Spirits are high in the Twin Cities. After a moderately surprising 13-3 run last season, the Vikings appear to be among the NFL’s cream of the crop. They are heavily favored to make the postseason this year, with only Pittsburgh and New England ahead of them in playoff odds. But as Vikings fans know all too well, the biggest heartbreak comes when expectations are at their highest.
Fortunately, a Viking demise seems far-fetched. Their roster was loaded with talent a year ago, and since then they have added Kirk Cousins, Sheldon Richardson and George Iloka while essentially losing no one. In other words, they have by all accounts, upgraded. So after years of building, years of waiting, the Minnesota Vikings are finally ready to be a preseason Super Bowl favorite.
They are at a point in their roster construction that development is no longer really a focus. Baby steps are now too small. Incrementally inching towards the elusive ring is frankly, a waste of time.
For the Vikings, the upcoming years are reminiscent of the 2013 Seahawks. That team built exceptionally through the draft, some shrewd free agent signings and an elite coaching staff. And they did it without breaking the bank. Because so many superstar-caliber players were under modest contracts, Seattle was able to construct a super team, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Granted, the Seahawks also had a franchise quarterback under a rookie contract. In Minnesota, the quarterback is making money like an MVP. Still, Minnesota has a glut of Pro Bowlers and All-Pros making money at or just slightly above their market value. That, as we see in Seattle, does not last a long time.
For Minnesota, that may only last a year. In 2018, the Vikings will have three defensive players who are either starters or volume contributors and are playing on the last year of their deal. Richardson and Iloka were brilliant free agent acquisitions, but both came along to win now. Anthony Barr‘s contract situation has been a story all camp, and it is still unclear as to how the Vikings plan to bring him back. On top of those three, Trae Waynes, Andrew Sendejo, Latavius Murray and Kyle Rudolph all will be free agents after 2019.
Most important of all, Cousins is only guaranteed to be in Minnesota for three years. That’s three chances to win a title with the first franchise-adjacent quarterback since Brett Favre. Fortunately, despite the short-term contracts of the seven guys mentioned in the last paragraph, the Vikings are set to be at least good for a while. Many of their stars are under contract long-term. But the most important position is not.
This is the season where everything fell together, money-wise. Minnesota had cap room to make big acquisitions and extend contracts of key pieces. But those big acquisitions are in town to win now. The only newcomer who is certain to wear purple next year is Cousins, and his cap numbers become increasingly debilitating over the next two seasons. The Vikings seem to be in the perfect situation right now, but it may be for this year only.
Now, the fact remains that general manager Rick Spielman has been a master of roster construction the last five years. Who knows what the future holds, what young players bloom to star status, what free agents become available over the next five? But all that remains unknown. What we do know is that the Vikings’ roster is ready to contend in 2018. Past that, it gets a little murkier. All the more reason to strike while the iron is hot, and in Minnesota, it has not been much hotter than it is right now.
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