Releases, re-signings, and requirements for the Minnesota Vikings

By: Abby Altman

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At the beginning of free agency, it appeared as though the Minnesota Vikings were looking to rebuild, which is more than rare for a team coming off of a 13-4 season. 

The Vikings have released several key veteran players, including Adam Thielen, Eric Kendricks, and Cam Dantzler in the last few weeks, and have 11 free agents they have not yet re-signed. Free agents Patrick Peterson and Dalvin Tomlinson have joined the AFC North with the Steelers and Browns. 

Minnesota has re-signed 7 free agents, including first-team all pro long snapper Andrew DePoala and kicker Greg Joseph on special teams. The Vikings also re-signed backup QB Nick Mullens and RB Alexander Mattison for offensive skill positions, and Austin Schlottmann and Garrett Bradbury on the offensive line. Jonathan Bullard is the only re-signed defensive player so far. 

Second round draft pick TE Irv-Smith Jr is one free agent the Vikings will likely not resign. After the week 7 trade for TJ Hockenson, the Vikings filled in the gaps Smith Jr was leaving at the TE position. Even with a top 5 TE, Minnesota signed TE Josh Oliver from Baltimore. 

Oliver is best known for his blocking abilities, so combined with Hockenson’s routes and hands, the TE position should flourish without the need for Irv Smith Jr. 

Free agency is far from over, and General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and the Vikings should be looking at signing some more players before the draft. Here are some of Minnesota’s biggest needs this offseason. 

Positional Needs

Cornerback: One of the most important additions the Vikings need to find is cornerbacks. Minnesota released CB Cameron Dantzler Sr, after he failed repeatedly in coverage. The Vikings signed Byron Murphy Jr from Arizona on a 2 year deal. Murphy is a top man-to-man coverage defender. 

Chandon Sullivan and Duke Shelley are both unsigned free agents as of now. Duke Shelley started 5 games at the end of the season, and exceeded expectations. Shelley is currently asking for more money than the Vikings are currently able to offer him. 

Center: The 2022 season showed lots of issues for Minnesota at center. Starter Garrett Bradbury had struggled in past years, but showed real potential last season, before a car accident re-aggravated a back injury and took him out for the end of the season. Backup Austin Schlottmann started behind Bradbury, but suffered a season ending fibula fracture in week 17. Guard Chris Reed was forced to start at center, causing many issues and several delay of game calls. 

Minnesota has re-signed both Bradbury and Schlottmann, but finding a new center to ensure stability is key for the Vikings offensive line. 

Linebacker: The Linebacker position for Minnesota is appearing to look like a waiting game. Za’Darius Smith and Danielle Hunter held down the position very well this past year, recording 20.5 total sacks between the 2 of them, however, Za’Darius Smith has recently requested to be released. It seems unlikely that the Vikings organization will release him, but a trade may be an option for the veteran outside linebacker. Danielle Hunter is injury prone, after undergoing multiple shoulder surgeries in recent years. Brian Asamoah III, coming off of his rookie season, shows ample potential to be the future for Minnesota’s linebackers, but that is yet to be known for certain. 

Minnesota and LB Jordan Hicks agreed to a restructured contract, allowing him to avoid joining Eric Kendricks on the list of released MN linebackers. 

Safety: Veteran Harrison Smith is still very active as a safety, tied for 1st in the league in interceptions among active players. Smith is 34 years old, and is no longer in his prime, although he’s still an asset to Minnesota’s defense. 

Smith restructured his contract this past week, taking over a $10 million pay cut in order to stay in Minnesota. One of the most beloved players in Minnesota history has earned himself even more respect by taking such a massive pay cut, but one does have to question whether a player of his age will be enough on the field. 

Defensive tackle: Minnesota’s most recent re-signing is DT Jonathan Bullard. Bullard was big at stopping the run game in 2022, but he will most likely not be enough for Minnesota to succeed at DT. Harrison Phillips has been the starter for Minnesota as DT, but drafting a new defensive tackle late in the draft may be necessary for the Vikings. 

Wide Receiver: The Vikings main goal should be to build this franchise surrounding Justin Jefferson. The elite WR needs a wide receiver 2, after Adam Thielen aged out of his position on the MN Vikings. KJ Osborn is a solid WR3, but trading for, or even drafting, a WR2 should be a high priority. Jaxon Smith-Njigba out of Ohio State is a good fit for the Vikings offensive scheme, but it is unlikely he will still be available when the Vikings draft at pick 24. 

Quarterback: It’s no secret that QB Kirk Cousins is getting old. Cousins has been the Vikings quarterback since 2018, and finished the 2022 season 4th in yards and T-5th in touchdowns with the Lions’ Pro Bowl QB Jared Goff. Cousins led the team to a 13-4 season, and was hindered by his defense in the first round of the playoffs. Cousins is 34 years old, and expensive. 

The Vikings announced a cap conversion on Kirk Cousins’ contract that will allow them about $16 million in cap space. Cousins’ contract was going to cost the Vikings $36.25 million in 2023. With the conversion, that number goes down to just over $20.25 million, pushing dead cap money into 2026 and 2027, which are added void years in his contract.

It seems likely that Minnesota will allow Cousins’ contract to expire at the end of the upcoming season. 

