Vikings Rumors

Front Office Rumors: Vikings, DeLuca, Saints

The Vikings made a number of staff moves this past week. They’ve got one season under their belt with new head coach Kevin O’Connell and new general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, and Minnesota continues to make adjustments to the front office.

The first such adjustment was the release of a longtime staffer in director of football quantitative methods and pro scout Scott Kuhn. According to Seth Walder of ESPN, the two parties decided to part ways after 16 years together. Kuhn first came to Minnesota in 2007, following former general manager Rick Spielman in his move from Miami. The former Dolphins staffer worked his way through multiple roles in Minnesota before finally landing his most recent role back in 2016.

Here are few other front office moves from around the NFC, mostly coming out of the Twin Cities:

  • In further efforts to shape the front office to his liking, Adofo-Mensah brought a big piece over from Cleveland in Sam DeLuca, according to Neil Stratton of DeLuca had been with the Browns since 2013, serving mostly in the role of assistant director of pro scouting. He also spent some time with the Eagles before he joined Cleveland. In Minnesota, DeLuca will claim a role as the Vikings’ senior assistant director of pro personnel.
  • The Vikings will reportedly also be adding a new scout, according to Stratton. Minnesota is poaching Matt Kelly from the Senior Bowl staff, where he served as director of football operations. With the Vikings, Kelly will be the team’s new West Coast area scout.
  • Lastly, the Saints also parted ways with a longtime staffer, according to Jeff Duncan of The Times-Picayune, letting go of a top analytics researcher in Ryan Herman. Herman joined the Saints back in 2017 after working with New Orleans’ assistant general manager Jeff Ireland in Miami, when Ireland was the Dolphins’ general manager. Herman’s seven years in Miami culminated in his role as the director of football administration before taking the job in New Orleans. After six years with the Saints as the team’s head of football research and strategy, New Orleans allowed Herman’s contract to expire.

Vikings’ Contractual Preferences To Hinder Justin Jefferson Negotiations?

With three years of service time under his belt, Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson is now eligible for an extension. As Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk notes, Jefferson has been staying away from the club during offseason workouts as part of his efforts to land what could be the richest WR contract in league history.

The Dolphins made Tyreek Hill the first (and currently only) $30MM/year wideout, though that number is inflated by an untenable $43.9MM salary in 2026, the final year of Hill’s contract. At that time, there will be no guaranteed money left on the deal, so player and team will either have to agree to an extension/restructure, or Hill will simply be released.

Given Jefferson’s age (he will turn 24 this month) and remarkable production over the first three seasons of his professional career, the reigning Offensive Player of the Year has grounds to demand a contract featuring a “legitimate” $30MM AAV. He also has a good chance to top the $75MM of practical guarantees that the Rams authorized for Cooper Kupp almost exactly one year ago.

The problem, according to Florio, is that Minnesota generally prefers to include in its contracts injury guarantees that do not become fully guaranteed until the year the money is due. In other words, as long as the player stays healthy, the Vikings can extricate themselves from the deal with relative ease.

Of course, given the importance of the quarterback position, Minnesota made an exception for Kirk Cousins. It stands to reason that the team would do the same for Jefferson, who not only plays a premium position, but who is arguably the best player at that position despite his youth. Florio asked a source involved in the Jefferson negotiations if the Vikings’ structural preferences would become an issue, and the source simply replied, “we’ll see.”

At this point, there is no reason to think that the two sides will ultimately fail to reach an accord. It just may take awhile to get there, which is often the case with highly-lucrative contracts, especially those that could set a new benchmark at a certain position.

Indeed, while a Jefferson extension is reportedly a top agenda item for the Vikings, head coach Kevin O’Connell recently suggested that there is still a great deal of work to be done.

“I don’t know if I’d put a timeline on it,” O’Connell said last month. “I just know that, you know, we very much are looking forward to having Justin play here for a really long time. … I look forward to when we get that done and we can move forward knowing that Justin’s going to be here for the long term and we will get that done. Justin knows, his representation knows exactly how we feel about him.”

In 2022, Jefferson led the league in receptions (128) and yards (1,809). He also tallied eight receiving touchdowns and threw in a rushing score for good measure. He finished fifth in MVP voting.

Dolphins Remain On Dalvin Cook Radar

The one team known to have discussed a trade with the Vikings for Dalvin Cook is not believed to be out of the running for the Pro Bowl back. The Dolphins remain interested in bringing the veteran back to South Florida.

