Last season, the Minnesota Vikings were one of the top teams in the NFC. They tied with the San Francisco 49ers for the second-best record in the conference and held a comfortable four-game lead over the Detroit Lions to win their division. However, the team has made some big changes to its roster over the offseason.
With the Vikings likely to make Justin Jefferson the highest-paid wide receiver in all of football in the near future, they have begun the process of clearing out cap space. As a result of this, they have been forced to release, trade, or neglect resigning some of the players that were integral to them being so successful last season. With the massive shakeups to their roster paired with some more competition in the division, the Vikings could have a massive falloff in the 2023 season.
Since the season ended, the Vikings have let a handful of their veterans walk in free agency. Some of the key players include Eric Kendricks who left for the Los Angeles Chargers, Patrick Peterson, who joined the Pittsburgh Steelers, Cam Dantzler, who will suit up for the Washington Commanders next year, Adam Thielen, who signed with the Carolina Panthers, Duke Shelley who will play for the Las Vegas Raiders next season, and Dalvin Tomlinson who was signed by the Cleveland Browns.
Along with this, they traded Za’Darius Smith, a 2025 fifth-round pick, and a 2025 seventh-round pick to the Cleveland Browns for a 2024 fifth-round pick, and a 2025 fifth-round pick. Recently, the team also released Dalvin Cook to free agency.
With the Vikings being so active in the trade market, it was very surprising that they let Cook walk for nothing when they likely could have found a team willing to give up a late-round pick at the very least for a running back who has made the Pro Bowl in the past four consecutive seasons.
What will likely be the final massive loss to the Vikings roster before the season begins, the team has also begun to shop edge rusher, Danielle Hunter. After the team had such a successful season in 2022, it does not make a lot of sense why they are beginning to blow their team up.
While it is clear that they will need some cap space to give Jefferson the contract extension that he is deserving of, it is far less than the money they have saved from shedding a good chunk of their veteran talent.
While the Vikings will likely come into the 2023 season as a worse team than they were last season, the same can not be said for another team in the NFC North. The Detroit Lions had a masterclass in the off-season.
The most questionable move they made in the off-season was using their first-round pick to secure Jamir Gibbs. However, Gibbs could end up being exactly what the Lions need to round out what was one of the best offenses in the entire NFL through the second half of the regular season.
Along with the big addition to their offense, the Lions made it a priority to bulk up their defensive unit over the offseason. Last year, the defense held the Lions back, and while their offense went on a tear through the tail end of the season, they would at times be let down by the defense.
Detroit potentially has the most improved secondary in the entire NFL heading into 2023 after signing Cam Sutton, Emmanuel Moseley, and C.J. Gardner-Johnson. Gardner-Johnson was an integral piece to the Philadelphia Eagles’ secondary that was one of the best in the league last season.
With a division rival making a plethora of big additions to improve their roster while the Vikings seemingly took a step back over the offseason, Minnesota could end up losing the division after comfortably leading the NFC North last season.
With all signs pointing to the Vikings taking a step back in the 2023 season and potentially being beaten out by the Lions for the NFC North crown, the question has been raised on if they will even be able to make the postseason.
This season, the Vikings will likely benefit from the NFC being a much weaker conference than the AFC. As long as Minnesota is capable of keeping their record around or slightly above .500, they should still be able to make a run to the playoffs.
Despite this, with the way that the roster is currently constructed, they are not a team that any of the contenders in the NFC are worrying about like they were last season.
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