Vikings face tough decisions on aging core of players

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Vikings coach Mike Zimmer didn’t want to delve too deeply into discussions of particular players, in the immediate aftermath of their season crashing to a halt.

But Zimmer has been in the league long enough to know that change is inevitable.

“At the end of the day,” Zimmer said, via Ben Goessling of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, “it ends up being a young man’s game.”

The problem is, the Vikings are no longer a young man’s team, with a number of older and expensive stars.

They have three defensive regulars who will be at least 30 and carrying cap figures of $12.9 million or more — defensive end Everson Griffen, nose tackle Linval Joseph, and cornerback Xavier Rhodes. On the other side of the ball, four starters will have hit 30 with cap figures of $9.45 million or more — quarterback Kirk Cousins, left tackle Riley Reiff, wide receiver Adam Thielen and tight end Kyle Rudolph.

So Zimmer needs some time before he evaluates some of these guys, to do the difficult job of removing emotion from things.

“These players — the ones that have been with me for six years now — they’ve busted their rear ends, and they’ve done everything I’ve asked them to do. And that’s always going to come into play; how you feel about them as a person,” he said. “But I think you have to really look at: ‘He’s a great kid. He’s worked his rear end off. We love him here. Can he still play? Or, if he can still play, at what level is it?’ And then you’ve got to match that with the salary and every other thing, and match it with the salary cap. So there’s so many different variables.

“But I’ve been extremely fortunate here that, the players that have been here, 99 percent of them are outstanding people. They work really, really hard, and if you guys saw the way that this team approaches each day, each week, going into meetings, going into practice and saw all those things, you’d be very impressed with the way they handle themselves.”

Of course, the Vikings are dealing with a significant amount of change beyond the roster, as they’ll need two new coordinators, with Kevin Stefanski going to the Browns, and George Edwards’ contract expiring and not being renewed. That might actually help them take a fresh look at some hard decisions.

39 responses to “Vikings face tough decisions on aging core of players

  1. The choices might be difficult for personal reasons, but it’s pretty clear for professional reasons. It’s time for an actual rebuild and that includes seeing people like Everson, Xavier and Linval leave. Don’t give Kirk an extension and try to identify a QB in the draft and be willing to move up to get him (Chiefs and Mahomes). I’m not knocking Kirk, but this team has too many needs right now to dedicate that much of the cap to a quarterback. Especially a quarterback that needs a very good line and run game in order to be effective. I’m willing to be had for a few years if it means building a younger roster.

  2. Cousins & Rudolph are the only one’s they should keep. Trade Thielen while he has value. To beat the Packers, Bears they need to have a better O-line, D-line & big strong physical wide receivers. With the 2 small wideouts, soon as the running game is stopped. It’s over.

    But if they really are promoting Zim’s son to DC & Kubiak’s son to OC. Who really cares. Wasted season.

    Please Wilf just fire Spielman & Zimmer now so we don’t fall another year behind yet again.

  3. Vikings are 5+ million over the cap with several players needing new contracts. Worst cap situation in the league. #1 in spending on defense and that is only projected to go up in 2020.

    The Vikings went all in to win the last few years, now they will pay for it. Without a top defense, this team is done. You can’t expect Cousins to be the cornerstone of this team.

    At least, unlike the Rams, they have draft picks.

  4. Rhodes, Waynes, Griffen, and Reiff will be gone. No way they are getting rid of Thielen, that was stupid to even put his name on this list. It’s possible Rudolph could be gone, but releasing or letting walk the players I mentioned, that will give the Vikings much needed cap space to work with. We also have the best cap guy in the game.

  5. That’s the unfortunate part of the game. The Pack had to do it with Cobb, Mathews and Nelson the last couple of years

  6. I would have to imagine Diggs plays into this picture. He’s valuable for picking up new blood. I wish the Packers were in-play for him. I’d trade all five behind Adams for him right now.

  7. Every dynasty eventually hits this wall – the Seahawks managed it after just one year back in 2013, and now the Vikings have gone one better.

  8. Rhodes and Reiff are the most obvious candidates for being released, followed by Griffen. I can’t see them parting with Linval Joseph.

    The Vikings need coaches to come in and start getting production out of their younger OL reserves rather than going out and dropping premium money for average (at best) offensive lineman. Reiff and Kline are okay, but not worth what they’re being paid. They need coaches to develop their offensive talent the way Zimmer has for the defense.