No trade is in place between the teams, per Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, but it is expected the Dolphins will have interest if the Vikings move on via release. A South Florida native who played at Florida State, Cook, 27, is also expected to view Miami as an appealing destination were he to be cut, Jackson adds.

Cook is tied to a five-year, $63MM extension — agreed to just before the 2020 season, during Rick Spielman‘s lengthy tenure as the Vikings’ front office boss — that calls for a $10.4MM 2023 base salary and a $14.1MM cap hit. Both figures are in the top four at running back this year. The Dolphins, understandably, would not be expected to give Cook a salary close to that number, Jackson adds.

Trade talks between the Vikings and Dolphins commenced in March, but with no deal coming to pass, Miami made a steady effort to establish backfield continuity. Ex-Mike McDaniel 49ers charges Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson re-signed, as did Myles Gaskin. Even after those signings, Cook stayed on Miami’s radar. But, after spending extensive time with Texas A&M prospect Devon Achane, the Dolphins drafted him in the third round. Miami did not spend much to retain Mostert and Wilson, signing them both to two-year deals that contain less than $3MM guaranteed apiece. Gaskin did not receive any guaranteed money.

Despite adding Wilson at the trade deadline, the Dolphins ranked 25th in rushing last season. Cook would undoubtedly upgrade Miami’s backfield — for 2023, at least — while giving the Dolphins a much deeper position group compared to the Vikings. Minnesota appears prepared to go with longtime Cook backup Alexander Mattison as its starter. That might represent a downgrade in terms of peak production, but it would come at a steep discount as well. Mattison signed a two-year, $7MM deal that is nearly fully guaranteed.

Just $2MM of Cook’s salary is locked in for this year, but since the former second-round pick is a vested veteran, the entire $10.4MM would become the Vikings’ responsibility if he is on their roster come Week 1. With that unlikely to happen, the question will be whether the Vikings move on via trade or release. (Cook agreeing to a pay cut and likely a role reduction to stay in Minnesota is not entirely off the table, either.) With the Dolphins seemingly the lead suitor, it would make sense for the team to wait for a release and pursue the seventh-year veteran in free agency.

With Tua Tagovailoa and Jaylen Waddle still tied to rookie-deal salaries, Cook could fit in as a 2023 Dolphins hired gun. Tagovailoa’s pay spikes in 2024, thanks to the fifth-year option the Dolphins quickly exercised this offseason, and the team has Tyreek Hill tied to a receiver-record contract. For now, Hill’s $30MM-per-year deal is the only notable expense at the QB or skill spots in Miami. Though, Cedrick Wilson‘s $8MM-per-year contract remains on the books. The Dolphins are believed to be open to trading the ex-Cowboy, however. The team separated from 2022 franchise tag recipient Mike Gesicki in March.

Cook, who has four 1,100-yard rushing seasons on his resume, would be an interesting addition for one of the many contenders in a loaded AFC. For now, the Dolphins look to be interested observers in the Vikings’ decision-making at running back.

Minor NFL Transactions: 6/2/23

Today’s minor moves in the NFL:

Minnesota Vikings

  • Signed: WR Garett Maag

New England Patriots

Seattle Seahawks


Maag fills the open roster spot vacated by retired tight end Ben Ellefson yesterday. After four years at North Dakota, the local native returns home to the Minneapolis area after going undrafted in April. In 49 games for the Fighting Hawks, Maag caught 162 passes for 2,152 yards and 18 touchdowns. He’ll add some depth to a position group in Minnesota headlined by Justin Jefferson, K.J. Osborn, and first-round pick out of USC Jordan Addison.

2023 NFL Cap Space, By Team

The start of June has served as a key NFL financial period for decades. While teams no longer have to wait until after June 1 to make that cost-splitting cut designation, teams pick up the savings from those transactions today. With a handful of teams making post-June 1 cuts this year, here is how each team’s cap space (courtesy of OverTheCap) looks as of Friday:

