Vikings Get One Final National Snub as Training Camp Begins

Kirk Cousins
Image Courtesy of ESPN1420.com

Ask an everyday Minnesota Vikings fan about the team’s offseason doings. Most will commend the franchise for fixing the defense and drafting key offensive line pieces plus a potential franchise quarterback.

To be sure, the Vikings go “all-in” for a Super Bowl each season, scoffing at the notion of a rebuild when others teams in similar situations might contemplate pressing the reset button. Not general manager Rick Spielman and these Vikings.

Three years ago, Spielman signed quarterback Kirk Cousins to get the team “over the top,” but to date, one stunning playoff win at New Orleans in 2019 is the only fruit of that transaction. Cousins’ first year with the team was thwarted by a team-wide faceplant down the stretch in 2018. Then in 2020, injuries uncharacteristically ravaged the defensive section of the depth chart, causing Mike Zimmer’s defense to finish 29th in the league for points allowed.

As a cure-all, Spielman [in partnership with Zimmer] signed a litany of free agents — most of them starters on defense. Here’s a look at all of the Vikings free-agent additions:

  • Mackensie Alexander (CB)
  • Bashaud Breeland (CB)
  • Amari Henderson (CB)
  • Parry Nickerson (CB)
  • Patrick Peterson (CB)
  • Sheldon Richardson (DT)
  • Tye Smith (CB)
  • Dalvin Tomlinson (DT)
  • Nick Vigil (LB)
  • Stephen Weatherly (DE)
  • Dede Westbrook (WR)
  • Xavier Woods (S)

Not bad for an organization that takes heat for allotting Cousins a fat contract. A frequent criticism of Spielman is that he “can’t sign free agents” due to the heft of the Cousins’ deal. Well, take a look at the list above — and reevaluate that argument.

Still, the national masses are not sold on the prospect of the 2021 Vikings. Bleacher Report, as a staff, power-ranked all NFL teams as training camps start this week — and they perceive Minnesota as the NFL’s 21st-best team:

“It’s time to put up or shut up for Kirk Cousins, Mike Zimmer and the Minnesota Vikings. Cousins has long been a quarterback who puts up solid numbers. But three seasons into his Vikings tenure, Cousins is 25-21-1 as the team’s starter and just 1-2 in the postseason. That’s not much return on an investment of well over $80 million. Zimmer, on the other hand, is entering his eighth season as the team’s head coach. There has been some success to be sure—Zimmer’s Vikings teams are 17 games over .500. But there have been just three postseason trips and one appearance in the NFC Championship Game. Now, do the quarterback or the head coach bear all the responsibility for the team’s inability to get over the proverbial hump? No. But if Minnesota misses the postseason again in 2021, the future of both men in the Twin Cities is going to be on shaky ground. In fact, just a one-and-done appearance may not be enough. Given the team’s issues on the offensive line and defense, the odds of a deep playoff run aren’t especially good.

Aaron Rodgers returning to the Green Bay Packers after a ludicrous three-month standoff with his front office further hinders the Vikings chances at success in the NFC. While certainly not inconquerable, Rodgers is the reigning MVP, and the Packers possess an impressive roster.

Las Vegas sportsbooks expect Minnesota to win around eight or nine games, so perhaps the lack of enthusiasm conveyed by Bleacher Report does not have exclusivity.

On paper, though, this Vikings preseason roster constructed by Spielman is the best since the commencement of the 2010 season, the follow-up effort by Brett Favre’s Vikings that resulted in firings and retirements. And that is mainly attributable to the depth on defense. Outside of the EDGE rusher segment of the roster, the Vikings will not be doomed in 2021 if an injury or two surfaces to a key player — doom is precisely what transpired defensively when Danielle Hunter, Anthony Barr, Michael Pierce, Mike Hughes, and Eric Kendricks were lost for impactful stretches of the 2020 season.

What’s more, the team’s offensive line must finally perform at an average-or-better level. For too long, the Vikings settle for putrid pass protection with a sidedish of modest run-blocking. Spielman used the last four drafts to correct the malady — but now that actually has to come to fruition on the field. Stay tuned.

Finally — the normal disclaimer on power rankings — all ordered lists, such as this one, merely serve as an emblem of public opinion. Bleacher Report believes that Minnesota is the 12th-worst team in football. Random Vikings fans would probably place the team in the Top 12.