The Vikings Have a Tight End Problem

Amidst a 6-1 start, the Minnesota Vikings haven’t always won games in the prettiest ways, but they have been winning game. That being said, things may get a little harder moving forward due to one position: tight end. The Vikings officially have a tight end problem.

After going down with an injury on Sunday, Irv Smith Jr. has been diagnosed with a high ankle sprain, per Chris Tomasson. This injury typcially forces players to miss multiple weeks, and with Ben Ellefson on IR, Tomasson reminds us that Johnny Mundt is the only healthy tight end on Minnesota’s active roster right now.

Of course, it’s been a bit of a slow start for Smith in 2022. He has just 22 receptions, 168 yards, and a pair of touchdowns through seven games. It seems Smith began getting back on track in recent weeks, though, as he’s had four catches in each of the last three games.

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Minnesota also has options on the practice squad to take some snaps. Both Jacob Hollister and rookie Nick Muse have been elevated in recent weeks due to Ellefson’s injury. Hollister likely will get the majority of the targets if Smith does need to miss time. Over the course of the 2019 and 2020 seasons with the Seattle Seahawks, he recorded a combined 66 receptions and 558 yards.

The veteran is adept as a receiver, but Minnesota could also opt to make a trade over the next 24 hours for a more solid solution. They’ve been connected to Dolphins TE Mike Gesicki since the preseason, and reportedly, the Dolphins are trying to move him by the trade deadline.

In Week 6 against the Vikings, Gesicki put together a pretty solid audition by catching six passes for 69 yards and a pair of touchdowns. By itself, this is nearly half the production that Smith has produced all year. The problem remains cap space as Minnesota works the snuggest salary cap room in the entire NFL.

Gesicki came into the season with a $10.9 million cap hit. The Vikings must find a way to clear money if they hope to bring him in. He also enters free agency following the 2022 season, so there’s no guarantee he proves to be a long-term solution.

Either way, Smith’s latest injury proves that fans worried about the Vikings depth at tight end are valid. They must find answers soon with a matchup agaisnt the Buffalo Bills looming in just two weeks’ time.

Josh Frey is a Class of 2020 graduate of The College of Idaho with a bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing as well as minors in History, Human Biology, and Journalism. When he’s not writing about the NFL, Josh enjoys marathon training, playing video games, or rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks. For more of his opinions, check out his Twitter account: @Freyed_Chicken.