With the Minnesota Vikings wrapping up the 2020 season on Sunday, we can get to everyone’s favorite part of the football calendar, the offseason. Much like last year, the Vikings are in a position where they can make several decisions that can alter the path of the franchise not just in 2021, but well into the future.
As the Vikings embark on this journey, it’s always a good thing to know what to expect. With Mike Zimmer and his regime likely to stay in place next season, now is a good time to go over the stages of a Vikings offseason and see what Viking fans can look forward to heading into 2021.
After a riveting 10-9 win over the Detroit Lions led by Tyler Conklin and Chad Beebe, Vikings ownership comes out and announces they’ll stick with Zimmer for the 2021 season. Impressed by his ability to take a 1-5 team and get them back to .500 (if only for one week), the Wilfs see the foundation for success that includes several 10-6 seasons and an 0-3 record in the playoffs over the life of his three-year extension.
With assurance from ownership, Zimmer gets to work adding to his coaching staff. Most of his moves are on the defensive side of the ball including adding Lovie Smith as a defensive consultant. Although the Vikings went this route with 70-year-old Dom Capers last offseason, they go young with Smith who can add some fresh insight at the ripe age of 62.
After the Green Bay Packers upset the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV, Vikings fans are feeling pretty down. A common remedy is the beginning of mock draft season. As several mocks hit the internet, the consensus has the Vikings selecting a quarterback or guard with the 15th overall pick. Twitter is scorching hot with possibilities using Justin Jefferson as an example of not mattering where you get drafted, but how hard that player works once he joins the team.
Meanwhile, the Vikings are setting the wheels in motion for a busy free agency. The Vikings let go of Riley Reiff, clearing $11.75 million in cap space, and appear to save $7.5 million by designating Kyle Rudolph as a pre-June 1 cut. Negotiations have also begun with Danielle Hunter and Brian O’Neill on a contract extension to lock up two cornerstones and create cap space.
The NFL Scouting combine takes place in Indianapolis and Zimmer addresses the media. After Zimmer grumbles about how his defense needs more corners, Rick Spielman takes the podium and says the Vikings are willing to do whatever it takes to get the team back on track. Spielman also mentions that the team believes in Kirk Cousins to reach the promised land.
Free agency kicks off with Minnesota shelling out some cash but not in the free-agent market. The Vikings reach a shocking 11th-hour deal with Anthony Harris, extend Rudolph to a three-year deal citing his importance in the community and tacking on two more years to Anthony Barr’s contract.
When the extensions are done, the Vikings opt to sign a third-string nickel corner and Rashard Higgins, hoping that both can provide depth heading into the season.
After months of diving into YouTube highlight videos soundtracked by Drake, Future and some techno dance beats, the NFL Draft is finally upon us. Fans are worried that guard and three-tech weren’t addressed in free agency, but figure Spielman and Zimmer have something up their sleeves.
The Vikings are about to go on the clock with the 15th overall pick in the NFL Draft and Trey Lance is on the board, but they trade down with the New England Patriots and get a second-round pick. A couple of picks later they take a cornerback. Viking fans are distraught at the selection, but after watching his JustBombs Productions highlight video, they’re sold.
The draft continues and the Vikings wind up making an NFL-record 20 selections including 13 in the seventh round. Among the highlights is a fifth-round receiver from Miami (of Ohio), a quarterback with their first seventh-round pick, and a defensive end out of Southwestern Utah Community College who never saw the field but kind of reminds them of Danielle Hunter.
The Vikings draft is pumped up by writers who believe Spielman got “incredible value” and “filled all of their needs” despite not drafting an offensive guard until the final pick in the draft. To top it all off, Minnesota gives a record signing bonus to Nebraska’s Adrian Martinez as a UDFA to add to the quarterback room.
The Vikings head into rookie camps and breed all sorts of optimism. After selecting two offensive tackles in their draft class, they reveal that they’re trying them out at guard. Two UDFA wide receivers are making their mark and could be the next Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. Zimmer talks about how many high character guys they’ve added to help the defense and proclaims they’re back heading into next year.
Once the Vikings head to minicamp in June, Cousins gets in front of the press saying how much he needed to improve over the offseason and take the team to the next level. He says he’s found a new level of athleticism to counter interior pressure and stops short of saying this team can go to the Super Bowl.
Jefferson has a couple of catches that land on the Vikings’ official Twitter account and even Dan Bailey is knocking through 50-yard field goals to restore optimism. Purple fever is starting to hit a fan base that hasn’t been at a live game in nearly two years.
With COVID-19 vaccinations almost complete, fans flood TCO Performance Center to get a look at the team. It’s the first time they’ve seen Jefferson and Cameron Dantzler in person and they’re bombarding them for autographs. On the field, a UDFA receiver makes a towering catch over Jeff Gladney during the Saturday night scrimmage and fans are thinking they’ve found a steal.
Even the offensive line looks like it’s coming together as one of the converted tackles has a shot at playing guard. Gary Kubiak tells the media that the best five players will play in the trenches regardless of position and the team will be “more aggressive” in 2021.
On the other side of the ball, Andre Patterson gives an impassioned speech about how they didn’t need an upgrade over Shamar Stephen. He also hints that the Southwest Utah Community College project has been progressing and is now known as his “pet walrus.” Fans now think he may be BETTER than Hunter was.
After showing a highlight of Dantzler picking off Nate Stanley went viral, fans are in a full-blown frenzy as the Vikings rip off a perfect 4-0 preseason despite a rocky performance in the third preseason game.
For the first time in a long time, the Vikings are ready to open the gates at U.S. Bank Stadium. They have come to terms on a new contract for Hunter and an extension for O’Neill on the eve of the 2021 season. The Green Bay Packers, who strangely didn’t draft a receiver again, come to Minnesota for a Week 1 showdown, and the Vikings plan on announcing their presence in the NFC North with authority.
When the game kicks off, the Vikings defense can’t seem to stop A.J. Dillon even with the presence of Michael Pierce. As the project rookie is declared inactive, Hunter is the only consistent source of pressure against Aaron Rodgers as he lights up the Vikings secondary for 360 yards and four touchdowns.
Jumping out to a 24-0 lead after Dan Bailey misses three field goals inside the 25-yard line, the pressure is on Cousins to lead the team back. He promptly hands off to Dalvin Cook 30 times including a 4th and 1 on their own 30-yard line. With the Packers extending their lead, Cousins finally throws to Jefferson and Thielen and racks up 250 yards and three scores in the fourth quarter of a 41-24 defeat.
After the game, Zimmer laments Kubiak’s approach wishing he’d do more to establish the run down 24 points, and the cycle continues for another year.