  9. Just like a poker game, the Vikings kept pushing the chips into the middle of the table in an all out effort to win now and the rest of the NFL just called your hand. Some call it salary cap hell, others might suggest incompetence on the part of GM Spielman but either way there are major changes coming in 2020. Zimmer had a defense that could win ballgames but that defense has aged and gotten slower.

    The #1 objective of all 32 franchises in building their teams is to find a franchise QB and then move on to the other areas and that is going to be the Achilles heel of the Viking’s rebuild. They don’t have much salary cap to maneuver and they still didn’t resolve their Qb position where they are paying a King’s ransom for a peasant’s performance.

  10. Dump em all — get something (draft picks) if you can.
    There’s more weight that needs to go as well.
    Eat the cap space next year, prep for the following year.
    Lose big next year.

    This group can’t do much more than they’ve done already.
    Time to move on and re-build.

  11. Bye Griff, Linval, Xavier, Reiff, Rudy and Adam or Stephon.
    Lot of players played their last game in purple.

    They need a massive overhaul in personnel on defense.
    They were 10th against the run and 20th against the pass.

  12. Zimmer is not one to sugarcoat his words so it is painfully obvious what’s about to happen next after he uttered the words, “it’s a young man’s game”

    So Zimmer has expanded his repertoire from throwing his assistant coaches under to bus to now throwing his players too. This is going to be a vastly different Viking team in 2020 but the one common denominator is their chance to take home a Lombardi Trophy is still statistically minute.

  13. ARod(in his collarbone) says:
    January 14, 2020 at 7:16 am
    Rhodes, Waynes, Griffen, and Reiff will be gone. No way they are getting rid of Thielen, that was stupid to even put his name on this list. It’s possible Rudolph could be gone, but releasing or letting walk the players I mentioned, that will give the Vikings much needed cap space to work with. We also have the best cap guy in the game.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Yeah, the best cap guy in the game. That’s why you have the worst cap situation in the entire league, WITH most of your best players up for renewal. Just because one purple says the guy is a magician, the rest of you don’t have to… oh, wait… never mind… carry on.

  14. Yeah, the best cap guy in the game. That’s why you have the worst cap situation in the entire league, WITH most of your best players up for renewal. Just because one purple says the guy is a magician, the rest of you don’t have to… oh, wait… never mind… carry on
    **************
    Most of our best players are up for renewal? Thats a bad take even for you. The only pending Free Agent that would qualify as one of our “best players” is Anthony Harris and he had a breakout year which is the only reason he wasn’t under contract sooner. Hunter, Kendricks, Barr, Smith, Diggs, Thielen, Rudolph, and Cook are all under contract. Cook might be looking for an extension but he’s still in his rookie deal and just now qualifies for an extension. Waynes was always going to hit the FA market after this year and Mack Alexander is the only other regular starter the Vikings will want to bring back. Thats two contracts that NEED to be done (Alexander and Harris) + one contract that should get done (Cook).

  15. Viking fans ranted about the Packers not re signing veterans , now the Packers are the youngest team in the NFL sometimes you just have to make tough decisions.

  16. Rhodes, Griffen, Joseph, and Reiff really are not that difficult to move on from. They have either played quite poorly, or have a salary that is way too high. It’s a business. If any of these players are back, it will be at a much much lower salary.

    Cousins you keep, as your salary cap cannot do anything but keep him. Reworking his contract to a couple more years could actually be better. And Rudolph? Well, he is a favorite red zone target of Cousins. Thielen proves his worth when healthy. Just had a bad hammy this year.

  17. The Almighty Cabbage says:

    Yeah, the best cap guy in the game. That’s why you have the worst cap situation in the entire league, WITH most of your best players up for renewal. Just because one purple says the guy is a magician, the rest of you don’t have to… oh, wait… never mind… carry on.

    ================================================================

    They were in “cap hell” last year, and the latter half of the previous season. Literally nobody (including myself) commenting in this thread really understands the in’s and out’s of an NFL team’s salary situation. They ways they can move and shift money isn’t something that can easily be read and understood.

