Guest PostOpinion

Quarterback, Schmarterback—The Vikings Have Other Needs, Too

Editors Note: This is a guest post from www.purplePTSD.com.

The quarterback position is a fairly important one in the NFL. We need no further evidence than to witness the countless articles and stories of speculation regarding the Vikings quarterback position this offseason. (In fact, lately A.J. McCarron has been the soup du jour) But the Vikings have other issues in their lineup that need to be addressed in early 2018, so I am going to throw caution to the wind and venture fearless speculation in that direction.

Suffice it to say, the Vikings are basically solid at long snapper (if Kevin McDermott comes back healthy) and punter (or are they?) this offseason and the rest of the team can use some improvement. Of course, that is the way it is with every team that falls short of their goal of a title. But it’s hard telling that with all the focus on QB right now. So here is a quick thumbnail round down of other positions the Vikings have needs in.

Tight end—This position has long been an injury-ridden one for the Vikings, even though starter Kyle Rudolph was relatively injury free this season (until the last few games). David Morgan is a good blocking tight end, but the unit needs some depth behind Rudolph in the pass-catching department. Plus, Rudy (who turns 29 in November) is no spring chicken any longer.

Running back—Dalvin Cook should return from injury (hopefully stronger than ever), but Jerick McKinnon wants to look for greener (i.e. starting) pastures. Latavius Murray has his role, but his being linked to Jet was how they succeeded in replacing Cook. The Vikings need depth to spell Cook so they don’t overuse him. For a deeper breakdown of the running backs, try this one.

Linebacker—The Vikings have found three starters, but with the top two coming up for contract renewal in the very near future, the position isn’t exactly solidified. They should start backfilling this unit as soon as possible in March and continue eying someone in the draft.

Offensive line—We saw what improvement in this unit did for the Vikings offense last season, but we also know you can never be set at the line either. Depth and more future starters need to be identified. The addition of center Pat Elflein in the draft was huge a year ago, and the Vikings need another move like that this April. Joe Berger may retire, the tackle depth needs to improve, and they probably need to start developing a young stud left tackle of the future.

Defensive line—We don’t know Brian Robison’s plans yet (and his productive last season as a swing player might motivate him to stay to finish out his contract), but the Vikings should find another tackle to play alongside Linval Joseph. Tom Johnson will be 34 by the start of the season and Shamar Stephen (who played well this past season) has had some injury concerns. The probably need to grab another defensive end that can disrupt opposing QBs (particularly if they sign Kirk Cousins and can’t re-sign Danielle Hunter).

Cornerback—If Trae Waynes takes another step in his development (and so does Mackensie Alexander) the Vikings should be good at the position, but they should think about depth. The ageless wonder Terence Newman may want to come back, but his age is going to become a liability soon. The time is now to prepare for his departure. And as head coach Mike Zimmer, you can never have enough good corners.

Safety—Andrew Sendejo has a team-friendly contact this season ($3.5 million), and, after his 2017 season, that is a nice number. Next season it jumps up $5.5, and Sendejo, who is 30, will have to improve on 2017 to get an even bigger contract after that. Anthony Harris and Jayron Kearse are in the pipeline, but they should have wormed their way into more starting time (rather than just injury replacement and special teams) by now. The Vikings will look hard at this position this offseason.

Kicker—I like Kai Forbath, but the Vikings probably need to find someone that Zimmer really likes. Forbath is not bad, but the Vikings should kick some tires on kickers of footballs both in free agency and the draft. Make sure there is some pressure on Forbath throughout the OTAs and camp. Dial up the pressure and see if he can handle it.

Oh, and then there is quarterback. Nothing gets done until they decide on that issue (see even I couldn’t avoid talking about it), and now that the team has an offensive coordinator that is the next step. John DeFilippo likes a quarterback that can move around in the pocket, which takes the team’s (and my) emphasis away from Sam Bradford. Zimmer called him the best pure passer on the roster late last year (and jumped him ahead of Teddy Bridgewater in the playoffs), but the position in the modern-day NFL requires a bit more.

Many like Cousins, and even DeFilippo chimed in on it, but I now see them signing Case Keenum to a decent (but not outlandish deal) and if Teddy’s contract is tolled, bring him in for a “prove it” training camp, with assurances of a raise if he beats out Keenum. That is all pie in the sky at this point (as is all the other speculation), but I don’t see them paying $25-30 million a year for Cousins and foregoing all the other needs on the team we have just enumerated here.

The Vikings are in a “win-now” position. And keeping two quarterbacks familiar with the organization (and bringing in an OC who likes to design his offense around the QBs rather than the other way around), seems like the most win-now way to go. But if Cousins is willing to win now with a more team-friendly number, than I would be more open to that signing. I just don’t see it happening, however. Even though many others do.

 

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Joe Oberle

Joe Oberle is a veteran sportswriter/editor/reporter and has covered the Vikings since 2008. The author of three books, he has been published in numerous periodicals and websites. He is the managing editor for VikingsTerritory.com and purplePTSD.com, as well.

