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Vikings Expected to Cut 2 Former All-Pros Over Offseason

Getty General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah (left) and head coach Kevin O'Connell (right) of the Minnesota Vikings.

The Minnesota Vikings face several difficult personnel decisions this offseason, including two that involve long-term tentpoles of their defense.

Of the handful of big names potentially on the chopping block in Minnesota, few have been with the team longer than linebacker Eric Kendricks and safety Harrison Smith.

Tyler Forness of USA Today’s Vikings Wire on Tuesday, January 17, predicted that Kendricks will not play a ninth season in purple and gold.

“Kendricks is not going to be on this team next season,” Forness wrote. “He did not play well for the Vikings nor does he fit the scheme that Kevin O’Connell wants to run. With a minimal dead cap hit, this is likely the biggest home run of any player on this list.”

Kendricks, a first-team All-Pro in 2019, carries a salary cap hit of $11.4 million in 2023 but could be cut for the cost of a little less than $2 million based on his dead cap number, equating to a savings of roughly $9.5 million. The Vikings need to cut more than $24 million from their roster prior to the start of next season, per Over The Cap.

Smith Carrying Salary Cap Hit Above On-Field Value in 2023

GettySafety Harrison Smith of the Minnesota Vikings leaves the field against the Chicago Bears at U.S. Bank Stadium on October 9, 2022 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

Forness added that Smith is unlikely to his 12th year with the team in 2023.

“When the Vikings signed [Smith’s] contract, it felt more like a legacy deal than anything,” Forness wrote. “Smith is still a good player but nowhere near worth having a cap hit of over $19 million.”

Smith, a six-time Pro Bowler who was also a first-team All-Pro selection in 2017, represents up to nearly $7.4 million in savings.

Another defensive player who could be on the way out is pass rusher Za’Darius Smith. He registered double-digit sacks (10) and earned Pro-Bowl honors in 2022, but the Vikings could save north of $13.5 million by cutting ties with him.

Vikings Offense May Lose WR Adam Thielen, RB Dalvin Cook

GettyWide receiver Adam Thielen of the Minnesota Vikings attempts to catch a pass during the NFC Wild Card Playoff Game against the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium on January 15, 2023 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

The defense won’t be the only Vikings unit offering up a sacrificial lamb or two to the gods of football finance. The tenures of both wide receiver Adam Thielen and running back Dalvin Cook in Minnesota could well be in jeopardy, depending on what positions O’Connell and new general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah prioritize and where they believe they can find replacement value.

Thielen is carrying a cap number of almost $20 million, which is too high for the 716 yards and six touchdowns he produced in 2022. Furthermore, the wideout has already restructured his contract with the Vikings twice.

Cook had another solid season but missed the Pro Bowl for the first time in four years. Minnesota could save in the neighborhood of $8 million by cutting him this offseason and offering an extension to his less expensive backup Alexander Mattison.

Running backs are typically viewed as the most expendable/easiest-to-replace assets on an offense due to their value over replacement, especially when considering the ballooning contracts of consistently productive veterans. In other words, things don’t look great for Cook in Minnesota considering how expensive he will be over the next several years.

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The Minnesota Vikings face several difficult personnel decisions this offseason, including two that involve long-term tentpoles of their defense.