In the summer of 2012, the Wild changed the trajectory of their franchise. After making the playoffs just three times in the previous 11 seasons of their existence, the Wild signed free agents Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to identical 13-year, $98 million contracts.

Suter and Parise added immediate credibility and stability to the Wild. Xcel Energy Center was, well, energized. The Wild made the playoffs in each of the next six seasons.

The stated goal was to win a Stanley Cup during the Parise and Suter era, but the reality was that the Wild instead settled into a mode of consistent respectability. They made two trips into the second round. That's as far as they ever got, and eventually the final four years of both deals were bought out.

But even after the best of the Parise and Suter years -- and now the buyout years -- the Wild have maintained a baseline level of competence.

Is there a lesson in all this for the Vikings, who are at a crossroads of sorts this offseason? I talked about that on Tuesday's Daily Delivery podcast.

The Vikings made a splash six years ago in free agency when they brought in Kirk Cousins on a three-year, $84 million fully guaranteed contract. Their goal was to win a Super Bowl and stabilize their quarterback situation. Both things seemed possible after an NFC title game appearance the year before Cousins arrived.

But in reality, only the Wild-like stability emerged over the course of the Cousins era. The Vikings have made the playoffs just twice with Cousins at QB, winning one playoff game. But every year they are seemingly in the mix -- a game away from the postseason in years they have fallen short.

There's nothing inherently wrong with that, just as there is nothing wrong with the Wild's run since signing Parise and Suter. Plenty of NFL and NHL franchises have been miserable in the last several years, unable to turn high draft picks into achievement.

The Vikings, though, are at a decision point with Cousins similar in some ways to when the Wild moved on from Parise and Suter. They could let him walk in free agency and incur some short-term pain (a $28.5 million dead money charge on their 2024 salary cap, plus uncertainty at an important position).

Or they could bring him back, likely for two more years -- putting a limit on their long-ceiling for now but also protecting them from bottoming out.

The Wild proved they could have it both ways, setting a franchise record for points in the season after the buyouts and staying in the mix in subsequent years. Their best days could still be ahead.

Are the Vikings willing to be bold, or do they still crave assurances of respectability? We'll find out soon.

Here are four more things to know today:

*Chip Scoggins was my guest on Tuesday's podcast. We talked about several things, including what makes Caitlin Clark so special. Scoggins will be writing live from Williams Arena on Wednesday when Clark's Iowa team faces the Gophers.

*I wrote on Monday about Wolves fans finding new problems even with a 40-17 team. Star Tribune beat writer Chris Hine broke down the most glaring one.

*Interesting fact from the Star Tribune's Bobby Nightengale in the wake of Monday's Twins trade for outfielder Manuel Margot:

*Speaking of the Twins, the Star Tribune's Phil Miller will my guest on Wednesday's podcast. We will talk plenty about Byron Buxton, who is slated to play center field on Tuesday for the first time in 554 days.