We all know the Minnesota Vikings need help on their offensive line, depth at safety and a lot of work on their defensive line. Those areas will definitely be addressed in free agency and early in the draft, but here are some under the radar areas that the team also needs to improve this offseason:
The Vikings haven’t invested a lot into their backup quarterback recently. They signed Sean Mannion on an inexpensive deal, mostly to help Kirk Cousins with gameday prep. Luckily for the team, Cousins has proven extremely durable despite taking a licking behind a porous offensive line. If Cousins ever went down for an extended period of time, Minnesota would have to bring in another quarterback.
Mannion is once again a free agent this offseason. Do they want to go with a cheap option or bring in a guy who could win some games if Cousins were to go down? This wouldn’t necessarily have to be a free agent; they could choose to use a fairly early draft pick on the position. It’s doubtful the Vikings would take a quarterback at 14 — Mike Zimmer needs to win this year and can’t afford not to land an impact player with their first choice — but they have plenty of third- and fourth-round choices and could take a quarterback who has enough upside to start in Year 1 if pushed into action.
If they go the free-agent market, some names they could look at that would be major upgrades over Mannion would be Cam Newton, Tyrod Taylor and the ageless wonder, Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Vikings don’t have a ton of cap space, so going with a bigger name is probably unlikely, but it’s beyond time they upgrade this position.
The Vikings have to find a return man who actually strikes fear into opponents. K.J. Osborn was drafted in the fifth round last year to be that guy, and his punt return average was right around the bottom of the league. He showed little burst or the necessary shiftiness to make anyone think he will succeed in this area in the future. He was so ineffective that the team had him inactive for a handful of games and went back to having Ameer Abdullah return kicks and Chad Beebe handling punts, indicating that they had lost faith in their rookie.
While the Vikings have to upgrade this position, they may not have to look too far to do so.
Mike Hughes has shown the ability to be an excellent returner when healthy. The Vikings could bring him back with that being his primary role and allow him to compete to be the third or fourth cornerback. They could also draft a wide receiver or even a running back who has also had success as a returner. They could look at free agency options, bringing in value players like Alex Erickson or Dwayne Harris.
The special teams unit will look a lot different next year, and one major upgrade has to be the returner.
There is no way Minnesota can have Dan Bailey kick field goals for them again. The Vikings have to upgrade at this position: Bailey only hit 68% of his field goals last year.
After the Daniel Carlson fiasco, there is no way the team will look to upgrade through the draft. They have to go the free agency route and should be able to find a cheap option that is also an upgrade over Bailey. They could consider players like Nick Folk, Michael Badgley or even ones they’ve kicked the tires on like Chandler Catanzaro.
At first blush, wide receiver doesn’t seem like much of a need for the Vikings. They hit a home run with Justin Jefferson in last year’s draft and have Adam Thielen, who bounced back with 14 touchdowns in 2020. They form one of the better duos in the league, especially from a route running standpoint.
The problem is the depth behind those two, as there really isn’t much.
Beebe has emerged as the third receiver, and he primarily works out of the slot. While he had a nice 2020 season, he isn’t exactly a player that defenses need to game plan to take away. Bisi Johnson is the fourth receiver, and he took a step back in his second year. He had some uncharacteristic drops early in the season, and then Cousins quit throwing the ball his way, finishing with just 14 receptions for 189 yards and no touchdowns.
There is basically nothing on the depth chart after that. Alexander Hollins was sniped by the Cleveland Browns, Dan Chisena is a special teamer, Osborn didn’t get a sniff, and Tajae Sharpe was released. The Vikings have to add some quality depth to this unit. They have an abundance of picks in the middle rounds and will surely take at least one pass catcher with one of those choices. They could also look to bring in a cheaper free agent who could compete with Johnson to be the fourth receiver.