5 Underrated Moves of the Vikings Offseason

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Jacksonville Jaguars
Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings have made a number of very notable transactions throughout the 2023 offseason, including the releases of Eric Kendricks and Adam Thielen while also trading away Za’Darius Smith.

As a result, a few of Minnesota’s moves went under the radar. With that in mind, here are a few of the more underrated moves of the Vikings offseason.

Retaining Keenan McCardell

Underrated Moves
Jan 21, 2018; Foxborough, MA, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver coach Keenan McCardell during the AFC Championship Game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports.

If you remember all the way back to January and February, Vikings wide receiver coach Keenan McCardell was in the mix for a few offensive coordinator jobs this offseason, namely the job in New England working under Bill Belichick, a former coach of McCardell’s from his NFL playing days.

McCardell was hired to be the wide receivers coach for the Vikings back in 2021, and last offseason when the team was trying to figure out a coaching staff for Kevin O’Connell, both Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen were very clear in their desire for McCardell to return to Minnesota. Now, he gets the chance to pave the way for 2023 first-round pick Jordan Addison to find success at the NFL level.

Re-Signing Garrett Bradbury

Vikings Have Four Players on the First Week 18 Injury Report
Nov 13, 2022; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Minnesota Vikings center Garrett Bradbury. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports.

Throughout the first three years of his NFL career, Garrett Bradbury was subjected to a ton of scrutiny for his struggles at the center position, which was oftentimes warranted. This resulted in the 2019 first-round pick having his fifth-year option declined, and all signs pointed to him moving on this offseason.

However, a strong campaign in 2022 prior to his back injury brings him back to Minnesota for three more years, and in 2023, he carries just a $2.6 million. This is miniscule for the Vikings, especially considering how proficient he is as a run blocker (something that is apparently going to be a much bigger emphasis this year).

It also ensures the Vikings will have full continuity across the offensive line, assuming Ed Ingram holds onto his spot at right guard. This would be the first time the Vikings will have consecutive seasons of the same five starters on the o-line since 2013.

The Harrison Smith Paycut

Dec 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings safety Harrison Smith (22) warms up before the game against the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

As mentioned in the intro, this offseason has been a big purge of veteran players for the Vikings. However, one fan-favorite veteran player remains after taking a rather massive pay cut heading into 2023. That player is, of course, safety Harrison Smith, who saw his base salary reduced by $6.7 million in order to remain in Minnesota.

Not only did this provide the Vikings with the cap flexibility needed to bring other players in this offseason such as their draft class, but it ensured that Minnesota would maintain at least one veteran presence in their secondary. With Smith around, he can help mentor younger players such as Lewis Cine, who is looking to make an impact with the team after his season-ending injury early in 2022.

Drafting Jay Ward

Jay Ward
Jan 13, 2020; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; LSU Tigers cornerback Jay Ward (16) against the Clemson Tigers in the College Football Playoff national championship game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

You’ve likely seen a breakdown of Jay Ward’s starting potential elsewhere on this very site, but it’s worth reaffirming again. Ward was selected in the fourth round of this spring’s draft by the Vikings, and he should instantly provide depth at virtually every position in the secondary.

This versatility is extremely valuable for Minnesota’s defense, seeing as the actual starters in the defense remain a huge question mark. To have a guy like Ward who can play boundary CB, in the slot, free safety, or even step into the box for run support will be a very fun toy for Brian Flores to implement into his defensive scheme.

Signing Josh Oliver

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Jacksonville Jaguars
Nov 27, 2022; Jacksonville, Florida, USA; Baltimore Ravens tight end Josh Oliver (84) spikes the ball after scoring a touchdown against the Jacksonville Jaguars during the fourth quarter at TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Josh Oliver being one of Minnesota’s first free agency signings of the offseason left a number of Vikings fans scratching their heads, understandably so. The Vikings had traded to acquire T.J. Hockenson at last year’s deadline, and they had a capable backup in Johnny Mundt already on the roster.

However, Oliver emerged as one of the NFL’s best blocking tight ends during 2022 with the Baltimore Ravens, and that should once again be a major part of his role in Minnesota as a de facto sixth offensive lineman.

We can’t sleep on his receiving abilities, either. During his senior season at San Jose State, the tight end caught 56 passes for 709 yards and 4 TDs before being drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Expect to see this receiving ability come to the surface much more in Kevin O’Connell’s offense.

Josh Frey is a Class of 2020 graduate of The College of Idaho and managing editor of PurplePTSD.com. When he’s not writing about the NFL, Josh enjoys running, gaming, or rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks. Check out his Twitter account: @Freyed_Chicken.