    This is a multi-billion dollar franchise and people are talking like the people running the show have no idea what they are doing and are suddenly surprised by the raw cap numbers starting this off-season. They plan of this stuff months, if not years, in advance. That’s not to say they didn’t put themselves in a position to make some tough decisions, but people acting like they need to dump a ton of veterans and start over because of their current cap situation are just ignorant of how everything works.

    The Vikings don’t need to dump and rebuild… When was the last time the Vikings had a ton of cap space to start a year? It’s been a while and the past few years have all been tight… Yet they continually figure it out. Everyone remember how there was no possible way to hold on to Barr last season? They resigned him to a new deal.

  18. uncommon1 says:
    January 14, 2020 at 10:37 am
    Yeah, the best cap guy in the game. That’s why you have the worst cap situation in the entire league, WITH most of your best players up for renewal. Just because one purple says the guy is a magician, the rest of you don’t have to… oh, wait… never mind… carry on
    **************
    Most of our best players are up for renewal? Thats a bad take even for you. The only pending Free Agent that would qualify as one of our “best players” is Anthony Harris and he had a breakout year which is the only reason he wasn’t under contract sooner. Hunter, Kendricks, Barr, Smith, Diggs, Thielen, Rudolph, and Cook are all under contract. Cook might be looking for an extension but he’s still in his rookie deal and just now qualifies for an extension. Waynes was always going to hit the FA market after this year and Mack Alexander is the only other regular starter the Vikings will want to bring back. Thats two contracts that NEED to be done (Alexander and Harris) + one contract that should get done (Cook).

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    We can argue who your “best” guys are all day but the fact remains, your cap is in an absolute shambles with many of your high profile players due to be, or wanting to be, renewed. Wait… is it okay if I call them “high profile” or is there another term you’d like me to use? Either way… Vikings… cap… wrecked… now AND for the foreseeable future.

  19. The comments are why you guys don’t run a team. Blow up the team? You have a QB that cannot be traded. You made not to the second round of playoffs. You beat a HOF QB in round 1. No, you adjust. Like every team. You get rid of some players like Rhodes, who clearly has little value. And you get rid of some players that have huge cap numbers, like Griffen, Reiff, and Joseph. Take a look at the cap numbers, not just talent. 4-5 changes at the top of the pay scale makes a big difference.

  20. The Almighty Cabbage says:

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    We can argue who your “best” guys are all day but the fact remains, your cap is in an absolute shambles with many of your high profile players due to be, or wanting to be, renewed. Wait… is it okay if I call them “high profile” or is there another term you’d like me to use? Either way… Vikings… cap… wrecked… now AND for the foreseeable future.
    *********************
    If you were half as smart as you think you are you would realize that Vikings only to need to make a few moves and they will be in a comfortable cap situation. Rhodes and Linval are nearing the end of their expensive deals. The Vikings know their production no longer justifies their salary. So they will cut them. There is about $23 million in cap. Reiff can be restructured or released and there is another bug chunk of money. Everson will void his contract, another $13 million in cap. Those aren’t even tough decisions. If they choose to move on from these 4 players, their cap situation is fine. They also have attractive tradeable assets in Diggs and Barr if they wanted to make more cap for next season. Lastly, Cousins’ contract is for one more season. At this time next year the Vikings could be looking at upwards of $70 million or more in cap space if they choose to be. Brezinski gets credit for his Salary Cap work because the Vikings have the ability to clear a ton of space at any time, if they choose too. There are only a few players that would result in a lot of dead money after their first couple years under contract. He’s very good at what he does

  21. uncommon1 says:
    January 14, 2020 at 11:33 am
    The Almighty Cabbage says:

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    We can argue who your “best” guys are all day but the fact remains, your cap is in an absolute shambles with many of your high profile players due to be, or wanting to be, renewed. Wait… is it okay if I call them “high profile” or is there another term you’d like me to use? Either way… Vikings… cap… wrecked… now AND for the foreseeable future.
    *********************
    If you were half as smart as you think you are you would realize that Vikings only to need to make a few moves and they will be in a comfortable cap situation. Rhodes and Linval are nearing the end of their expensive deals. The Vikings know their production no longer justifies their salary. So they will cut them. There is about $23 million in cap. Reiff can be restructured or released and there is another bug chunk of money. Everson will void his contract, another $13 million in cap. Those aren’t even tough decisions. If they choose to move on from these 4 players, their cap situation is fine. They also have attractive tradeable assets in Diggs and Barr if they wanted to make more cap for next season. Lastly, Cousins’ contract is for one more season. At this time next year the Vikings could be looking at upwards of $70 million or more in cap space if they choose to be. Brezinski gets credit for his Salary Cap work because the Vikings have the ability to clear a ton of space at any time, if they choose too. There are only a few players that would result in a lot of dead money after their first couple years under contract. He’s very good at what he does

