Vikings Rumors: Blitz a Bit Less, Replacing Starters, and Missing Jefferson

Sep 10, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) warms up before the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Since we’re officially into the portion of the year when Vikings rumors are arriving fast and furious, we’ll be highlighting some of the purple rumblings.

The “Vikings Rumor Wrangle” is a series that keeps readers informed on what’s being whispered about in Vikings Land. In this iteration, we discuss Brian Flores possibly blitzing a bit less, Minnesota needing to replace several starters, and the Vikings missing Justin Jefferson at OTAs.

Vikings Rumors: 05.22.2024

Rumor #1 — Brian Flores Isn’t Going to Blitz as Much

Well, we’re dealing with a classic case of needing to wait and see, aren’t we? But while that uncertainty remains, there’s some reason to believe the overall percentage could come down.

The first reason rests in historical precedent. While in Miami, Flores wasn’t as aggressive, at least when it comes to frequency of blitzing. From 2019-21, Flores maxed out at sending a blitzer 40.8% of the time, something that occurred in 2020. Meanwhile, the DC’s debut season with the Vikings involved blitzing a whopping 51.5% of the time.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears
Oct 15, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Brian Flores watches his team play against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

Now, it’s possible that the coach’s philosophy has changed a bit. Over time, people grow and develop new opinions; maybe this is one of those instances as Flores evolved a bit by seeing merit in pushing blitz percentages higher.

More likely from my vantage point is that Flores was doing his best to make the Vikings’ defense work with some limited options in the pass rush. Does inserting Jonathan Greenard, Andrew Van Ginkel, and Dallas Turner into the mix change the water on the purple beans? If those three can generate pressure without needing help from a blitzer, then is there merit in dropping more players into coverage from time to time?

Overall, Flores is still going to send lots of pressure. The thinking is just that the overall percentage may come down a bit due to changes in the personnel and some tweaking to the strategy.

Rumor #2 — The Vikings Need to Replace Several Starters

Folks, we’re not even talking about training camp battles leading to people losing their starting positions. Instead, it’s simply a matter of plugging players into the openings created by departing Vikings.

Recently, Josh Frey considered the reality confronting Minnesota, listing out the several positions in need of new starters. His list: quarterback, left guard, running back, wide receiver (the WR3 spot), edge rusher (X2), linebacker, and kicker.

To be sure, some of the quandaries are pretty easy to resolve. Jordan Hicks took off, but Blake Cashman was added for good money. Alexander Mattison got cut, but Aaron Jones landed a decent single-season deal. We’re talking about one-for-one replacements in these moments.

Nov 12, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Jordan Hicks (58) and linebacker Ivan Pace Jr. (40) and linebacker Nick Vigil (right) gather before the game against the New Orleans Saints at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

More uncertain is a spot like quarterback. Nick Mullens and Jaren Hall are the carryover players, but neither is being given much consideration as an option to become the QB1. The battle seems to be down to Sam Darnold, the veteran free agent addition, and J.J. McCarthy, the highly-chosen rookie passer.

And then a spot like left guard looks uncertain. The receiver battle behind Justin Jefferson and Jordan Addison looks open (even if Brandon Powell is the favorite).

Oh, and there’s even a mention of special teams. Greg Joseph is gone, calling Wisconsin home as he tries to catch on as the Packers’ placekicker. Will Reichard, the No. 203 pick, is looking to have a strong rookie season. Can he overcome John Parker Romo?

Rumor #3 — Justin Jefferson May Have Begun His Holdout

Josh Frey explores that possibility earlier on PurplePTSD.

What’s certain is that Mr. Jefferson was absent as OTAs got underway. Take a look at what ESPN’s Adam Schefter had to say on the matter: “WR Justin Jefferson, who has been in talks with the Vikings regarding a contract extension, was not spotted at the team’s training facility today for the start of organized team activities, per team sources.”

Aug 10, 2023; Seattle, Washington, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin OÕConnell and Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) during warmups prior to the game at Lumen Field. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Anyone who has been paying attention won’t be super surprised by the development. Jefferson has long desired a new deal, so skipping OTAs is par for the course.

Jefferson is moving into the final season of his rookie deal. He’ll be well compensated for a single season — $19,743,000 — but that’s the main issue: it’s just for a single season. The wide receiver has been wildly underpaid throughout his rookie contract when we consider his level of play and what other receivers have been getting. He’s now at a point when he can demand major money over several years.

Justin Jefferson will turn 25 on June 16th.

Editor’s Note: Information from Pro Football Reference and Over the Cap helped with this piece.

K. Joudry is the Senior Editor for Vikings Territory and PurplePTSD. He has been covering the Vikings full time since the summer of 2021. He can be found on Twitter and as a co-host for Notes from the North, a humble Vikings podcast.