Vikings’ leadership finally overhauling roster, and there’s plenty more to come

The decision by Minnesota Vikings ownership to fire general manager Rick Spielman and coach Mike Zimmer after the 2021 season created an expectation that a roster overhaul was next on the agenda.

Only that didn’t happen — at least not initially.

The Vikings largely ran things back in 2022, finishing 13-4 and winning the NFC North in Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Kevin O’Connell’s first season as general manager and coach, respectively.

There were a few notable changes made last offseason as the franchise parted ways with veterans Dalvin Cook, Eric Kendricks and Adam Thielen, but those subtractions, and the additions that were made, also didn’t put Adofo-Mensah or O’Connell’s stamp on the roster.

This led to questions about whether owners Zygi and Mark Wilf wanted Adofo-Mensah and O’Connell to make significant changes, or if they believed a new brain trust should simply get more from the group built by Spielman and Zimmer. We’ve finally gotten the answer.

The Vikings followed a disappointing 7-10 season, in which they fell to third in the NFC North, by allowing free agent quarterback Kirk Cousins to sign with Atlanta and edge rusher Danielle Hunter to leave for Houston. Other notable departures included running back Alexander Mattison, wide receiver K.J. Osborn, edge rushers Marcus Davenport and D.J. Wonnum and linebacker Jordan Hicks.

The Vikings used their additional salary cap space to sign free agent quarterback Sam Darnold, running back Aaron Jones, edge rushers Jonathan Greenard and Andrew Van Ginkel, linebacker Blake Cashman and cornerback Shaquill Griffin.

Adofo-Mensah, already holding the 11th pick in the first round of next month’s draft, acquired the 23rd selection from Houston last week and appears positioned to trade up into the Top 5 to grab Cousins’ successor.

Now this was more like it.

It’s what many expected two years ago, and the best part is the fun is just beginning. Not only could the Vikings leave the first round of the draft with North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye or Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy, but if you examine the team’s situation, the 2024 season should be an appetizer for what’s to come in 2025.

The Vikings’ rookie quarterback next season — we’re assuming Darnold will be the opening day starter but ultimately end up as nothing more than a placeholder — will have had a year to learn in the NFL when he arrives for training camp in July 2025.

Equally as important will be who surrounds that QB entering his second season. It’s not that the Vikings won’t have a strong roster this coming season, but the depth and quality should be substantially better the following year.

The reason is simple: Salary cap space.

Cousins’ time in Minnesota was marked by a lack of playoff success — the team won one game and made only two appearances in his six years — and often a lack of salary cap room caused by his bloated contract. The Vikings, in fact, currently have the most “dead money” on their books in the NFL.

That means they are weighed down by salary cap charges ($57.3 million, according to Over The Cap) they are paying on contracts for players who aren’t on the team. The majority of that comes from the acceleration of void years and signing bonus charges from Cousins and Hunter.

What will happen when that money comes off the books will create a financial freedom that should enable the Vikings to make some big-time impact signings in free agency next March. Based on Over The Cap’s projected salary cap figure of $260 million for 2025, the Vikings would rank 10th in the NFL with $90.975 million to spend. The cap for ’25 isn’t set yet so that figure could increase and the Vikings also will have the ability to clear more space.

That means the Vikings will be able to shop in the A-list aisle for defensive tackles and guards, or anywhere else they want to substantially strengthen.

All of these changes undoubtedly will leave some Vikings fans anxious about the future and what Adofo-Mensah and O’Connell might do. But it also should create excitement that his leadership group is finally in a position to take the franchise in a new direction.

Judd Zulgad is co-host of the Purple Daily Podcast and Mackey & Judd podcast at

Story originally appeared on Vikings Wire