Somewhere at TCO Performance Center, General Manager Rick Spielman sits in a conference room with Zygi and Mark Wilf. In this meeting, Spielman talks about the progress that the Vikings made last season, but couldn't quite get over the hump due to several issues.
As the Vikings enter the 2020 offseason, the issues continue to keep the team from getting better. The salary cap is stressed. The players are getting older and less effective. As Spielman starts sweating bullets, he decides that there is only one option: The Purge.
A siren blasts through the walls of the performance center, sending players scrambling all over the locker room, except for Xavier Rhodes who is limping around trying to find a safe space to hide until August but drops to the ground and starts clutching his hamstring.
Suddenly, Mike Zimmer bursts through a wall leaving a trail of slaughtered stuffed animals covered in red paint behind him. Wearing a mask that looks eerily similar to Viktor the Viking, Zimmer starts to stalk Rhodes with his contract in one hand and a paper shredder in the other...
OK, so maybe my idea of a roster purge and the one reverberating through the Vikings facility right now is a little different. But, it's one that should be on the minds of everyone as they head into the offseason with the team sitting $12 million over the salary cap with several holes heading into 2020.
Before most Viking fans gleefully point to their 10-6 record and a playoff victory over the New Orleans Saints, who had their charter ready to take off for Green Bay before the Vikings set foot in the bayou, let me break this situation down.
The most obvious sign that change needs to happen is that the Vikings currently sit $12 million over the salary cap, according to Spotrac. For all the praise that was heaped on Executive Vice President of Football Operations Rob Brzezinski for squeezing as many contract extensions under the salary cap as possible, his spending spree could now prove detrimental.
Why is that, you ask? Well some significant cap changes in 2020 include...
- Adam Thielen's cap number jumping from $8 million to $12 million
- Anthony Barr's cap number jumping from $5.6 million to $12.7 million
- Shamar Stephen getting paid $10 million over the next two seasons
Sure, the elation of locking up Thielen and re-signing Barr at the eleventh hour was fun, but just like when the credit card bill comes in the mail, it's clear that someone should have chopped up the NFL's version of an Amazon card.
With several veterans including Rhodes, Everson Griffen (has reportedly voided his contract), Linval Joseph and others looking to crawl for safety from Zim's paper shredder, we also have the added bonus of fearing they'll ship Stefon Diggs out of Minnesota thanks to a series of cryptic tweets each coming with their own conspiracy theory such as...
"OMG DIGGS RETWEETED THIS HE'S GOING TO TAMPA BAY!!!"
"DIGGS RETWEETED THIS TOO! HE'S COMING HOME TO BALTIMORE, BABY!!!"
"WOW, DIGGS IS WATCHING THE PURGE AGAIN!!!"
And of course, each player that leaves creates a hole in the starting lineup. That hole needs to be filled by a team that has zero cap space and is down a fifth-round pick after using it to trade for...(checks notes)...a kicker.
This was something we knew at the beginning of the offseason, but as we draw closer to other teams looking to improve themselves in free agency, the Vikings are simply looking to stay pat, which, in case you forgot, is a 10-6 team that got blown out in the divisional round.
But don't take my word for this, look at Arif Hasan's offseason blueprint over at The Athletic (subscription required). He put a very modest goal of "not getting worse instead of getting better," which again, is for a 10-6 team that got destroyed in a playoff game.
Does this mean we're hoping to do just enough to go 9-7? 8-8? Hell, maybe we should hire Jeff Fisher in as one of Zimmer's 15,000 coaching consultants just so he can stand up in front of the room to tell them "I'm not f*****g going 7-9."
And the worst part is that a team that hovers around .500 with as many holes as the Vikings are going to have is in complete hell because they're not good enough to win in January, but not bad enough to land a franchise savior that might be available in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Still, you may be thinking that this is still way too pessimistic, but I'm not the only one thinking a blood bath is coming in the next couple of weeks. CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora ran a notebook earlier this week and had this rosy outlook for the Vikings:
"Teams will be sniffing around for trades, sensing some blood in the water, and it will go way beyond just receiver Stefon Diggs, the most talked about trade candidate," La Canfora said. "All of the extensions and huge contacts handed out the last three years have caught up to this franchise, and there is no easy way out...I'm not a huge believer in windows closing in the NFL, but with Kirk Cousins in the final year of his deal, this is an obvious example of one slamming shut. A purge of one degree or another is inevitable. "
Blood in the water! No easy way out! A PURGE IS INEVITABLE!!!
Does it sound like a team that's magically going to find a way to revamp the secondary, fix the offensive line and plug the 15 holes that are going to come from cutting everyone? Not exactly.
Even though I wrote this earlier in the offseason, I didn't want to believe it. But now that we've come to the meat of the offseason, it's clear that this team needs a hard reboot before it can go anywhere.