Vikings Named One of NFL’s ‘Biggest Losers’ for 2021 Offseason
With approximately $14 million remaining in cap space during the month of July — an oddity as a standalone feat for the organization — the Minnesota Vikings offseason seems to be trucking along swimmingly per close onlookers of the team.
Indeed, in the areas where the team struggled in 2020, general manager Rick Spielman has utilized pinpoint precision to address the depth chart. Christmas day showcased Alvin Kamara eviscerating the Vikings defense for an NFL-record six rushing touchdowns, so Spielman signed a run-stuffing three-technique defensive tackle in Dalvin Tomlinson to play alongside nose tackle Michael Pierce. For good measure, Sheldon Richardson, another 3DT, was reunited with the team.
True to form for a Mike Zimmer-led team, Minnesota also attained veteran leadership at cornerback, securing the services of Patrick Peterson, Bashaud Breeland, and Mackensie Alexander. And that’s on top of second-year corner, Cameron Dantzler, who figures to build on his rookie year success.
Then, Spielman landed two startable offensive linemen inside the NFL draft with Christian Darrisaw and Wyatt Davis. If all events trend accordingly, the Vikings should have the most optimistic plan at the offensive line section of the depth chart in years. For a long-game contingency plan, Spielman also drafted Kellen Mond from Texas A&M to watch and learn behind Kirk Cousins for a year or two.
But that’s where the cleavage begins for the fans’ opinion of the offseason and that of national punditry.
Kristopher Knox of Bleacher Report detailed five winners and five losers for the offseason on Monday — now that the bulk offseason operations are in the rearview. For Knox, the Vikings made the “loser” list.
Why? Well, he believes the franchise will rue missing out on Justin Fields during the 2021 NFL Draft, a quarterback who landed with the rival Chicago Bears.
“The Jets landed their quarterback in April’s draft. So did the Chicago Bears, who traded up to No. 11 to take Ohio State’s Justin Fields. The Minnesota Vikings, however, missed out on the quarterback they wanted. The Vikings wanted Fields and lost him to a bitter division rival. […] Minnesota’s desire to nab Fields suggests their time with Kirk Cousins is running short. While the Vikings did take Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond in the third round, he was not the team’s first choice. Perhaps Mond will develop well and work out as Minnesota’s future starter. However, if Fields goes on to have a long and fruitful career with the Bears, the Vikings are going to wish they pulled the trigger on a trade.“
It was heavily reported that the Vikings wanted Fields, but in fairness, the organization could have theoretically had eyes on Rashaun Slater, a left tackle from Northwestern that was also available when Minnesota made phone calls to the Carolina Panthers and about draft-night barter.
If the organization truly wanted Fields, yes, folks will always side-eye Fields’ performance in Chicago. The Bears are long deprived of quarterback consistency — as were the Vikings before Kirk Cousins was acquired — so Chicago had to do something, once and for all. Now, the Bears will determine when to transition to Fields as head coach Matt Nagy is unusually vocal about his short-term commitment to Andy Dalton, a free agent acquired before Fields was drafted.
The Vikings will regret losing out on Fields if one of two hypothetical scenarios transpires.
First, if the Cousins experiment ends with a whimper while Fields rapidly trends upward, Minnesota will resent now moving up for Fields in the April of 2021. Or — if Fields takes over Dalton early in 2021 while the Vikings hover around a .500 or worse record, immediate regret will loom palpably.
Aside from those situations, the Vikings control their fate. Spielman tailor-made this 2021 roster with a defensive spine and the offensive group largely untouched, chiefly because it rock-and-rolled in 2020 with the league’s third-best production from a yards-gained standpoint.
If the Vikings can make a deep playoff run and the Bears bungle the rollout of Fields, none of this will matter.