Winners and losers of the Vikings offseason
Each year teams try their best to improve from the previous season, but that does not always happen. Additions and subtraction from a roster can change a player’s future for better or worse. The Vikings have a few players that benefited from this offseason, but also have their fair share of players who have been dealt a poor hand.
5. Jaleel Johnson
Johnson, a former fourth round pick has never bloomed into the player the Vikings hoped he could be, but he was never really given a chance to. He failed to play fifty percent of the team’s snaps for the third consecutive year, and the Vikings added another fourth rounder in defensive tackle James Lynch. With the emergence of fellow defensive tackle Armon Watts, and the signing of former pro bowler Michael Pierce, it is hard to see the Vikings renewing his contract after the 2020 season.
4. Kris Boyd
Cornerback Kris Boyd finds himself in the middle of the most crowded Vikings defensive back room in several years. He and six other cornerbacks on the team are under the age of twenty-five and are all vying for a starting spot. Mike Hughes, Holton Hill, and Jeff Gladney seem to make the most sense as the starting three, leaving Boyd to battle with Dantzler, and Meadors for the fourth corner spot. While nothing is set in stone it’s not a stretch to assume Boyd is at a disadvantage before camp even starts.
3. Garett Bradbury
It’s known around the NFL that offensive linemen play better when surrounded by other good players. Bradbury will now have to deal with a combination of either Pat Elflein(PFF 36th ranked guard) , Ezra Cleveland(rookie), Dru Samia( 31 total snaps), Dakota Dozier( PFF 100th ranked guard). Bradbury himself made strides in his rookie campaign and he is going to need his teammates to do the same if the Vikings offensive line is going to improve.
2. Kirk Cousins
Much like Bradbury, Cousins will be starting the season with uncertainty on the offensive line. Minnesota was PFF’s 27th ranked pass blocking team last season. The new system and play action passing was able to offset a lot of the pressure against poor pass rushing teams, but against elite pass rushing teams the offensive line crumbled every single time. If the blocking does not improve it would make for the fourth year in a row Cousins has played behind an offensive line graded below 25th in the NFL
The injury to Adam Thielen last season thrust Johnson into the starting lineup very early in the season. He performed admirably, and likely deserves a shot at being the WR3 for this season. It won’t come easy for him though. Justin Jefferson is likely already cemented as the second receiver, the signing of Tajae Sharpe, and suspected emergence of tight end Irv Smith Jr. will take away a lot of his targets. He was targeted forty-four times last season and he could see that number drop off dramatically.
5. Justin Jefferson
Jefferson joining an offense where he isn’t expected to be the top target was the best case scenario for him. Minnesota offers him his best chance to continue what he was able to do at LSU despite the run first mentality the Vikings employ. Having a QB like Kirk Cousins will only help him achieve his maximum potential.
4. Riley Rieff
The entire fanbase was clamoring for the release of Riley Reiff before the offseason began. Four months and two cancelled preseason games later and it seems Reiff will likely survive another offseason in Minnesota. Kubiak has also mentioned that rookie Ezra Cleveland will compete with the guards on the roster, making it even more likely Reiff will be the starting left tackle.
3. Dan Bailey
It was good to hear that the Vikings special teams coach, Marwan Maloof, made keeping the field goal kicking unit together a priority. That also bodes well for kicker Dan Bailey, who improved his field goal percentage by almost a full twenty-five percent in 2019. Holder Britton Colquitt seemed to be the driving factor in correcting Bailey’s kicking, and his presence should ensure that the Vikings can continue to rely on their field goal team for consistency.
2. Kirk Cousins
Yes, Cousins is both a winner and loser, and it might actually describe his career better than anything else. The loss of Diggs at first glance seemed detrimental to the Vikings offense, but looking back through Kirk’s history he has done just as much with less talent. The addition of rookie Justin Jefferson will also help mitigate some of that loss. Avoiding that big of a drop off at receiver is a big win for Cousins, and fans might forget Diggseven exists by mid-season.
Zimmer finally gets some continuity with a solid offensive play caller. Gary Kubiak will be his fifth offensive coordinator in the last seven years, but with his system already in place the only difference should be in game play selection. This is also a positive for everyone on the offense as Kubiak’s zone scheme and play action passing worked well for everyone. Kirk Cousins played like an elite QB and Dalvin Cook was a top running back on the NFL, both players earned Pro Bowl selections