The recent history of Minnesota Vikings roster moves, or lack thereof, has left fans wishing for more. This offseason, they began following an unfamiliar path that included drafting for current needs and signing important depth players to fill specific holes on the roster. The changes made by Rick Spielman and Mike Zimmer at defensive back, quarterback, and offensive line could be crucial in a season where many of the coaches and top players could be on the chopping block and fans are longing for a run deep into the playoffs. Let’s explore Minnesota’s new motivation to remedy glaring weaknesses and change the theme of the team from wishing for better to making things better.
Most seasons begin with mockery over Zimmer’s obsession with drafting a defensive back in the first round, only for the player that they pick to under-perform. The offseason troubles of Jeff Gladney, combined with the injury-ridden Mike Hughes, left a once up-and-coming room full of defensive backs newly stocked with projects and players from the practice squad. The recent first-round cornerback selections left fans wishing for more long-term solutions to fill the void of a once-strong group of core players like Xavier Rhodes and Anthony Harris.
The team stopped wishing and started acting with the signings of Patrick Peterson, Bashaud Breeland, and Mackensie Alexander this offseason. Zimmer did a complete 180 on his policy of raising the next generation of young players and instead turned over the reins to known players. This is exactly the type of fire the Minnesota defense needed. Fans remember the days of 2017 when the Vikings’ defense only allowed 252 points (that’s an average of under 16 points per game for those of you keeping score at home). The players they signed this offseason have the potential to match that shut-down play. Patrick Peterson stepped nicely into the role of defensive leader with his eight years of Pro Bowl-caliber experience. Bashaud Breeland is a seasoned journeyman on a mission to prove his worth, and Mackensie Alexander is returning to the Vikings at a time where they desperately need a reliable veteran at his position.
At safety, Harrison Smith is one of the pillars that keeps the team stable in its best and worst times. The real question is, who will be his eventual replacement? The Vikings had a chance to draft Antoine Winfield Jr., One of Us, to extend his family legacy with the Purple. That ship sailed when the Vikings passed on him in the second round of the 2020 draft, failing to address a glaring need. This offseason, Minnesota stopped wishing for a potential heir to the throne and picked up Xavier Woods. While Woods had an average season in 2020, the Dallas Cowboys weren’t exactly set up for success very well.
His previous seasons shadowing Jeff Heath showed he can improve his play and stay healthy for the full slate of games. Zimmer can hopefully work his magic and transform Woods, 26, into precisely what the team will need over the next few seasons: a career safety for the team.
Love him or hate him, Kirk Cousins brings a consistency to the Vikings quarterback position that fans have wanted for years. Before his arrival, there were comments about the short-term stay of many quarterbacks, or promising long-term options that fell short due to injury (Teddy Bridgewater, Sam Bradford). Regardless of the criticisms sent his way, Cousins has been resistant to injury, contract disputes, and trade inquiries during his time in Minnesota. Now that his price and performance are trending in an unwanted direction due to his massive cap hits in 2022 and 2023, the Vikings are once again beginning to search for a future replacement.
Kellen Mond can be that guy.
Taking action instead of continuing to wish, the Vikings stepped up and selected a project quarterback with serious skills and lofty potential. Mond is the ideal quarterback to play behind Cousins this season, knowing he will need a year or two to develop. He will continue to modify his skillset for the NFL while eventually putting pressure on Cousins that Sean Mannion was never able to apply. This is an ideal scenario to please both the fans who praised Cousins for being reliable and those who thought the team should have never signed Cousins in the first place.
The offensive line’s performance in the preseason doesn’t quite inspire the same level of excitement in terms of headline-worthy transactions, but one aspect of wishing has been taken care of. The Vikings’ front office has finally found a group of sufficient (read: not awful) offensive linemen, with the caveat being that four of the five projected starters are 26 years old or younger. This juvenile squad will be looking to prove themselves against years of criticism, and success could lead to a generation of collaboration among them. Giving these players time to develop together over years can provide security for current and future teams. Brian O’Neill was just locked into a massive contract extension, which gives him security with the team, and Oli Udoh has shown much promise to fill in a major gap at guard this season.
As the preseason progresses, look for these players to establish their positions as long-term team members. Dynasties require taking action, and the Vikings making things better instead of wishing for better can put them on track for success.