The Minnesota Vikings came into this offseason with a lot of holes to fill on their roster and limited resources available to do so.
They managed to shore up their defense with the additions of Patrick Peterson, Mackensie Alexander, Dalvin Tomlinson and Xavier Woods. They rebuilt their offensive line through the draft, spending valuable capital on the selections of Christian Darrisaw and Wyatt Davis. The Vikings even spent multiple draft picks, Kene Nwangwu, Ihmir Smith-Marsette and Chazz Surratt, to recreate their disastrous special teams unit from a year ago.
Through a series of retools and cuts, Rick Spielman and Co. pooled in all their chips to create the most Super Bowl-caliber roster they could; however, a few areas of need remain. With around $6.6 million projected in cap space after signing the rookie class and another $7.9 million coming after June 1 due to the nature of the transaction of the Kyle Rudolph cut, they have around $14.5 million available to spend.
Minnesota is in the position to add another influx of talent before training camp begins. Which positions should it address?
There were loads of rumors flying around before the draft that the Vikings were targeting an edge rusher in Round 1 — the finishing touch to the new and improved defense. However, Minnesota did not choose an edge rusher until they took Patrick Jones II in Round 3.
While the Vikings have a blue-chip pass rusher in Danielle Hunter, there is still a huge level of uncertainty as to who will start opposite him. There are a few unheralded veterans on the roster such as Stephen Weatherly and Jalyn Holmes coupled with younger players like D.J. Wonnum, Jones and Janarius Robinson. Adding a veteran to the defensive line rotation would not only strengthen the group but also aid in the development of the young players.
Two recognizable names on the market are Justin Houston and Melvin Ingram. Houston is a productive playmaker who totaled eight sacks last season. Ingram is a sure-fire pass rusher, albeit one coming off his worst season, playing just 361 snaps.
Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson are two of the best receivers in the NFL, but the Vikings have minimal depth beyond the two. Minnesota drafted Smith-Marsette out of Iowa in the fifth round of the 2021 NFL draft, and while he has the chance of earning the WR3 spot, he is still an unproven and unreliable rookie.
The best option for Minnesota here is Dede Westbrook, the former Jacksonville Jaguars receiver. Westbrook tore his ACL early in the 2020 season, but he was averaging 572 yards per year before last year. This is right in the middle of the numbers of a higher-end WR3.
Further, Westbrook has a connection with Vikings WR coach Keenan McCardell since both spent time in Jacksonville, so a reunion seems likely. According to NFL insider Josina Anderson, the Vikings and Westbrook have already had preliminary conversations.
The Vikings traded their 2018 first-round draft pick, Mike Hughes, to the Kansas City Chiefs last week and with Jeff Gladney’s legal situation that remains up in the air, Minnesota’s corner depth could be an issue once again.
On Saturday when Zimmer spoke to the media, he was asked if he had an update about the Gladney situation. “I really don’t,” he said. “We’re just letting it play out. I really can’t say what I know, so I’ll leave it at that.”
This doesn’t appear to be quite thin, but with Gladney likely to miss time, and if one of the starters were to go down, issues would quickly arise.
Some names to keep an eye on are:
Out of all of these, the names that interest me the most are Dennard and Robey-Coleman due to their abilities to play in the slot. This is especially important because the Vikings lost Hughes and will potentially lose Gladney, both of whom were the slot corner depth behind Alexander.
Dennard has the flexibility to play well both inside and outside at a solid level and Robey-Coleman is primarily a nickel.
The Vikings, with their $14.5 million in cap space, can likely address at least two if not all of these positions, but Zimmer loves his cornerback rotations so that might ironically be the most important position to address.