The 2020 Minnesota Vikings season was perhaps the most interesting of any during the Zimmer regime. While they had a pedestrian 7-9 record, this team was anything but that as they showed equal flashes of brilliance and ineptitude.
With the offense emerging as one of the best in the NFL (save for it’s offensive line), the defense ravaged by injury and inexperience and the special teams being just awful, all eyes are on the off-season and the moves the cash strapped Vikings will make as they attempt to re-open their championship window.
While the Vikings have salary cap issues, even before the COVID-cap kicks in and creates a totally avoidable catastrophe in the NFL, we won’t focus on that in this piece as there still is a lot to be determined in that regard.
Instead, let’s just look at the top three free agents that’d help the Vikings make it into yet another odd year post-season birth from that and another perspective. One that essentially is like running a Madden season with unlimited cap space and trade logic turned off (Patrick Mahomes for Marwan Maalouf and Demetrius Underwood? I guess?!?). I wanted to cover this differently to compile which free agents could help the Vikings win their first Super Bowl without considering the cost.
Namely answering the question of how I’d put together the best Vikings team without worrying about the cap because as it’s unrealistic to expect the Vikings to actually ever win a Super Bowl? Why deal in reality?!?
While we’re about two weeks away from crowning the champion of the 2020-21 season and the off-season began for the Vikings two weeks ago, the questions as to how to improve the Vikings roster began months ago. The 2020 season was essentially over for the purple after the second week of the season after one of, if not the, worst two game stretch in the history of the Mike Zimmer regime.
We’ve had a lot of time to consider what this Vikings team needs, which is something that will help provide context and direction in regard to a Draft and free agency strategy. For a team as cash strapped as the Vikings that’s important.
So, let’s take a look at the top three!
I am not a father, thank god (for the child), but I would conceive, raise, and then trade that child to get Brandon Scherff in a Vikings jersey. Despite the mid-to-late season plaudits from Vikings fans and media the 2020 Minnesota Vikings offensive line was actually somehow worse than the 2018-and-2019 units.
That’s like the smoldering rubble that was your home before you decided to install a new gas line yourself exploding.
Despite the line, the Minnesota Vikings’ offense was one of the better units in 2020. Imagine what they could do with even a run-of-the-mill unit? With pass catchers like Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson, and one of the most accurate passers in league history in Kirk Cousins, imagine how great the offense could be if Cousins had the time he told Thielen at the end of 2018 he just didn’t have.
That’s where Scherff comes in. While the line itself was disjointed and disappointing, the worst single aspect of the unit was left guard Dakota Dozier (more like Dakota Don’tzier? Eh? EH? Ugh. I know). Dozier graded out at or under 30 on Pro Football Focus in at or OVER (about) a third of the time in 2020.
That’s unacceptable and something that Scherff would instantly rectify. He is one of the better left guards in the league, making the Pro Bowl in four of the last five seasons, and would shore up the left side for years to come (as he is only 29 years old. His familiarity with Cousins and offensive line assistant consulting producer’s director Phil Rauscher is a benefit as well.
As we’ve seen in the NFL post-season’s latest games, the teams that can protect their quarterbacks best tend to have better chances of making a post season run (just ask Aaron Rodgers, who missed David Bakhtiari protecting his blind side HARD against the Buccaneers). That makes this pick the most urgent, practical and impactful.
That’s also why I chose Scherff over someone like Trent Williams, as the chasm of improvement that Scherff would bring over Dozier isn’t the same as the improvement of Williams over Reiff (who had his best individual season according to PFF at left tackle). But if I was following the logic of this article, or lack thereof, I’d nab Williams, Scherff, Joe Thuney, and Taylor Moton and build a three story human pyramid of O-linemen to finally five Cousins some semblance of protection upfront.
Can you imagine?
While Smith-Schuster hasn’t been the wide receiver 1 that many had hoped and predicted after the Steelers jettisoned Antonio Brown to the Raiders, that actually works in his favor on a Vikings roster where he’d be the third option.
When SS was more the compliment than the focal point pre-or-post 2019, he’s flourished. 2018 was his best season, with 111 grabs for over 1,400 yards and a seven touchdowns. He rebounded as part of the supporting cast in 2020 with a career high nine touchdowns and 97 receptions while primarily working out of the slot.
While the Vikings have two slot masters in Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson, the addition of someone as talented as Smith-Schuster would be a boon for a Vikings team that has struggled to find a consistent third receiving option for years.
It’s also the reason I put SS above other receivers that’ll make up this DEEP free agent class, although an argument could be made that some of the same logic applies to Will Fuller XVXII and Chris Godwin.
Despite the fact that he’s just 30 years old, Arizona Cardinals corner Patrick Peterson is member of the 2010’s All-Decade team and also thought to be beyond his prime by some. He was an All-Pro three times in his first five season (2011,2013,2015) and not once since, and he has missed the Pro Bowl in back-to-back seasons after making it every year from his rookie season through 2018.
As we saw with equally young(ish) former All-Pro Xavier Rhodes in 2020, sometimes a change of scenery (and in Rhodes’ case, support systems) can do wonders for a player. Peterson would join a young but promising unit and provide a massive upgrade in pedigree and consistency while also creating an elder statesmen and mentor.
Even Zimmer’s fiercest critics would be enamored by the so (or once) called cornerback whisper that is Zimmer combining forces with someone like Peterson. This would also provide an upgrade at a position that unlike some of the other defensive holes that existed in 2020 on this defense will NOT improve by virtue of veterans returning from injury/the COVID opt-out list in 2021.