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    I’ve always loved this kind of logic. “We just get rid of this guy, that guy, both of those guys, the guy over there and that other guy and then all our problems are solved.”

    And who’s going to replace those guys? They can’t dip into FA, because they don’t have the money even after dumping a bunch of guys. That money has to go to the guys they want to keep. So replacing this guy, that guy, the other guy, etc, has to come by way of the draft and UDFA for the most part. They’ll find and/or develop some decent players that way but it will take some time for them to be as good as the guys they just released… if ever

    Hey look, if you’re happy with the current state of affairs over there, that’s great. I’m certainly happy with it as is everybody I know. I’m pretty sure every NFCN fan base outside of MN is happy with it. Your Vikings are in a bad spot cap-wise and that’s all there is to it.

  22. I’ve always loved this kind of logic. “We just get rid of this guy, that guy, both of those guys, the guy over there and that other guy and then all our problems are solved.”

    And who’s going to replace those guys? They can’t dip into FA, because they don’t have the money even after dumping a bunch of guys. That money has to go to the guys they want to keep. So replacing this guy, that guy, the other guy, etc, has to come by way of the draft and UDFA for the most part. They’ll find and/or develop some decent players that way but it will take some time for them to be as good as the guys they just released… if ever

    Hey look, if you’re happy with the current state of affairs over there, that’s great. I’m certainly happy with it as is everybody I know. I’m pretty sure every NFCN fan base outside of MN is happy with it. Your Vikings are in a bad spot cap-wise and that’s all there is to it.
    *********************
    “That’s all there is to it” as long as you don’t think critically. Brezinski’s job is to manage the cap and to ensure that the Vikings always have flexibility. They continue to have that flexibility and can create as much cap space as they want. That’s not being in a bad spot cap-wise. Of course it would be better if the Vikings were under the cap, had all their players signed and they were all on the right side of 30. They had that a few years ago, but their not in that spot anymore.

    The Vikings took on Veteran contracts knowing that they had a small window to win a Super Bowl. They failed to do that and now they have to start over. It will be a couple of years before they’re competitive again and thats okay. Because of Brezinski’s good work, the Vikings can essentially hit the “reset” button at anytime. They took a shot, signed a lot of veterans and it didn’t pan out. Start over

  23. Waynes and Harris will be kept while Rhodes and Griffen are let go. From a salary cap perspective, it wouldn’t shock me to see Rudolph on the trading block with Irv Smith poised to take over Rudolph’s role. Reiff isn’t worth his contract, and will either have it reworked or he’ll be cut loose. Cook will be re-upped as well.

    I’m afraid that Cousins may agree to rework (and extend) his contract to reduce his 2020 cap number. Unless he can find some previously unseen ability to avoid the pass rush, I’d rather see the team move on.

  24. Griffin knows the end is near and he WANTS to remain, I can see him signing a 3 year deal heavy ended the last year with the first 2 years at a very low guarantee with mostly incentives. Joseph still is a class A player, Waynes is still in his prime, Thielan is the Boy Wonder Crafty and needs to stay for at least another 3 years. Rhodes is out of gas, and needs to go, Rudy can still play but we have his replacement so he will go. Rieff never was much good so that is a no Brainer. So I see A Left Tackle or Corner 1st round, same 2nd depending on talent at each position, DL 3rd round, no 4th pick, 5th a young QB prospect that can scramble and that would help the O line issue AND Spielmans mentality on spending early picks on them, that could be the 3rd round pick, IF the quality is there. 6th a receiver prospect and 7th Safety or another corner. Spielman may whiff on 1st round picks but has struck gold in the UFA market where there are a ton of players that went un-drafted because of a glut of players at one position, or other reasons. This looks like a very strong QB class so there are going to be a couple worth the risk at the 3rd round that can be ready after a year on the bench. It just stinks a team loses spots because of the Playoffs, that rule needs to change!

