him will be like.

“Whatever the future holds for everyone, I can’t envision it,” he said. “I don’t know what will happen.”

VIKINGS FREE AGENT

Vikings players line up to become free agents in March. All will be unrestricted unless noted:

Midfielder Anthony Barr

Full-back Patrick Peterson

Tight end Tyler Conklin

Defensive midfielder Sheldon Richardson

Last Defense Everson Griffen

Safety Xavier Woods

Offensive expert Mason Cole

Streetman Nick Vigil

Full-back Mackensie Alexander

Defender Sean Mannion

Wide Receiver Dede Westbrook

Tight ending Chris Herndon

Chad Beebe Wide Receiver

Shadow painting on Rashod hill

Punter Jordan Berry

Handling Dakota Dozier

Rerun Wayne Gallman

Tashawn Bower’s Last Defense

Tight Ending Luke Stocker

Kicker Greg Joseph (limited)

https://www.twincities.com/2022/01/07/drastic-changes-could-be-in-store-as-vikings-wrap-up-another-disappointing-season/ Dramatic changes could come as Vikings end another disappointing season

Sarah Ridley

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