The Vikings have dismantled their never-deployed defensive end tandem of Danielle Hunter and Yannick Ngakoue on Thursday. Ngakoue is Baltimore-bound, and Hunter will undergo surgery that will push his return back to 2021.
At 1-5 and having made a seller’s trade, Minnesota is staring at its worst season of the Mike Zimmer era. The Vikings have not finished under .500 since 2014 — Zimmer’s first year — and have not lost double-digit games since they went 5-10-1 in Leslie Frazier‘s 2013 finale.
Thursday’s developments coming after the team endured a blowout loss to a previously winless Falcons squad dealing with COVID-19 limitations certainly point to Vikings management conceding this year’s team will not be a contender. Rick Spielman, however, said otherwise. “No one thinks the season’s over now,” the veteran GM said Thursday (Twitter link via the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Ben Goessling). While Spielman’s stance should not be surprising, the Vikings do appear to be set for a rare year out of the playoff picture.
Spielman referenced the team’s 15-player draft class when addressing the decision to trade Ngakoue for a package highlighted by a 2021 third-round pick.
“You want to win as many games as we can, and that’s going to be our objective for the year,” Spielman said (via Goessling, on Twitter). “But also, when you have an opportunity to continue to add, with the 15 draft picks, you’re seeing most of them having to play right now.”
The Vikings, of course, began this year by extending quarterback Kirk Cousins. They then reached an extension agreement with Dalvin Cook. Minnesota, which had spent years building its nucleus through the draft and subsequent extensions, cut veterans Xavier Rhodes and Linval Joseph and traded Stefon Diggs. The team also let cornerbacks Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander walk in free agency. While Justin Jefferson leads all rookie receivers with 537 receiving yards, the Vikings rank 31st in scoring offense and 26th in points allowed.
Of its rookie class, Minnesota has used Jefferson, first-round corner Jeff Gladney and third-round corner Cameron Dantzler as starters, and second-round offensive lineman Ezra Cleveland made his debut in Week 6. The Vikings are one of 10 teams with zero or one wins through six weeks, complicating a potential run at a high 2021 draft pick.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.