The Vikings have clearly prioritized fixing their defense this offseason, considering their two big splashes in free agency were defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson and cornerback Patrick Peterson. There are questions surrounding the fit (Tomlinson) and ability (Peterson) of those big acquisitions, but there's also a lot of excitement when it comes to their potential in 2021.
With almost all of their salary cap space used up, the Vikings figure to be done making major moves. But they don't have to be done in free agency entirely, as they can add to their $4 million in spending money via a contract extension or two. And as always, Rick Spielman is loaded with draft picks heading into April's big event, which will allow him to continue adding to the roster.
So with the dust having settled a bit on the Tomlinson and Peterson moves, let's take stock of where else the Vikings need to improve. They came into this offseason with six major needs, and two of those — defensive tackle and cornerback — have been addressed in grand fashion. Time to rank the remaining four in order of importance.
1. Offensive line (x2)
Instead of specifying this as guard or tackle, let's just keep it simple: the Vikings need two more starting-caliber offensive linemen for me to feel comfortable about that unit heading into this fall. They already needed to replace Dakota Dozier at left guard, and then they released veteran left tackle Riley Reiff to help create room for what turned out to be the Tomlinson and Peterson additions.
As of right now, one of the league's worst offensive lines has gotten significantly worse this offseason. Those four words — "as of right now" — are important, because the Vikings are obviously going to do something to address the O-line. But here's how things looked as of Friday morning:
They brought back swing tackle Rashod Hill on another one-year deal, which is a fine move for depth, but I have significant doubts about his ability to be a league-average starter at left tackle and would be concerned if that was the plan. That's the only move they've made up front so far.
Having Kirk Cousins, Dalvin Cook, Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, and Irv Smith Jr. won't mean a whole lot if the Vikings don't get better on the offensive line. There is a ton of time left, but adding at least two warm bodies to that group has to be the No. 1 priority for the rest of the offseason. And at this point, given their cap situation, an impact starter is more likely to come early in the draft than in the form of a free agent. If I were running the show, I'd sign a cheapish veteran and would probably draft a lineman in the first round, too.
Not far behind the offensive line is the gaping hole at safety opposite Harrison Smith. Anthony Harris seems unlikely to return in free agency; the Vikings reportedly had interest in bringing him back, but that was before giving Peterson $9 million. The only safeties on the roster at the moment are a trio of practice squad-type second-year players: sixth-round pick Josh Metellus and UDFAs Myles Dorn and Luther Kirk.
The Vikings don't need a player as good as Harris back there, but at the very least they need someone who can learn all of Zimmer's coverage shells and be relied upon to not make any major mistakes. They've shown interest in former Falcons safety Keanu Neal, but he may be too expensive now. There are veterans that should be available for cheap, including old friend Andrew Sendejo and the likes of Will Parks and Tre Boston. You can also possibly find a starting safety in the second or third round (here's where I remind you that the Vikings could've drafted Antoine Winfield Jr. last season).
3. Defensive end
This is another major, major need, especially after the events of the past week. Not only did the team's best DE of 2020, Ifeadi Odenigbo, sign with the Giants after being non-tendered, but the Vikings' big defensive line acquisition isn't exactly known for rushing the passer.
Right now, Minnesota's best edge rushing options opposite potentially disgruntled superstar Danielle Hunter are Stephen Weatherly, D.J. Wonnum, and Hercules Mata'afa. Weatherly is a decent veteran and Wonnum's athleticism and size give him some upside, but neither should be relied upon to be a full-time starter in 2021.
As I mentioned, the reason this position is so important is that the Vikings can't have just one player who can consistently generate pressure, even if that's an elite player like Hunter. With two massive run-stuffing defensive tackles in Michael Pierce and Tomlinson holding down the middle, the Vikings might not get a ton of interior pressure on early downs. Thus, they need a second DE who can make things happen. Maybe that's a free agent, or maybe it's one of the many intriguing edge rushers in this year's draft.
4. Wide receiver
Just because receiver is last on this list doesn't mean it's not important. These are all major needs. Just like the Vikings have an elite safety and an elite defensive end but no clear No. 2 option at those positions, they also have two incredible wideouts but lack a third option that can make defenses pay. That they brought back Chad Beebe on a veteran minimum deal is fine, but not if he ends up being the No. 3 receiver.
It's pretty clear at this point that neither Beebe nor Bisi Johnson are a legitimate No. 3. Fifth-round pick K.J. Osborn didn't play a single offensive snap as a rookie. Another weapon is needed, both to play alongside Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson and to provide insurance if either star has to miss time.
Yes, I'm aware that the Vikings don't run much 11 personnel relative to the rest of the league and that Irv Smith Jr., Tyler Conklin, and C.J. Ham will see the field plenty. That still doesn't mean they should be satisfied with Beebe and Bisi rounding out the depth chart at receiver. Adding a cheap free agent or mid-round draft pick — at minimum — is a must, in my humble opinion. Subsequently increasing the usage of 11 personnel would also probably be a good call.
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