  25. The cap situation will be tough but they’ll work it out. If they extend Cousins even 2 years they can save cap space, not to mention dumping Rhodes, Griffen and Reif at $10M each — that alone creates more cap space than even GB has next year. As to replacements, really is Rhodes’ production hard to replace? As for DE, they’ve got Idenigbo and Weatherly already to replace Griffen if he doesn’t take less to stay Reif will take less, but his middling production can be replaced at half the cost. Linvall would be the tough one. This is the first time in a while that Mr. Cabbage has actually sounded like a myopic Packer fan.

  26. It’s always funny how packer fans insist they don’t care about the Vikings. Yet here they are, as usual. Guess they got the week off from shoveling and it must be too cold to ride their four wheelers to the liquor store.

  27. lp5710 says:
    January 14, 2020 at 10:40 am
    Viking fans ranted about the Packers not re signing veterans
    ////////
    We did? Why would we do that? Why would we care? I think you’re confused. What we said was; nobody turns on a former player faster than a Packer fan. You say he was great when you have him, and trash when you don’t have him.

  28. The Almighty Cabbage says:
    January 14, 2020 at 10:12 am
    That’s why you have the worst cap situation in the entire league, WITH most of your best players up for renewal.
    /////////
    Name these best players up for renewal. Go ahead. We will wait…

    Of course, you’d have to compliment some Vikings players in order to defend your first statement. Should be fun. But I don’t expect you back, since you’re just wrong (pretty much all the time).

  29. RMoss84HOF says:
    January 14, 2020 at 2:26 pm
    It’s always funny how packer fans insist they don’t care about the Vikings. Yet here they are, as usual. Guess they got the week off from shoveling and it must be too cold to ride their four wheelers to the liquor store.
    Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzxxxxzzz

    It’s not as funny the second time.

  30. conormacleod says:
    January 14, 2020 at 5:57 pm
    The Almighty Cabbage says:
    January 14, 2020 at 10:12 am
    That’s why you have the worst cap situation in the entire league, WITH most of your best players up for renewal.
    /////////
    Name these best players up for renewal. Go ahead. We will wait…

    Of course, you’d have to compliment some Vikings players in order to defend your first statement. Should be fun. But I don’t expect you back, since you’re just wrong (pretty much all the time).

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Saying a player is one of your best requires just truthful analysis. Cousins is YOUR best QB. See how that works? I don’t mind saying that at all.

    The article specifically mentions Griffen, Joseph and Rhodes on defense and Cousins, Reiff, Thielen and Rudolph on offense. Let’s discuss them in order.

    -Griffen and Joseph are among your best D-linemen. Hunter’s better but these two are still among your best and there’s not really any question.

    -Rhodes is done.

    -Cousins is without doubt your best quarterback. I know that hurts but that’s the truth. He is YOUR best. And thanks to your “magician” giving him the fully guaranteed deal, he’s not going anywhere.

    -Reiff is definitely one of your best O lineman. He’s not flashy but he’s been solid. A couple of the young guys will likely supplant him eventually, but right now today Reiff is your most reliable.

    -Thielen is your best or second best receiver, without any doubt.

    -Rudolph is your best TE option today as evidenced by starting both playoff games and catching 6 balls on 10 targets. Smith started neither and went 3 for 3. Smith will be “the man” in the future but when? TEs tend to develop slowly, relatively speaking.

    You can come at this subject in as many hats as you want to but the fact will remain, your Vikings have cap trouble. That’s hardly “wrong” just because you can’t accept it.
    And I told you a while back, as badly as you need me to be “wrong,” why not just make me wrong? It would be so easy to do. Just ignore me. When I’m talking with someone else, stay out of it. I told you then and I’m telling you now, you can’t do it. You have a very strange need for my attention. Just think, every single day that you don’t talk to or about me, I will be “wrong.” You’ll get to be your very own hero.

  31. Vikings stacked the deck and it wasn’t good enough, making it easy to forget they’ve done a nice job developing players. Or some players…the obvious exception being the O-line. Could they be ‘down’ a year or two? Could they remain competitive with a solid draft, a key free agent and a developing roster? I don’t know. Better means little if you’re never the best.

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