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When will it start to make sense? This isn’t the analytics part, right?

On Monday, the NFL universe celebrated one of its favorite holidays: The opening of the “legal tampering” period in which teams are permitted to come to agreements with free agents three days prior to the start of the official league year. Of course, they aren’t just tampering anymore, teams are announcing moves, tweeting out photos of players signing contracts and photoshopping them into new uniforms. Maybe we should just go ahead and call it the start of free agency next time.

For the majority of the day, the Minnesota Vikings didn’t seem to be legally tampering with anything. There was nary a rumor to be had that connected the purple to anybody. The closest they got before nightfall was a Rams defensive linemen tweeting a GIF of himself doing Justin Jefferson’s Griddy dance. Turned out he was signing with the Chargers.

One at a time, the top free agents signed with teams that have quarterbacks on rookie contracts. A superstar cornerback to the Chargers. A top receiver free agent to the Jaguars. The top guard to the Jaguars. Several guys who didn’t even deserve their contracts to the Jaguars. The Bengals built up their offensive line. The Jets and Eagles scarfed up Laken Tomlinson and Haason Reddick.

Salt in the wounds. It was an hours-long reminder of the money the Vikings can’t spend. Even with a Kirk Cousins contract extension that lowered his cap hit by $14 million, the Vikings entered Monday $2 million over the cap, per OverTheCap.com.

Free agency mixed in two Vikings free agents finding other homes. Mason Cole joined the Steelers a little after lunchtime. Safety Xavier Woods inked a three-year deal with the Panthers around sunset.

Throughout the day, no news came out regarding players who need to be traded or cut or restructured in order for the Vikings to be cap compliant by the March 16 start of the league year. None of the big-name reporters even speculated on TV about the status of the Danielle Hunters or Adam Thielens or Eric Kendricks’ of the universe.

Finally with the sun down and many free agents sleeping on beds of guaranteed cash, word came of a Vikings signing — the first of the Kwesi Adofo-Mensah era. The Vikings reportedly signed Harrison Phillips to a three-year, $19 million contract. In turn, they released Michael Pierce following failed attempts to trade him.

A defensive tackle. A defensive tackle? A fairly expensive run-stuffing defensive tackle? The ghosts of Rick and Zim aren’t still secretly running things, are they?

Phillips is a fine player. In 473 snaps last season, he graded as the NFL’s fifth best run stopper by PFF. However, he was 61st among defensive tackles in total QB pressures and 53rd in pass rush win rate. Numbers that are nearly identical to nose tackle Dalvin Tomlinson.

Is this like when The Office ran out of storylines so they had new characters create the same conflicts? Over the last three offseasons, the Vikings have signed a run specialist D-tackle each year.

It may only be Day 1 of the tampering window but signing Cousins to an extension and swapping Pierce for Phillips doesn’t exactly feel like the sweeping changes that were expected when the Vikings fired Mike Zimmer and Rick Spielman and replacement them with Kevin O’Connell and Kwesi Adofo-Mensah.

While we’re still processing the logic behind giving Cousins two more years and a no-trade clause rather than moving him to hit the reset button by creating $35 million in cap space, we might have been able to get closer to the point of keeping Cousins had they signed a guard, center or wide receiver.

The whole thing with Cousins has always been, “if everything is right around him.” Yeah, 11 Pro Bowlers on the 2018 roster wasn’t quite enough. But maybe their plot is to get more help on offense to load up for an all-out air attack. Leaning on O’Connell’s influence from Sean McVay, the Vikings could stack the offensive line and let Cousins cook with an arsenal of weapons to fling the rock around from a clean pocket. Now there’s a plan that Vikings fans could put in their pipe and smoke for a day after years of Zimmer demanding they run more.

A defensive tackle who didn’t make Pete Prisco’s top 100 free agents, well, that’s harder to throw a parade over. Especially at nearly double the average annual value of what they signed Sheldon Richardson for last year.

They do need to be better in terms of stopping the run. No doubt about that. It’s just that it all looks so eerily familiar. Are they going to sign a bottom-barrel guard and sing a song about developmental players taking the next step in front of Cousins again, too? O’Connell doesn’t have any eye problems, does he?

Alright, alright, nobody panic yet. Sorry, what’s that noise? The sound of Vikings fans throwing their “KAM-KOC 2022” hats that they bought after their opening press conferences into the fire?

There may be plenty of time for the Vikings’ offseason to play out and for the new brass to bring its vision to fruition but extending Cousins has put an immediate target on their backs. It’s so much more difficult to see the path to a Super Bowl when paying out $30-plus million to the veteran QB, keeping the same veteran starters and signing rotational defensive linemen when that model has landed them directly on .500 football in the past.

Per Pro-Football Reference, the Vikings were 107 expected points behind the Rams in terms of passing offense. That’s a lot of ground to make up. With a long-term approach tossed into the void (years), the Vikings’ front office needs to show how they’re planning on closing the scoring gap beyond O’Connell using his photocopies of the back of McVay’s napkins.

It’s a long offseason. Deep breaths everyone. Sometimes later signings turn out better. But third-wave signings at key offensive positions haven’t exactly gone well in the past. Nobody is writing a poem about the Kendall Wright era or building a statue depicting Tom Compton playing the drums.

Drafting for need hasn’t always worked well either. It’s possible they could draft the next Brian O’Neill or Justin Jefferson, who both helped right away but it’s also possible they could take the next Laquon Treadwell or Wyatt Davis, who basically didn’t play in their first years.

In the coming days, things need to happen. Not just figuratively. The Vikings literally have to do things to get under the cap. Change is coming. Will it be the type of change that gives a boost to the fading notion that the front office would be operating differently under new management? Or was the Vikings’ decision to fire Zimmer and Spielman end up being more about finding people who could “collaborate” nicely than making better decisions?

Is it too harsh to be asking questions after two moves? It sure is. But until the vision for building a legitimate contender around an expensive QB contract becomes clearer, there will be well-earned skepticism.

On to Day 2.

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