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9 Comments

  1. TE: I was all for drafting a TE on Day 3 and foregoing the free agent route until I found out that Rudolph played 90+% of offensive snaps last year. Philly’s Trey Burton is now starting to look interesting to me.

    RB: I still have to take a look at Miked64’s piece over at purpleptsd.com.

    LB: Barr and Kendricks each played on 90% or more of defensive snaps in 2017. Gedeon and Brothers can’t handle the coverage responsibilities, but Wilson is about Kendricks’ height and, I assume, matches him in speed and athleticism, so I’m hoping he’ll develop as EK’s back-up. I know Lamur played better this past year than in 2016, but unless Zimmer and Co. think he can step up and take over maybe 10% of Barr’s snaps, we need another one of Zimmer’s Long & Athletic linebackers to develop, so Draft Day 3 it is!

    OL1: THANK YOU for mentioning the need to develop a back-up LT who could ideally challenge Reiff in two or three years! Everyone else talking about OT seems fixated on drafting a RT to push Remmers inside to RG, or even worse, handing out the third multi-year contract to a free agent OT in the last two years. Leave Remmers at RT, his best position, and one at which he is more than adequate.

    OL2: You might want to give some though to Nick Easton’s situation as a restricted free agent. Spielman’s not going to slap a second round tender on him and, since he was undrafted, I think but am NOT sure that under the RFA rules, we would only have the right of first refusal if some other club with perfect scheme fit made him an offer better than ours. I’m thinking that only Jerrick McKinnon is more likely than Nick Easton to follow Pat Shurmur to the Giants.

    OL3: This draft is supposed to be swimming in quality interior linemen, so I’m for drafting a guard on Day 1 and a center and LT on Day 3. I would also LOVE to sign All-Pro LG Andrew Norwell away from the Panthers, but someone said he wouldn’t fit our blocking scheme. Can you confirm that?

    DL1: I assume that Shamar Stephen wants not just more money but more snaps. My preference would be to re-sign Tom Johnson, in which case I expect Stephen to look for greener pastures, but if TJ does retires, I’d gladly re-sign SS. I don’t see 3-Tech as a high priority for this draft UNLESS the coaches think Jaleel Johnson will not develop into that role, so best case scenario would be a Day 3 draft pick.

    DL2: Joe, please see my conversation with Sean in the comments under https://vikingsterritory.com/2018/opinion/the-pros-and-cons-of-signing-kirk-cousins for my breakdown of why signing Cousins should NOT cost the Vikings Hunter, Diggs, Kendricks, Waynes OR Barr.

    CB: We’ve got young depth on the DL and OL, at LB and Safety, in the receiving corps and at QB, so CB and RB are pretty much the only units lacking in young benchwarmers. I’d happily use our second round pick in the draft on a CB, and maybe take a flier on another one on Day 3. If Newman does retire and Zimmer, Edwards and Gray retain their confidence in Tramaine Brock – we were apparently courting him in free agency last year and then traded our 2018 7th rounder to Seattle for him, and he wouldn’t be the first veteran to improve after his first year with the Vikings – than I’m all for re-signing him IF we can afford him. He’s a legitimate #2 corner whose OFF grades in 2015 and 2016 were in the mid- to upper 80’s. Both the police and NFL investigations into him regarding possible domestic abuse were dropped, so he doesn’t have that hanging over his head and we could see him snapped up by someone looking for a veteran CB2 for a year or two. We need at least one veteran corner not named Marcus Sherels to go with whoever we draft.

    Safety: You’re wrong, 100% wrong. Zimmer and Co., and Hitman Harry, are obviously happy with Sendejo’s work, and PFF apparently agrees with them, since they gave him a grade in the upper 80’s this year. In his third season, Harris got a PFF grade in the low to mid-80’s, and Kearse scored well into the 70’s in his second year. This is as good a unit as there is on the team. As for Sendejo’s contract, Spielman has never been shy about asking to restructure a deal, so (a) that could happen between the 2018 and 2019 seasons, and (b) at his age, I doubt that Sendejo would expect any raise at all after this contract is done. Sure, we can bring in a college free agent if we want, or draft someone on Day 3 if he’s the best player available, but otherwise, this unit shouldn’t tax Zimmer’s brain much at all this off-season.

    PK: Let’s see if we can raid the Panthers for their Pro Bowl kicker, too! Otherwise, if I were in Rick’s shoes, I’d offer Adam Vinatieri a deal whereby he’d spend only three days a week with the team so that he and his family could stay in Indianapolis.

    QB: As I’ve argued in depth elsewhere – https://vikingsterritory.com/2018/opinion/three-classes-qb-contracts-vikings-offseason-2018 – I think the decision has already been made to go with Teddy, never mind all the smoke and mirrors about the new OC having a “big say” in choosing the next starting QB. I happen to also think that this is probably the right decision, as I am enamoured of neither Keenum or Cousins. My preference for our QB2 (or QB1b) would be, in order, Bradford, Kaepernick or McCown, but Sam is likely to find a transitional starting gig elsewhere (preferably Arizona, Denver or Buffalo, but maybe with the Jets or Browns), Kaepernick appears to still be on the NFL blacklist, and will probably stay on it even after he wins his grievance and costs the NFL a pretty f***ing penny, and so McCown might be our best bet. That’s assuming the team doesn’t bring in some young “busts” the coaches have worked with before, like Johnny Manziel and E.J. Manuel, or one we might exchange Laquon Treadwell for (Paxton Lynch, anyone?) to compete for the job.

