The Vikings Captain Contenders for 2023

Dec 4, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings safety Camryn Bynum (24) and linebacker Eric Kendricks (54) and linebacker Jordan Hicks (58) react after New York Jets wide receiver Braxton Berrios (10) drops a touchdown pass late during the fourth quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has been a busy man.

A pile of his energy has gone toward creating a roster that’s a fair bit younger and a salary cap that’s more financially nimble. Yes, the competitive rebuild is continuing to manifest itself in the various difficult decisions the GM has been making. A side effect of all of his moves is that the Vikings captains have been cut in half.

Several veteran Vikings will need to step up to fill the leadership void. Let’s get the lay of the leadership land and then proceed into a consideration of candidates who can ascend into more prominent leadership roles.

The Past Vikings Captains

On September 5, 2022, the Minnesota Vikings announced their 8 team captains:

  • Dalvin Cook, RB
  • Kirk Cousins, QB
  • C.J. Ham, FB/Specials
  • Eric Kendricks, LB
  • Brian O’Neill, RT
  • Patrick Peterson, CB
  • Harrison Smith, S
  • Adam Thielen, WR

Obviously, the team has seen some notable losses during the offseason. Cook, Kendricks, Peterson, and Thielen are now playing elsewhere. Collectively, that’s a group with 509 regular season games, 470 starts, and 28,047 snaps (excluding special teams). Even more impressive, the foursome shares 15 Pro Bowls and 4 All Pro teams.

Oct 30, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver K.J. Osborn (17) celebrates his touchdown with wide receiver Adam Thielen (19) against the Arizona Cardinals in the fourth quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Maybe the financial commitment didn’t make sense anymore, but that’s a ton of experience that’s no longer in Minnesota’s locker room.

Going into 2023, the Vikings will continue leaning on Cousins, Ham, O’Neill, and Smith. Each one is a great candidate to once again get a “C” slapped on their chest. Let’s assume, at least for the sake of argument, that there are four openings. Who are Minnesota’s main contenders for the open spots?

The Vikings Captain Contenders

1) Jordan Hicks, Linebacker

NFL: New York Jets at Minnesota Vikings
Dec 4, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; New York Jets quarterback Mike White (5) runs the ball while Minnesota Vikings linebacker Jordan Hicks (58) defends during the fourth quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

There’s a good chance Hicks wears the green dot in 2023, meaning he’ll be the one relaying the play call from the defensive coordinator. With eight years of NFL experience, the 31-year-old Hicks is among the more experienced players in Minnesota. He was one of the very first players brought in by Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and agreed to a pay cut during the offseason to stick around. He’s a favorite for a captaincy position.

2) Josh Metellus, Safety

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Minnesota Vikings
Aug 20, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings safety Josh Metellus (44) breaks up a pass intended for San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Jauan Jennings (15) during the first quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Last season, Metellus snagged a captaincy, if only for a short time. After losing O’Neill to an Achilles injury, Metellus was slotted into the vacant spot. Adofo-Mensah noted that the safety is a “core piller” in Minnesota. Expect to see him on the field plenty in the upcoming season.

3) K.J. Osborn, Wide Receiver

Reaction to Greatest Comeback in NFL History
Dec 17, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver K.J. Osborn. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

The catalyst for the historic Colts comeback, Osborn has a ton of great leadership qualities. His hustle has always been great and so too has his compete been evident. As a rookie, Osborn flopped, and yet that didn’t deter him from continuing to refine his craft. He has gone on to put together consecutive solid seasons as the Vikings’ WR3. He’ll be looking to hold off Jordan Addison for the WR2 job as he continues to do all the right things in Minnesota.

4) Justin Jefferson, Wide Receiver

Vikings Set Training Camp Schedule
Jul 28, 2022; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell and wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) talk during training camp at TCO Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

The clear-cut best player on the roster also happens to be someone whom others look up to. Only 24, Jefferson has already established himself as being at worst among the top 3 NFL receivers. The GM even includes him in conversations about team building. Special player who is obviously a leader in Minnesota.

5) Harrison Phillips, Defensive Tackle

Oct 16, 2022; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Harrison Phillips (97) poses for a photo after a game against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rich Storry-USA TODAY Sports

Phillips, 27, has been in the NFL for five seasons. While in Buffalo, Phillips distinguished himself as someone who put a ton of effort into investing in his community. Putting on a purple jersey did little to dampen the Phillips fervor for helping those around him. The steady defensive tackle is great on the field but even better off the field. Nicknamed Horrible Harry, Phillips may be better described as Humanitarian Harry.

6) Greg Joseph, Kicker

Vikings Need Good Greg on Sunday
Dec 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings place kicker Greg Joseph (1) celebrates the win after the game against the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Should kickers get more love? I think so. Like a closer in baseball, the kicker seldom faces a situation that’s devoid of pressure. Joseph has certainly had his ups and downs while in a purple uniform — and, indeed, in his career more broadly — but he has always been accountable for his play while he looks forward to his next chance to prove himself. Last year, he was absolutely clutch, consistently delivering game-winning kicks for a team determined to win games by the slightest of margins.

Honorable Mentions: Alexander Mattison, Josh Oliver, Chris Reed, Garrett Bradbury, Byron Murphy, Danielle Hunter, T.J. Hockenson, Nick Mullens, & Andrew DePaola.

Editor’s Note: Information from Pro Football Reference helped with this piece.

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