As the offseason gets underway in the NFL following the conclusion of Super Bowl LVII, the Minnesota Vikings and the rest of the league will be taking hard looks at their rosters and identify cut candidates before the 2023 season inches closer.
Although it’s still early in the offseason for Minnesota and there is a lot yet to unfold, it’s time to start looking ahead to contract situations for next year and who might be off the team in 2023 due to large salaries owed next season.
According to Spotrac, the Vikings have the eighht-highest salary cap total in the NFL, meaning there will be tough decisions made this offseason or at least contract restructuring taking place throughout the roster.
Before those decisions are ultimately made in Minnesota this offseason, here’s a look at a few candidates to keep an eye on for possible players that could be cut before the new year begins.
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5 Cut Candidates for the Minnesota Vikings
Although he is one of the top running backs in the league and has been for the Vikings since he broke into the NFL, Minnesota running back Dalvin Cook could be a candidate to be traded or cut this offseason.
Cook still is one of the most talented running backs in the NFL, but he has a large contract owed to him over the next three years which could persuade the Vikings to trade him or flat-out cut him to free up some money.
Cook is set to make $14.1 million in 2023, accounting for 6.3 percent of the team’s overall salary cap. If Minnesota were to cut him, that would only cost the team $6.2 million next year.
It’s hard to cut one of the best players in the league at any position, but perhaps the Vikings look to re-sign Alexander Mattison for cheaper while moving on from Cook and apply his money elsewhere in 2023.
This one is a tough one for Vikings fans, since wide receiver Adam Thielen is a fan favorite, but the veteran wideout could be a candidate to be cut in 2023 while looking for work elsewhere for the first time.
Thielen is set to make $19.9 million next season, which is the 13th-highest amount among wide receivers in the NFL and is the second most on the team behind quarterback Kirk Cousins.
At the age of 33, Thielen’s time in Minnesota looks like it could be coming to an end, especially with the money he is set to make in 2023. Perhaps a restructuring takes place, but if it doesn’t, the Vikings could take the $13.5 cap hit while cutting the veteran.
Adam Thielen is still a valuable player and locker room presence in many ways, but he's struggled to create separation this season, ranking 97th out of 121 pass-catchers in that regard (per NGS). This was 3rd and 3 on the game's opening possession. Thielen's '23 cap hit is $20M. pic.twitter.com/hHtJOPuAWc
— Will Ragatz (@WillRagatz) January 3, 2023
Much like Cook, safety Harrison Smith is one of the top players at his position and will make for a tough decision for the Vikings front office this offseason.
Smith is owed about $19.2 million in 2023, the fourth most on the team next year. If Minnesota were to cut him, it would endure an $11.8 million cap hit next season.
Smith, who just turned 34 years old, is closer to the end of his career than the beginning, which could persuade the team to start looking elsewhere at safety. But it’s a tough decision to make with Smith traditionally being one of the top players at his position.
Similar to the rest of the players on this list, linebacker Eric Kendricks is owed a large amount of money in 2023 and could become a candidate to be cut by the Vikings this offseason.
Kendricks is owed roughly $11.5 million in 2023, the 10th most among inside linebackers in the NFL. If the Vikings flat-out cut him, that would result in a cap hit of just $1.9 million.
Perhaps it was the shift in defensive scheme under new a coaching staff in 2022, but Kendricks had one of his worst seasons last year. And if things don’t change, Kendricks could be on his way out of Minnesota this offseason.
In 2022, Smith was everything Minnesota hoped he might be and more, emerging as a key part of the defense throughout the season. In 2023, however, Smith is set to make about $17 million at the age of 30.
The Vikings would ideally like to keep Smith, like other players on this list, but if they cut him this offseason that would result in a cap hit of just $3.3 million. If Minnesota wants to address other areas on the team this offseason, Smith could be one of the players out of Minnesota before the 2023 campaign begins.
The Vikings have plenty of decisions to make this offseason, and the idea of cutting key players on the team will at the very least need to be considered. If that does take place, Vikings fans could see some familiar players and fan favorites looking for work elsewhere in 2023.
Main photo: Matt Krohn – USA Today Sports