The Minnesota Vikings preseason schedule begins August 14 with the Las Vegas Raiders, meaning July will be the last month without football for the team until January or February next year.
The 2022 season will feel different than the previous eight years since the franchise fired general manager Rick Spielman and head coach Mike Zimmer six months ago. Spielman had been with the Vikings since 2006 and Zimmer from 2014 to 2021.
Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, a young and analytical economist-turned-football executive, took over at Spielman and hired Kevin O’Connell from the Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams about a month later. The addition of O’Connell marks a tough turn away from the ‘defense-first’ football promoted by the Vikings since 2011 with Leslie Frazier as head coach.
With recent stagnation, Minnesota had every reason to rebuild the roster with the opportunity to trade quarterback Kirk Cousins and EDGE rusher Danielle Hunter this offseason, the two salary caps. But Adofo-Mensah and O’Connell appear to want an attempt to “roll it back” with these two men and a roster broadly similar to 2021’s.
Not all but is the same. Adofo-Mensah has come up with some notable free agent moves to address the team’s weaknesses. These men were signed to Free Agency:
Jesse Davis, OL (MIA)
Jordan Hicks, LB (ARI)
Nate Hairston, CB (DEN)
Andre Mintze, EDGE (DEN)
Johnny Mundt, TE (LAR)
Harrison Phillips, DT (BUF)
Chris Reed, RG (IND)
Austin Schlottmann, G/C (DEN)
Za’Darius Smith, EDGE (UK)
Chandon Sullivan, CB (UK)
Jullian Taylor, DT (TEN)
Davis, Hicks, Phillips, Smith and Sullivan (slot CB formations) are expected to start, so that’s about a 45% change for defensive starters. Smith was the splashy offseason move from Adofo-Mensah that proved to fans that the Vikings of 2022 don’t intend to slide through another season with 7-9 or 8-9 expectations like the result in 2020 and 2021 was.
After that, Adofo-Mensah made a series of trades in the 2022 NFL draft — some of those moves were controversial — and landed 10 rookies on the summer list.
R1: Lewis Cine, S (Georgia)
R2: Andrew Booth Jr, CB (Clemson)
R2: Ed Ingram, G (LSU)
R3: Brian Asamoah, LB (Oklahoma)
R4: Akayleb Evans, CB (Missouri)
R5: Esezi Otomewo, DE (Minnesota)
R5: Ty Chandler, RB (North Carolina)
R6: Vederian Lowe, OT (Illinois)
R6: Jalen Nailor, WR (Michigan State)
R7: Nick Muse, TE (South Carolina)
The Vikings have around $11 million in cap space if they want to explore the summer free agent candidacy of JC Tretter, Ndamukong Suh, Landon Collins, Odell Beckam or Julio Jones.
And unlike the 2021 season, the Vikings’ upcoming schedule isn’t particularly daunting. While it’s no picnic, Minnesota plays nine home games, seven away games and a neutral location contest in London against the New Orleans Saints. Overall, based on opponents’ winning percentage in 2021, the Vikings have the 13th-easiest roster in the NFL.
Most Vikings fans are excited for the new tandem of Adofo-Mensah and O’Connell, excited to see what a new regime can wreak from Kirk Cousins. However, a sect of fans still insist Cousins isn’t the answer. Adofo-Mensah joined Cousins for an extra year in March, cementing the passer in the squad until the end of the 2023 season. Cousins even has a no-trade clause in the new contract, which didn’t exist in 2020 and 2021.
Vegas forecasters are predicting the Vikings will win eight or nine games — the same territory inhabited by the New England Patriots, the Philadelphia Eagles and the aforementioned Patriots.
Minnesota host Green Bay in Week 1 at US Bank Stadium. Since the 2005-2007 era, the Vikings have not missed the playoffs for three straight years.
Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday Raun saw and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed Guilty Pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos’ and The Doors (the band).