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Souhan: Vikings about to enter pivotal month in franchise history

We are on the eve of one of the most pivotal Aprils in Vikings history.

By the end of the month, the Vikings' brain trust might have chosen a franchise quarterback, progressed toward signing their best player to a record-breaking contract, and set themselves up for a rapid rebuild with the help of a ridiculous amount of salary cap room, or …

They will have failed to find a franchise quarterback, or invested faith in the wrong draftee, possibly alienated their best player and doomed themselves to last place for the foreseeable future in an increasingly competitive division.

To put it more succinctly: Vikings General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and coach Kevin O'Connell will this month determine their fates. They are about to make the decisions that will either get them fired or pave a road toward competitiveness and relative career longevity.

They undertake these momentous decisions against the landscape of one of the most unpredictable NFL drafts ever, a draft in which quarterbacks could be chosen with the first four picks for the first time in history, which would be a nod to not only the value of the position but the value of having a quality quarterback on a salary-limiting rookie contract.

Here's one observer's opinions of the decisions they have made and the decisions they should make as they try to prove that the phrase "competitive rebuild" is more than a marketing scam:

Letting Kirk Cousins leave: They would be a better team with him, but he isn't worth what the Atlanta Falcons paid him, so his departure was necessary.

Letting Danielle Hunter leave: A mistake. Hunter is a great player at a premium position. If there were a way to keep him, he would have been worth keeping.

This problem was mitigated by the quick pivot to signing three potential impact players for their front seven: edge rushers Andrew Van Ginkel and Jonathan Greenard and linebacker Blake Cashman. Greenard is a proven pass rusher; Van Ginkel is a remarkable value signing given his skills; and Cashman is an excellent choice to anchor the interior defense.

The Justin Jefferson negotiations: The Vikings seem determined to keep Jefferson at an enormous price. Given his production, age, durability and status, this is the right choice. They can structure his deal to either give them room to upgrade this year's roster or to look toward 2025, when they could have a massive amount of salary cap space to support a second-year quarterback.

Keeping defensive coordinator Brian Flores: He wasn't likely to leave, and it's a good thing for the Vikings that he didn't. Give him another quality cornerback — maybe Xavien Howard or Stephon Gilmore via free agency — and the defense should continue to improve.

Judging quarterbacks: Second-guessing is fine. First guessing is better. Here is my personal quarterback ranking for this draft: 1. Jayden Daniels, LSU; 2. Caleb Williams, USC; 3. J.J. McCarthy, Michigan; 4. Michael Penix Jr., Washington; 5. Drake Maye, North Carolina; 6. Bo Nix, Oregon.

If the Vikings can land McCarthy, that's a win. If the top teams are foolish enough not to take Daniels, or allow him to slide, the Vikings should do everything in their power to trade up and take him. He's more talented than Williams and has fewer question marks attached to him. He could be this year's C.J. Stroud.

Running backs: Signing older running backs was considered foolish just a year ago. This offseason, a bunch of contending teams did it anyway, with Saquon Barkley going to the Eagles, Derrick Henry to the Ravens, Josh Jacobs to the Packers and Aaron Jones to the Vikings.

Jones played so well at the end of last season, and the Vikings were so lousy at running back last year, that his signing makes sense. Jones should share time with Ty Chandler and become his mentor.

Hiring coaches: The Vikings' coaching staff is 27 deep. Bud Grant's staff often featured six assistant coaches total, with far less support staff in the organization.

Including head coach Kevin O'Connell, who works mostly with the offense, the Vikings have 14 coaches working with the offense.

If the new quarterback can remember all of those coaches' names, he will have demonstrated the mental acuity to master an NFL offense.