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Last season, the Minnesota Vikings finished with a 13-4 record and earned the No. 2 seed in the NFC. They lost to the New York Giants in the wild-card round, though, and that defeat highlighted that Minnesota's record dramatically outstripped the quality of its play during the regular season. The Vikings' expected win-loss record, according to Pro-Football-Reference.com, was just 8.4-8.6, because they were actually outscored by three points on the season as a whole. 

In other words, despite going 13-4 last season, the Vikings are not necessarily close to being a true Super Bowl contender. And despite not being close to a true Super Bowl contender, they have the least room under the salary cap of any team in the NFL. According to overthecap.com, Minnesota is just $1,458,867 under the cap. 

In that situation, high-priced players' spots on the roster become ... questionable. Two such players are running back Dalvin Cook and edge rusher Za'Darius Smith. In 2023, Cook is set to count for $14,101,272 against the cap. Although there's $44,202,545 remaining on his contract over the next three seasons, just $8,202,545 is guaranteed. Plus, the Vikings signed Cook's backup, Alexander Mattison, to a two-year contract that contained nearly as much in guaranteed money. 

So it shouldn't be all that surprising that when asked about Cook's salary and his place on the roster, Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah was not necessarily all that committed to Cook's future with the team. "Conversations are always ongoing with him," Adofo-Mensah said of Cook, per ESPN. "We're trying to be solutions-oriented and always try to put the roster together within our constraints." 

Dalvin Cook
NYJ • RB • #33
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The same was true of Smith, who in 2023 is set to count for $15,490,195 against the cap, but has very little guaranteed money left on his deal as well. Adofo-Mensah may have been even less committed to Smith's spot on the team than he was to Cook's. "He was a great member of our team last year and we'll keep the conversation ongoing," Adofo-Mensah said of Smith.

The Vikings may be waiting to see how the draft plays out before making final decisions on Cook and Smith's respective futures. It seems highly unlikely that another team will want to trade for those players at those prices, so the Vikings might want to make sure they're able to land replacements at lower costs in the draft before officially moving on. Either way, their place on the roster seems rather tenuous at the moment, and that's at least somewhat surprising given the Vikings were the No. 2 seed in the conference last season.