The Minnesota Vikings have faced some scorching criticism as of late in the national media.
However, there is a layer of truth to the broad strokes many national pundits paint the team with. Around the NFL recently assessed the Vikings, penning them as a team that is content with being good, not great, after making the playoffs every other year since 2014.
“I just feel like this is always a good, not great team,” Around the NFL’s Marc Sessler said on a recent airing of the NFL Network program. “So what do you want to be? Are they closer to rebuilding mode than competitor mode at this point? I think it’s a fair question.”
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Around the NFL Misses its Mark
Sessler’s comment is a valid and fair critic many in Minnesota share. But, how the team has fallen into this position is a different story and often becomes a blame game.
Kirk Cousins’ contract was the primary target of the team’s decline since making the NFC Championship game in 2018.
“I see that the Cousins deal and the re-signing is kind of a curse of this franchise because the rest of the supporting cast is not that good,” Dan Hanzus said on Around the NFL. “Kirk Cousins, as good as he can be, is not great enough to cover up for those spots. It’s no longer a nice fit for me and yet they’re locked in together.”
Cousins’ contract did tie up significant cap space, but Hanzus fails to mention the productivity of the offense in 2020. Cousins helped Justin Jefferson reset the Super Bowl era rookie receiving yards record with a 1,400-yard season. Adam Thielen, despite not earning Pro Bowl recognition, posted a career-high 14 touchdowns this season. Cousins threw a career-high 35 touchdown to become the only active quarterback to throw 25 or more touchdowns in every season since 2015, completing a second-best 68% of his passes in that span.
He’s done it all in an offense that’s predicated on feeding Dalvin Cook first and foremost, yet, he still finished the season with 4,265 passing yards.
The defense did regress in 2020 after the team parted ways with five starters on defense in the same offseason Cousins received a two-year, $66 million contract extension. But a majority of the starters (Xavier Rhodes, Everson Griffen, Linval Joseph) were past their prime. Shedding their cap weight was a necessary evil of the franchise that has since reloaded this offseason with big-ticket acquisitions in defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson and cornerback Patrick Peterson.
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Danielle Hunter Trade Rumors Still Stirring?
Trade rumors surrounding Danielle Hunter also resurfaced in the Around the NFL broadcast as Sessler addressed the impact of Hunter’s absence had on the team in 2020.
“Not having Hunter last year completely imploded that defense,” he said. “That was Zimmer’s first losing season. They were 6-6 at one point and then the floor caved in and it had to do with that defense. The offense was not that bad they were a quite interesting offense and maybe Cousins can get you there if the defense is dominant.”
“They weren’t a good defense and they don’t make sense when they’re this bad a defense — it’s a Mike Zimmer team — and that to me is the big question,” Greg Rosenthal added. “I’m curious about Danielle Hunter’s future he’s one of the best players that’s been rumored to be on the trade block so he’s someone I’m kind of keeping an eye on going into the draft that he could possibly get dealt.”
There has been no update on Hunter since March after he deleted and then re-uploaded several Vikings-related posts on his social media. It’s likely his agents and Minnesota reconciled any contract disputes as several pundits are anticipating a contract extension this offseason.