  1. Chicago Bears: $32.58MM
  2. Carolina Panthers: $27.25MM
  3. Arizona Cardinals: $26.68MM
  4. New York Jets: $24.79MM
  5. Detroit Lions: $23.72MM
  6. Indianapolis Colts: $23.39MM
  7. Dallas Cowboys: $20.48MM
  8. Houston Texans: $16.81MM
  9. Green Bay Packers: $16.57MM
  10. Pittsburgh Steelers: $15.73MM
  11. Cincinnati Bengals: $14.92MM
  12. New Orleans Saints: $14.27MM
  13. New England Patriots: $14.12MM
  14. Miami Dolphins: $13.9MM
  15. Cleveland Browns: $13.86MM
  16. Philadelphia Eagles: $13.85MM
  17. Los Angeles Chargers: $12.61MM
  18. Jacksonville Jaguars: $12MM
  19. Washington Commanders: $11.57MM
  20. Baltimore Ravens: $11.54MM
  21. San Francisco 49ers: $10.72MM
  22. Atlanta Falcons: $10.7MM
  23. Denver Broncos: $10.13MM
  24. Minnesota Vikings: $9.75MM
  25. Tennessee Titans: $7.99MM
  26. Seattle Seahawks: $7.94MM
  27. New York Giants: $3.82MM
  28. Las Vegas Raiders: $3.37MM
  29. Los Angeles Rams: $1.49MM
  30. Buffalo Bills: $1.4MM
  31. Kansas City Chiefs: $653K
  32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: $402K

The Dolphins gained the most from a post-June 1 cut (Byron Jones) this year, creating $13.6MM in cap space from a deal that will spread out the cornerback’s dead money through 2024. But the Browns (John Johnson, Jadeveon Clowney) and Cowboys (Ezekiel Elliott) created more than $10MM in space as well.

The Jets’ number is a bit deceiving. They are still working on a restructure with Aaron Rodgers, as the trade acquisition’s cap number — after a Packers restructure — sits at just $1.22MM. In 2024, that number skyrockets to $107.6MM. Rodgers’ cap hit will almost definitely will climb before Week 1, so viewing the Jets along with the other teams north of $20MM in space is not entirely accurate.

Minnesota is moving closer to separating from its $12.6MM-per-year Dalvin Cook contract. The team already created some space by trading Za’Darius Smith to the Browns. Cleveland, which is one of the teams connected to DeAndre Hopkins, added Smith and did so with help from its Deshaun Watson restructure. Watson was set to count $54.9MM against the Browns’ 2023 cap. That number is down to $19.1MM, though the Browns’ restructure both ballooned Watson’s mid-2020s cap figures to $63.9MM — which would shatter the NFL record — and added a 2027 void year.

Tampa Bay and Los Angeles sit atop the league in dead money, with the Bucs — largely from their April 2022 Tom Brady restructure — checking in at $75.3MM here. That total comprises nearly 33% of the Bucs’ 2023 cap sheet. The Rams, at more than $74MM, are not far behind. Despite the Bills and Chiefs — the teams most frequently tied to Hopkins — joining the Bucs and Rams near the bottom of the league in cap space, both AFC contenders also sit in the bottom five in dead money.

Vikings Likely To Move On From Dalvin Cook

More than three months have passed since Vikings GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah stopped short of guaranteeing Dalvin Cook would be back with the team for a seventh season. The Pro Bowl running back remains on Minnesota’s roster, but it does not look like that will be the case for too much longer.

As they did with Za’Darius Smith, the Vikings are hoping to collect an asset for Cook. Smith stood in limbo alongside Cook for several weeks, but the Vikings ended that uncertain period by dealing the edge rusher to the Browns in a pick-swap deal that brought back only 2024 and 2025 fifth-round picks. A Cook trade package likely would not bring too much back to Minnesota, if the short-lived Austin Ekeler trade market is any indication, but the Vikings still look to be pursuing that effort.

Be it via trade or release,’s Kevin Seifert notes the Vikings are likely set to close the book on what has been a successful Cook partnership. Minnesota agreed to terms with longtime backup Alexander Mattison in March. While the fifth-year running back’s deal is quite modest — two years, $7MM, even less than the Broncos are paying Samaje Perine — the Vikes guaranteed the long-running RB2 $6.35MM. With a Justin Jefferson contract in the cards, potentially by Week 1, Minnesota authorizing this guarantee for Mattison and keeping Cook’s $12.6MM-per-year extension on the books might be a bridge too far. After his signing, Mattison said he did so with an “understanding how it’s all laid out and how it’s all going to work out.”

That said, Seifert adds the Vikings have been in talks with Cook on a pay cut ahead of his age-28 season. This would also seemingly be contingent on a role reduction. Adofo-Mensah said in April the Vikings could “in theory” run back the Cook-Mattison pair, but they have not previously formed much of a committee. Mattison has generally served as a fill-in for Cook when he misses time. The former third-round pick has not offered the ceiling Cook provides, but he has also served as one of the game’s best backups. Mattison, 25 in June, is also three years younger than Cook and has 474 career touches. Cook, who is coming off shoulder surgery, has accumulated 1,503 in six seasons as Minnesota’s starter.