The NFC North is expected to turn a new page in NFL history next season. The Green Bay Packers are likely without a franchise QB for the first time in decades, and the Chicago Bears appear to continue their rebuild attempts. 

The Detroit Lions, however, are the favorites take the NFC North for the first time in years. Minnesota and Detroit will likely go head to head for the NFC North title, but Detroit’s offseason has been far more successful than Minnesota’s, thus far. 

What is Securly?

By: Tasha Cudinsky

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What is Securly? Securly is the tool that the Saint Paul Public School System uses to restrict internet access. For years this system has just been used to restrict what things students can search and what websites we can visit. This year SPPS has changed how they use Securly.

Starting in fall of 2022, all parents and guardians of SPPS students started receiving weekly updates that showed them what their students had searched that week. Additionally, if parents download the Securly app they can view their students search history at any time that they want.

All parents or guardians of SPPS students were automatically signed up for the weekly Securly emails. According to the SPPS tech department, this system was implemented because of the requests of some parents, though it is not clear how many parents requested this.

When this system was implemented, all parents were sent an email explaining what Securly is, and encouraging parents to download their app to be able to view the search history at any time.

Students were not informed about the implementation of this system despite the fact that it is their search history that was being given to parents or guardians.

While parents and guardians having the ability to see their students search history may seem harmless, some groups have raised concerns about this new system. The concerns about this system are that not all students come from a safe and accepting home and may end up being harmed by this new system.

Abuse is not an easy topic to talk about, but it is something that happens, and we need to remember to watch out for those who are going through it. The concern with Securly is that an abusive parent or guardian might catch their student searching something along the lines of, “How do I escape an abusive situation?” Or looking into an abuse victim shelter. If a student ended up in this position, they could end up being put in danger because of a system that was put in place by their school, which was supposed to help them.

Despite the fact that concerns have been raised about how this new system may actually harm the students more than help them, little to nothing has been done to either inform the students, or protect those who are at risk. So far, there has been one announcement about Securly during advisory, and only in Highland Park Senior High, not the other SPPS schools. Other than this, there have been no notable changes with the Securly issue.

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HBCU Colleges

By: Maya Breininger

As a junior, it is time to invest in possible colleges that will allow me to carry out my career.

As a black student, one thing hindering my educational experience has been the constant surrounding of students who don’t look like me. By the deduction that being immersed in similar cultures to my own would improve my academics, the colleges that I now apply to are mainly HBCU colleges.

First, in order to understand what HBCUs are, you must understand their history. People of color constantly deal with oppression and acts of judgment. Their communities, which are supposed to be uplifting and accepting, are cruel and derogatory. Their work environments, which are supposed to be creative and inclusive, barely meet the bare minimum of kindness, and the stigma still exists. HBCUs, or Historically Black Colleges and Universities, are safe harbors and communities where its members uplift and support each other.

HBCU colleges are forgiving with their grade acceptance, and turn those with low GPA scores into succeeding students of the world; ready to take hold of their education. They have many different categories of HBCUs, and they are spread all throughout the United States. The schools all offer different programs, they have multi-meaningful backgrounds, and they are built on the belief that everyone deserves a fair shot at genuine education.

After the deaths of both George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, the application of African American students in HBCUs spiked. As the world seemed a divided place full of harm towards African Americans, they found peace of mind in HBCU colleges. There are many successful graduates from HBCUs, such as Kamala Harris, Oprah Winfrey, Wendy Robinson and many more.

HBCUs offer a kind space with a loving community of high-paced, go-getter students who know how to support each other. For this reason, I have chosen that the college I apply to will be a Historically Black College or University. And hopefully, this will inspire many other teens to do the same.

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Pizza Hut decline

By: Joseph Nelson

We all know that building with the weird roof on the top of it. The same roof that draws thousands of customers into the building to order the now well known pizzas that Pizza Hut offers.

But there’s a problem, the yearly sales for the franchise have only gone down in the years! What does this mean? How has this happened? Has someone finally out pizza’d the hut?

In 1990 Pizza Hut had the reputation of having some of the craziest pizza ideas like the Bigfoot, that was a 2 foot wide and 1 foot long pizza, where at one point made a total of 18% of Pizza Huts total revenue. But that wasn’t even close to the sales of their stuffed crust pizza that totaled around 1 billion dollars worth of sales in its first year.

Along with all these ideas, Pizza Hut served as a more modern and fancy pizza restaurant where families and friends could come together to dine in instead of the now very popular delivery service that Dominos has pioneered. But, like all good things, they must come to an end.

Pizza Hut had finally started to cut down on quality and started raising prices with many critics calling out the change in Pizza Hut sauce as the start of its downward spiral. With this new sauce came new pricing with now a large pizza costing $8.49 instead of $6.49.

With the new pricing came new problems with the teen audience (who was their main audience they attempted to appeal to) being in outrage that their after school hangout spot just got a little more expensive.

The competition didn’t help either, with places like Dominos and Papa Johns making compelling and appealing prices to old Hut customers, with more bang for their buck, with a small Domino’s pizza almost costing only half of a small Pizza Hut pizza.

Now, finally Pizza Hut is seeing the downsides like in 2019 when they were forced to close more than 500 restaurants due to underperformance and lack of finances.

Pizza Hut has been a staple to many with the iconic saying “You can’t out-pizza the hut” but it truly seems like the hut has been out-pizza’d for a long time.

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