Too Little, Too Late? Vikings Make Roster Moves but Purple Pessimism Remains

Every Draft Pick Kwesi Adofo-Mensah Has Played a Role in Making
Nov 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah looks on before the game against the New England Patriots at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sport.

At long last, the Vikings finally opted to bring in iOL Dalton Risner and RB Cam Akers. Both had entered the purple rumor mill, so seeing the Vikings make the moves official is by no means out of left field.

Upon first glance, the additions point toward Minnesota’s desire to improve their flailing run game. A pair of games has led to just 26 rushing attempts, 69 yards, and 0 scores. Not nearly good enough, especially since much of the offseason chatter was focused on the benefits of continuity along the offensive line and how the Josh Oliver + C.J. Ham twosome was going to make the Vikings offense more multiple.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Philadelphia Eagles
Sep 14, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Minnesota Vikings tight end Josh Oliver (84) against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

In the most basic terms, the Risner and Akers moves are about allowing the Vikings take a step forward as an offense. While that’s a laudable goal, the question is being asked: what took them so long?

Going into the Eagles game, I wrote a piece for Vikings Territory titled “The Vikings Get the Chance to Undercut a Completely Predictable Outcome on TNF.” Since the schedule arrived, Vikings fan and analyst alike could circle that Week 2 game at Lincoln Financial Field as a contest where the team’s offensive line was likely to be overwhelmed. True, the Garrett Bradbury, Christian Darrisaw, and Oli Udoh injuries weren’t necessarily part of the offseason calculus, but health (or lack thereof) is always a factor for a position as rugged as the offensive line.

Rather than overcome the doubt, though, the Vikings fell into the familiar trap: losing the battle at the line of scrimmage. Sure, Cousins was only sacked a couple times, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Minnesota could only assemble 28 rushing yards during an evening when Philadelphia piled up 259. The discrepancy is startling, revealing that both the defensive and offensive line in Minnesota had a tough day at the office.

Ranking the RB Rooms
Oct 9, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Alexander Mattison (2) celebrates a first down against the Chicago Bears in the fourth quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

More recently, Judd Zulgad wrote a piece for The Vikings Wire called “Vikings’ scramble to save season raises questions about Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Kevin O’Connell.” Zulgad’s quibble, as long as I’m understanding him correctly, isn’t with the decisions to acquire Risner and Akers but, rather, in the timing to acquire them:

with the Vikings sitting at 0-2, and facing a must-win on Sunday against the 0-2 Chargers, it’s also fair to wonder how flawed the Vikings’ offseason plan was when it came to the interior of their offensive line and run game?

It’s not as if Risner and Akers are guaranteed solutions for problems that aren’t a shock to anyone who follows the Vikings and certainly shouldn’t have caught general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and coach Kevin O’Connell by surprise.

There’s certainly merit to the argument, especially since the team’s leadership came into the year with a clear mandate to improve the rushing attack (as they so frequently reminded listeners during press conferences).

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks
Jan 8, 2023; Seattle, Washington, USA; Los Angeles Rams running back Cam Akers (3) rushes against Seattle Seahawks linebacker Cody Barton (57) during the first quarter at Lumen Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Where I’ll push back a bit, though, is in the suggestion that Minnesota making these moves is primarily the byproduct of a Minnesota team that’s “scrambling and hoping that these in-season moves can stop the season from circling the drain.”

Truth be told, Risner and Akers may end up being nice additions, but they’re not capable of resurrecting a season. That task falls to Mr. O’Connell, Kirk Cousins, Justin Jefferson, and every other Viking who has been responsible for some of the fumbling. Defensively, the young corners need to continue showing promise as the front becomes more ferocious, generating more pressure and clogging up running lanes.

At the very least, the Vikings are working with additions who are low risk. Risner only costs cap space and he slots into the open roster spot from the recently-injured Udoh. Meanwhile, Adofo-Mensah only needed to swap late-round selections in 2026 to get Akers to town (shout out to ESPN’s Adam Schefter for the intel).

Since replacing Rick Spielman in January of 2022, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has resisted binaries at every turn. The now infamous competitive rebuild speaks to that perspective since it’s a team-building philosophy that explicitly tries to thread the needle, marrying present-day competitiveness with a look toward ascending into the NFL’s truly elite teams at a nebulous future date.

True to form, Adofo-Mensah adheres to that philosophy in the Risner and Akers additions.

in 2023 Offseason
Jul 27, 2022; Eagan, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah looks on at TCO Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Yes, the offensive lineman is already 28, but he’s just coming off his rookie deal. In all likelihood, the big man has several years of NFL play left in his legs. The guard clearly wants to be a Viking, explaining that half of the league expressed interest in him and that he was going to sign with another team before opting for the Vikings at the last minute.

Meanwhile, Akers is only 24 and operating on the final year of his rookie deal. The cost to get him was turning a 2026 6th into a 2026 7th. Draft nerds will tell you that the difference is negligible. The former Ram now enters a RB room with Alexander Mattison (25), Ty Chandler (25), Myles Gaskin (26), Kene Nwangwu (25), and DeWayne McBride (22). Someone needs to emerge from the youthful crew both in 2023 and beyond.

Without question, the Vikings would have been wise to address these issues proactively rather than reactively (especially when it comes to Risner and the OL). The decisions, though, don’t reveal a desperate team. Instead, we’re seeing a GM who is continuing to take steps down the same path he charted close to two years ago.

Look for Risner and Akers to get into game action by Week 4 at the latest. Ideally, the season will still be alive as Minnesota pursues a .500 record while visiting Adam Thielen and the Panthers. First, though, they must take down the Chargers at U.S. Bank Stadium.

K. Joudry is the Senior Editor for Vikings Territory and PurplePTSD. He has been covering the Vikings full time since the summer of 2021. He can be found on Twitter and as a co-host for Notes from the North, a humble Vikings podcast.

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