As we are now past June 1, it will cost the Vikings less to move on. They can trade Cook and pick up $11MM or release him and gain $9MM. The trade scenario, however, will be tough to complete due to Cook’s $10.4MM base salary. That figure sits as the third-highest among backs this year. Another team would likely ask the Vikings to pick up some of Cook’s salary. This scenario fetched the Broncos (Von Miller) and Bears (Robert Quinn) better draft capital in deals, but it is unknown how willing Adofo-Mensah is to follow this path. Another team could also acquire Cook and restructure his through-2025 contract, but absent a robust trade market, a suitor could bet on the Vikes cutting him. The team holds just more than $9.7MM in cap space.

The Dolphins are the only team to be connected to Cook via trade, and while they picked up the most money on a post-June 1 cut (Byron Jones) this year, Miami still drafted Devon Achane in Round 3 after re-signing Raheem Mostert, Jeff Wilson and Myles Gaskin. Still, Cook is a South Florida native who would upgrade the Dolphins’ 2023 backfield.

As for the Vikings, they used a seventh-round pick on running back DeWayne McBride and still roster 2022 fifth-rounder Ty Chandler and 2021 fourth-rounder Kene Nwangwu. Cook could soon be an interesting domino as aspiring contenders assemble their rosters. While the door is not entirely closed on Cook staying in Minnesota, a divorce is likely coming.

TE Ben Ellefson Announces Retirement

Ben Ellefson is calling it a career after only three professional seasons. The veteran tight end announced on Instagram today that he’s retiring from the NFL. In his announcement, Ellefson indicated that injuries played a role in his decision.

“Thank you football for the people you’ve brought into my life and the opportunities you’ve given me to pursue my dreams to the fullest,” Ellefson wrote (via the Vikings’ website). “I’ve been blessed on my path to have people who believed in me, which has drowned out those who doubted. So, thank you believers, for the chances you’ve taken on me, helping and supporting me in my drive to give this game all I could and to reach my fullest potential. The list is long and I am fortunate.

“Injuries are part of the game and although they are a big reason for me moving on, I am fortunate to be in a spot where I can still walk away from the game as a player, ready to tackle whatever is next in my life.”

The former UDFA out of North Dakota State landed on injured reserve in each of his three NFL seasons. This included a 2022 campaign with the Vikings where he was limited to only four appearances while dealing with a lingering groin injury. The 26-year-old re-signed with Minnesota this past offseason.

In 16 career games (five starts), Ellefson hauled in four catches for 36 yards. While he mostly served as a blocker during his time in the NFL, Pro Football Focus was generally favorable of his receiving skills, including a top-two mark this past season.

Traded NFL Draft Picks For 2024

As teams regroup on potential trade talks, 2024 draft picks represent the top non-player assets available. Although the usual run of draft-weekend trades featured teams moving up and down the 2023 board, a high number of 2024 picks have changed hands. The Cardinals resided at the center of such movement, but many other teams have already made changes to their 2024 draft arsenals. Three first-rounders have already been traded, and a fourth — barring an Aaron Rodgers injury — will be expected to transfer.

Here are the 2024 picks to have changed hands thus far:

Round 1

Round 2

Round 3

  • Lions obtained Vikings‘ pick in 2022 deadline deal that sent T.J. Hockenson to Minnesota
  • As part of Payton trade, Broncos collected Saints‘ third
  • As part of Anderson trade, Cardinals acquired Texans’ 2024 third
  • Cardinals picked up Titans‘ 2024 third in deal that allowed Tennessee to draft Will Levis at No. 33
  • Seahawks acquired third from Broncos in exchange for No. 83 overall pick (CB Riley Moss)
    • It is not yet known if Seattle will add Denver or New Orleans’ 2024 third
  • Texans landed third from Eagles in trade for No. 105 (CB Kelee Ringo)

Round 4

Round 5

Round 6

Round 7

  • Broncos acquired Rams‘ seventh in pick-swap deal for LB Kenny Young in October 2021
  • October 2021 Mark Ingram trade gave Texans seventh from Saints
  • Texans obtained seventh from Chiefs for DB Lonnie Johnson
    • Unknown conditions may keep pick from transferring
  • As part of Amadi swap, Eagles obtained seventh from Titans
  • Daley pick swap sent Titans seventh from Panthers
  • Jones pick swap sent Browns seventh from Falcons
  • In Johnathan Hankins pick-swap trade, Cowboys acquired Raiders‘ 2024 seventh
    • It is unknown which of Las Vegas’ 2024 sevenths will be sent to Dallas

Each NFL Franchise’s Richest QB Contract

The quarterback market has moved again this offseason. A year after Aaron Rodgers raised the average annual value bar past $50MM, Jalen Hurts and Lamar Jackson did so on long-term extensions. Overall, four teams have authorized the most lucrative QB deal in their respective histories this offseason. Two more — the Bengals and Chargers — are in talks about record-setting extensions as well.

