The Super Bowl just wrapped up with another Tom Brady-inspired victory, and it’s time for the Minnesota Vikings offseason. Aside from Gary Kubiak’s retirement, his son’s subsequent promotion to dad’s old job, and a little false trade-Kirk-Cousins scuttlebutt, the Vikings “month off” during playoff time has remained quiet.
Now that can change. The offseason has arrived.
Foremost, general manager Rick Spielman has some excruciating decisions to make on the roster existences of Kyle Rudolph, Anthony Harris, Anthony Barr, and Riley Reiff. At least one of those names will return in 2021 – probably – and maybe even two. But half of those four longtime Vikings will play football for another NFL team next season. And it’s all about money.
After that, Minnesota must evaluate its remaining dollars, if any, for free agency. The Vikings have naughty holes on the offensive line, and the defensive line could likely stand an upgrade at a position or two. Spielman might find the necessary coin to land one big-name free agent (or handful of smaller names). Most Vikings loyalists would nominate a stud offensive guard like Brandon Scherff of Joe Thuney for this assignment.
The final piece to the offseason puzzle is the draft – which the Vikings nailed in 2020. Minnesota must have a 2020-like draft this April to preserve its win-now Super Bowl aspirations. Otherwise, butt cheeks will roast for the Vikings coaching staff in late December.
That’s the offseason agenda in a nutshell. A customary kickoff for the draft hype train begins with Patrick Surtain II, a highly-touted cornerback from the University of Alabama.
Uncertainty with Mike Hughes
Surtain II, 20, would be a stellar addition to virtually any NFL franchise – if scouting reports are telling the truth. Son of former NFLer, Patrick Surtain, the junior Surtain was phenomenal in college. He won a National Championship last month, won Unanimous All-American honors in 2020, and was the SEC’s Defensive Player of the Year.
In April, Surtain is slated as a Top 15 selection and probably closer to Top 10 or Top 8. The Vikings sit at pick No. 14, so the team can hope Surtain II falls to them or trade up a bit to secure his services.
The primary reason Surtain II would be plucked by the Vikings is the uncertainty surrounding Mike Hughes. There is no consensus – at all – if the 23-year old Hughes will pan out. Minnesota selected him with a 1st-Round pick in 2018, but Hughes has battled injury ad nauseam since his addition to the team. When he plays, Hughes is quite good. He is not Pro Bowl-ish, and that is probably because of his young age. In theory, if he can stay healthy, he should mature into his true form in 2021 and beyond.
But can the Vikings bank on that? What if he falls injured again? Then, the team is left with the same scenario as last season – two young corners in Cameron Dantzler and Jeff Gladney and a hodgepodge of project players.
That didn’t go swimmingly in 2020.
Can a Team Have Too Many CBs?
Head coach Mike Zimmer loves his cornerbacks. There are jokes aplenty about it. His background fancies defensive secondaries, so naturally, he loves to encourage his general manager to grab them in the 1st-Round. And that’s when Surtain II enters the chat.
If Surtain II tumbles in April’s draft – yes, that happens – he is probably too irresistible for a Zimmer-led squad to ignore. The Vikings were owners of the NFL’s ninth-worst passing defense in 2020 – a wildly disappointing departure from the Zimmer standard of 2014-2019. Zimmer has ammunition ready to make this a defensive-themed draft.
Hughes, theoretically, will help anchor the secondary, but what if he’s injury-prone once again? The team is left with Dantzler, Gladney, and others. Surtain II would be a scintillating “other.” Should Hughes show up in Week 1 and shut down receivers right and left – boom – Surtain II will be an observer to astute cornerback play and can potentially in fill gaps during Dantzler and Gladney’s absence.
The NFL gets pass-happier each season. “Too many good cornerbacks” is an odd complaint – especially the affordable ones that the Vikings currently employ.
The Karl Scott Connection
Last week, Minnesota hired Karl Scott from – you guessed it – the University of Alabama to coach the team’s defensive backs. Scott coached Surtain II for the Crimson Tide. This is where the hype train starts chugging.
Coaches enjoy “their players,” and Scott would likely not object to bringing Surtain II from the collegiate level to the pros right along with him. Scott should know Surtain II better than anybody in the country, hence a package of Scott-Surtain II to Minnesota adds up.
Now for the difficult part: The Vikings must hope Surtain II doesn’t fly off the board in the Top 10 – because then Spielman would have to move-and-shake via trade to land his surfaces.
But Surtain is dangerously close to the Vikings in some mock drafts. Check out Bleacher Report’s post-Super Bowl edition.