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Understandably, the last thing anybody in Minnesota wants to see is more Aaron Rodgers.

After 30 years of looking to the East and seeing the league’s best quarterbacks dominate the division, it would have been parade-worthy for Minnesota Vikings fans to see the back-to-back MVP become a Denver Bronco. You’d take your chances with Jordan Love being the next big thing or the Packers trading for Jimmy Garoppolo.

But there are silver linings to Aaron Rodgers returning to Green Bay.

While nothing is a guarantee in the NFL, the Packers winning the 2022 NFC North became a really good bet the moment that Rodgers told broadcaster Pat McAfee that he would be coming back to Wisconsin rather than retiring or demanding a trade. The Packers may have some salary cap issues to deal with but otherwise they are getting Davante Adams back for next year and can trot out a top-to-bottom juggernaut team with one of the most successful head coaches through three years in NFL history.

The Packers are going to move heaven and earth to compete for a Super Bowl and Rodgers will be desperate to get ring No. 2 and surpass Brett Favre in Green Bay football lore.

In order to do that, the Packers will need to make a lot of adjustments to their players’ salaries that will have long-term implications. Rodgers can take a “team-friendly” deal for next year but they are still presently $26 million over the cap (per OverTheCap.com). We have seen the result of restructures and the addition of void years in Minnesota. The Vikings saw half their roster depart between 2019 and 2020 because they spent years kicking money down the road to keep the 2017 roster in place. Nobody escapes that fate. Ask the Saints, who did the same for Drew Brees’ final years and now sit $45 million over the cap on March 8.

So the first silver lining is that the Packers will eventually have to pay the bill.

Also with the Packers being in full Super Bowl-or-Bust mode with Rodgers back, the Vikings can be reasonable about themselves. They can look at the NFC North and their chances to truly compete in 2022 through clear eyes.

The Vikings are also over the cap and they have needs at about seven different positions. Barring a tidal wave of growth from recent draft picks, they would be most likely to repeat the same results as last year if the Vikings were to sign cheap veteran free agents and run it all back the same way Zimmer/Spielman did in 2020 and 2021.

If Rodgers had left the division, there would have been temptation to look at the Bears and think they were too far away from being ready to win or look at the Lions and think they would still be biting kneecaps at the bottom for another year. You could have seen the Vikings talking themselves into going for the NFC North with hopes of making the playoffs and going on a run. What did Morgan Freeman say? Hope is a dangerous thing?

Not that anybody thinks they should tank but the problem with having hope for a quick turnaround and “going for it” is that it comes with sacrificing the long-term vision that Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Kevin O’Connell should be implementing. If you were wondering, Ceasar’s sports book has the Vikings with the 16th best odds to win the Super Bowl. Right in the middle, as usual.

Signing short-term free agents to win right away means having to replace those holes down the road. Look at the current roster. The Vikings signed four free agents in the secondary in 2021 and now they need four more players. Those spots need to be filled by free agents who will be here longer term on more reasonable contracts and by draft picks who they develop over a few years. Adofo-Mensah and O’Connell should be aiming to construct a team that can compete for Super Bowls every year, not rolling the dice and hope it comes up with an NFC North banner.

Of course, this all ties into the quarterback situation. Again, nobody is saying the Vikings should just give up and punt the division to the Packers. Heck, if they won it after all this Rodgers drama, it would be pretty rewarding for the Vikings. But if Rodgers is going to be in Green Bay 2022 and maybe beyond, is the way to close the gap by signing a decidedly worse quarterback to a similarly restrictive contract? Probably not. It would seem to be a far better plan to put together the strongest possible top-to-bottom roster to be ready for the moment Rodgers slips off his pedestal.

Think about how nobody in the NFC South is ready to take the division from the Brady-less Bucs. The Atlanta Falcons doubled down on Matt Ryan rather than drafting a replacement and now they sit with little chance to matter even with Tom Brady gone. The Carolina Panthers traded a second-round pick for Sam Darnold and picked up his fifth-year option in hopes of finding their guy and taking that big leap. Now they have no quarterback and a coach on the hot seat.

Oh, side note, the trade market for Kirk Cousins might have just become a lot more interesting.

There’s always talk of the risks of moving on from a decent quarterback. Wouldn’t it be more risky to end up like the Falcons and lack the overall roster strength and flexibility at the quarterback position to be ready when it’s time to strike?

The time to strike likely won’t be 2022 with Rodgers remaining in Green Bay. Now the Vikings’ season should be about finding out who can play, getting O’Connell as much experience as an NFL head coach as he can get and putting the franchise in position to win in the future.

If the cupboard wasn’t left bare in so many places, maybe the Vikings would be looking for that last piece to the puzzle — that one free agent to go all-in and solve all of their problems. They tried that with Yannick Ngakoue. They tried that with Patrick Peterson. Now they have no edge rushers or cornerbacks.

Understandably, nobody wants to be in the position of playing second fiddle to Green Bay again. But the Vikings’ new leadership can only play the position they were given. Rodgers’ return makes that position one where they can put all of their attention into a methodical roster build. And on the matter of hope, Vikings fans should hope that the team’s ownership, which claimed they would be “super competitive,” can see that as well rather than pushing the new brass to battle for Rodgers’ crown this year.

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