On that note, here is the richest quarterback contract each team has authorized. Although teams like the Jets and Lions have acquired big-ticket contracts via trade, only teams’ extensions or free agency agreements will qualify here.

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

Buffalo Bills

Carolina Panthers

Chicago Bears

  • Jay Cutler, January 2014. Seven years, $126.7MM. $38MM fully guaranteed

Cincinnati Bengals

  • Carson Palmer, December 2005. Six years, $97MM. $30.8MM fully guaranteed

Cleveland Browns

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

In trading this contract to the Jets in April, the Packers restructured the deal. Rodgers’ exit will still tag the Pack with $40.3MM in 2023 dead money.

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Kansas City Chiefs

Las Vegas Raiders

Carr’s second Raiders deal — agreed to in April 2022 — was worth $40.5MM per year. The full guarantee, thanks to the February escape hatch the team built into the contract, checked in lower than Carr’s initial Raiders extension.

Los Angeles Chargers

Los Angeles Rams

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

Cousins’ 2020 extension checked in with a higher AAV ($33MM) but did not approach his initial Minnesota pact for guarantees.

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

New York Jets

  • Mark Sanchez, June 2009. Five years, $50.5MM. $28MM guaranteed

This was the former No. 5 overall pick-turned-TV analyst’s rookie deal, made possible before the 2011 CBA reshaped the rookie salary structure. Chad Pennington‘s September 2004 extension (seven years, $64MM, $23MM guaranteed) marks the top contract the Jets have authorized for a veteran QB.

Philadelphia Eagles

Pittsburgh Steelers

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tennessee Titans

Washington Commanders

Vikings HC Kevin O’Connell Addresses 2022 Roster Approach

2022 marked a new era for the Vikings, since the team had a rookie head coach (Kevin O’Connell) and general manager (Kwesi Adofo-Mensah) in place. Several key players were holdovers from the previous regime, though, which led some to expect a clearing of house during the offseason.

Instead, the team decided against such action, choosing to maintain a core which helped deliver a 13-4 record and an NFC North title. When speaking on the subject, O’Connell noted the value of keeping veterans around in lieu of opening up financial flexibility right away, something which would have allowed for a quicker re-shaping of the roster with players of his choosing.

“Those guys had earned respect for a reason,” O’Connell said, via SI’s Albert Breer“As a young first-time head coach, I wanted to not only engage with them; I wanted to learn from them. I wanted to allow them to have their fingerprints on our team, based upon their experiences and how we put together something we could be really proud of, and do it in Year 1. And in my mind, there really wasn’t a real necessity to say goodbye to a lot of those guys immediately.”

Indeed, it was not until the 2023 offseason that the likes of linebacker Eric Kendricks and receiver Adam Thielen were released in cost-cutting moves. Those decisions came as little surprise given the cap constraints the team found itself in, despite the production the pair demonstrated they are still capable of. Still, Minnesota will be dealing with more than $30MM in dead money this year as a result of those cuts, along with their contract handling of defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson and the terms of their trade involving edge rusher Za’Darius Smith.

Further questions have been raised regarding the future of quarterback Kirk Cousins and running back Dalvin Cook. The former’s deal was restructured but not extended, leaving him set for free agency in 2024. The latter, meanwhile, has been the subject of trade speculation and would yield considerable cap savings if released, particularly after June 1.

For now, though, Cousins is in place as the Vikings’ starter at the helm of what was one of the league’s top offenses last year in terms of scoring and yardage. Much of their success, of course, came though phenom wideout Justin Jefferson, who is now eligible for what will no doubt be an enormous extension. As the franchise transitions to a new core centered around Jefferson, O’Connell is confident the now ex-Vikings who contributed last year will reflect on the 2022 season and the team’s handling of the roster fondly.

“It was hopefully as much to their benefit as it was to ours, that they get to have another great year, experience some success, continue to grow in their own right… and get to look back at that year and feel like they had a real hand in it,” he said. “Because they really did.”