It’s Not Time to Panic, But Vikings Need to Have Some Urgency at TE

Oct 18, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings tight end Irv Smith Jr. Mandatory Credit: Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports.

Last year, the Vikings received the unfortunate news that TE Irv Smith Jr. would be done for the season. Rick Spielman responded by bringing in Chris Herndon, a move that ended up going poorly. Initially, I was enthusiastic about the deal, believing that the move to Minnesota would help the TE reclaim some former levels of strong play.

Herndon finished the 2021 season with 4 catches, 40 yards, and a TD.

The Vikings find themselves in the uneviable position of once again seeing Smith Jr. injured. Now, this injury is considerably less discouraging than the knee issue that kept the young TE out of the entire 2021 season. The early word is that surgery went well.

Not too long ago, we explored a few options Minnesota has if things went poorly at tight end. A large part of the Vikings’ solution likely rests in turning attention away from the TE position in favor or the WRs and/or RBs. Both receiver and running back are positions where Minnesota combines elite talent and quality depth. As a result, it makes sense for the team to turn to an area of abundance to help address an area with injury concerns.

Of course, this could all be much ado about nothing. In a perfect world, Smith Jr. makes a quick and full recovery in time for Week 1. If that doesn’t occur, then the team will need to either lean into other positions on the roster, develop the current depth TEs, and/or look to bring in some help from outside of the team.

For whatever it’s worth, some of the early reports suggest that Zach Davidson looks good, though there have been rough moments, as well. The 24-year-old certainly has impressive size at 6’7, 251 pounds (per the team’s website). Another interesting tidbit for him is that he was also a college punter, but that’s unlikely to factor into Minnesota’s evaluation of him. The one upside would simply be that he could fill-in if the starting punter went down with an injury.

Spotrac does provide information for available free agents. The game’s best tight ends are already under contract, but there are free agents to consider. Jimmy Graham, Blake Jarwin, Jared Cook, Eric Ebron, and MyCole Pruitt are some of the more notable names. Per Spotrac, the Vikings have $8.72 million in cap space.

Kwesi Adofo-Mensah doesn’t need to panic. Sending out significant draft capital simply to add depth would be a misguided move. Of course, if there’s a strong player who becomes available in a trade, then Minnesota’s GM ought to consider the possibility. The point, folks, is simply that Adofo-Mensah need not make a move simply to make a move. Currently, the best options are likely to continue working with the other TEs on the Vikings roster while taking a fresh look at the FAs.

From there, the Vikings can hopefully determine the best path forward at TE. The hope is still that Irv Smith Jr. can become the TE1 who we all believe he can be.