    Joe, any chance that you all at http://www.purplePTSD.com could accommodate folks wishing to write comments who CAN’T log in via Facebook?

    1. Regarding the Running Backs: A one-year deal with Darren Sproles excites me more than the other free agent options, even if he’s just brought in to compete with a rookie in camp, because I’ve expected all along that the Vikings would look for McKinnon’s successor in the third or fourth round (Spielman will get a pick if he wants it) of the draft, and that’s still what I expect to happen.

  2. If the vikings had a top3 Oline in the NFL I think Bradford would be the best optionat QB. He is the best pure passer by a long way. You don’t need to be mobile to succeed – Brady Manning. But you do need to be mobile to succeed if your oline is average.

    As to wether we can develop a top3 oline.. one can dream

  3. I wrote a rather long (I know, shocking) comment in reply to this post and the screen indicates that there are two comments but I can only see SB’s comment of 2/21/18 at 9:35 pm. Did the server eat my comment, or did I perhaps write something inappropriate?

    By the way, does the “new comments” notification feature work? I haven’t gotten a notification in over a year.

  4. no to cousins, his new team will overpay for what he’s worth. not real excited about keenum. need to strengthen both lines. thinking teddy is back

  5. We passed on safety until the 7th round last season and nabbed the oft penalized Jayron Kearse. There were some outstanding options in the draft, and some were predicted to go to the Vikings but they saw their options differently. I would love to see a young stud to match up with Harry in the backfield.
    The draft is also a great place to find our QB for 2018. They would spend far less on rookie deals and that alone is great incentive. Especially, given the 20-30 million numbers being thrown around. I say keep Teddy and jettison the rest. There’s no better way to handcuff your team than over-paying one or two players……see Adrian Peterson ‘ s Viking career.
    Draft DT early. We need to get a dynamic guy in there to go with Linval. T.J. and Shamar need to be upgraded. Find a third and forth reciever. Ours are lame beyond the top two and under-perform.
    Everybody thinks our roster is set and we’re “least needy”. Our o- line, and all this mentioned above, make me wonder at that logic. Looking forward to 2018. Let’s hope what we saw isn’t your last shot at glory. Skol

    1. “There’s no better way to handcuff your team than over-paying one or two players……see Adrian Peterson‘ s Viking career.”

      Really? That’s not what Ted Glover said over at The Daily Norseman three years ago (https://www.dailynorseman.com/2015/2/13/8033161/adrian-peterson-the-salary-cap-and-why-hell-be-back): “But consider: The Vikings usually enter free agency somewhere around $25-$30 million under the cap, and that number, although not hard and fast, allows most teams to be as aggressive as they want to in free agency while still having money left over for the draft…The Vikings are one of the better salary cap managed teams in the NFL, and never have to make draconian cuts just to get under whatever the cap number is going to be.”

      It’s not hard to find references on the net to Spielman preferring to build through the draft and re-signing his team’s own players over signing outside free agents. Nor is it hard to find folks praising the Vikings’ management of the salary cap over the last few years. And while it is not at all hard to find complaints about how much money the Vikings paid Adrian Peterson over the years as the value of running backs declined both on the field and at the bargaining table, I am having a devil of a time finding arguments that Peterson’s contracts kept the Vikings from spending more money on free agents, especially any arguments backed up by, you know, evidence. On the other hand, if my sports magazines and football annuals collection wasn’t currently in storage, I guarantee you that I could find annual references to the handcuffing effect that Randall Cunningham’s contract had on the Vikings in the early aughts (00’s).

      It’s become a cliché to blame Adrian Peterson for the Vikings’ failings on the field, and now here comes a new false narrative, that Peterson’s being overpaid handcuffed the team in free agency, a sandbox Spielman is famously loath to play in. Or maybe it’s the internal free agents that we lost on the alter of All-Day that has you upset? Please, provide us with a list of the Harrison Smiths and Xavier Rhodes and Everson Griffens and Adam Thielens of their day, the draftees and CFA’s who became stars in Minnesota, who were than allowed to leave in free agency because of Peterson’s contract and just got better and better elsewhere. The oft-injured Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin? Second-round busts Tyrell Johnson and Chris Cook? First-round busts Christian Ponder and Matt Kalil? Useful back-up but failed featured back Toby Gerhart (a warning to Jerrick McKinnon, perhaps)? One-trick pony Cordarelle Patterson? You are right, there is “no better way to handcuff your team than over-paying one or two players.” You just chose the wrong person to illustrate that perfectly valid point.

      1. Of course I made an error in the screed above. Percy Harvin was not lost to free agency, he was traded to the Seahawks for three draft picks, two of which would be used to pick Xavier Rhodes and Jerrick McKinnon. My apologies for the error.

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