3 Shocking Moments in the Vikings Offseason

1 Vikings Free Agent Wants to Come Back
Minnesota Vikings cornerback Duke Shelley (20) signals an incompletion after breaking up a pass intended for Green Bay Packers wide receiver Christian Watson (9) on Sunday, January 1, 2023, at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis. Tork Mason/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin.

Many Vikings moves made big waves in the offseason. The franchise released a trio of cornerstones, but the departures of Adam Thielen, Eric Kendricks, and Dalvin Cook didn’t come as a surprise, considering their hefty contracts and their age. Other moves, meanwhile, were more shocking.

3 Shocking Moments in the Vikings Offseason

Many decisions had to be made in the offseason, too many to recall them all. That is why this is a fun exercise to recap the most shocking off-season moments. The list is not in order.

Passing on Will Levis

The Vikings didn’t extend the contract of Kirk Cousins. He is scheduled to become a free agent in next year’s March, and the draft was an opportunity to add his replacement. The top guys in the draft were all expected to be long gone when the Vikings were on the clock. Those top guys involved Bryce Young, who went first overall, C.J. Stroud, the second overall pick, and Anthony Richardson, who was selected by the Colts fourth overall. In the days leading up to the draft, most included Will Levis, who surprisingly slipped down the draft board.

3 Shocking Moments in the Vikings Offseason
Sep 3, 2022; Lexington, Kentucky, USA; Kentucky Wildcats quarterback Will Levis (7) looks to pass during the second quarter against the Miami (Oh) Redhawks at Kroger Field. Mandatory Credit: Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports.

Vikings fans wondered if Kwesi Adofo-Mensah would trade up when he came close to the tenth pick, but he continued to slip and even was there at 23, the pick held by the Vikings. Commissioner Roger Goodell declared the selection, and it was Jordan Addison, a receiver out of USC. Levis dropped into the second round, and the Titans picked him up. It is not clear how much the Vikings liked him, but they stuck to their plan after doing their homework on the quarterbacks in the draft class.

Hendon Hooker was also often selected with the 23rd overall pick in mock drafts. He fell to the third round, where the Lions selected him with a pick given up by the Vikes for T.J. Hockenson. Minnesota chose Jaren Hall in round five. It will take a few years until passing on Levis can be evaluated. His pro comparisons range from Josh Allen to Mitchell Trubisky and even worse players.

The Duke Is Gone

Duke Shelley, a practice squad cornerback who nobody expected to make an impact in his first campaign with the Vikings, played exceptionally well once he was given a chance because of injuries to Cameron Dantzler and Akayleb Evans. He played so well that he was trusted with the starting spot late in the year when Dantzler returned.

Vikings Really Dropped
Jan 8, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Minnesota Vikings cornerback Duke Shelley. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports.

Given their troubles in finding decent players at the position, the Vikings were expected to re-sign Shelley as a cheap but proven cornerback. Still, they opted to let him walk despite his low salary of only $1.3 million on his new contract with the Las Vegas Raiders.

Minnesota obviously doesn’t expect him to repeat his performance and thinks it was just a fluke. It will be Joejuan Williams, Mekhi Blackmon, Akayleb Evans, or Andrew Booth opposite top CB and free-agent signing Byron Murphy.

Another Tight End?

Expectations for the cap-strapped Vikings weren’t high in free agency. They simply didn’t have any salary cap space to make a lot of moves early in the process. So it was a massive surprise when reports surfaced about the first addition and tight end Josh Oliver.

Baltimore Ravens tight end Josh Oliver (84) spikes the ball after a touchdown score as tight end Mark Andrews (89) looks on and Jacksonville Jaguars safety Andre Cisco (5) is slow to get up after an attempted stop during the fourth quarter of a regular season NFL football matchup Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022 at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville. The Jaguars edged the Ravens 28-27. [Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union]

Tight end was a position the Vikings didn’t need, unlike cornerback, defensive line, or wide receiver. The second shock came when his annual salary of $7 million was released. Oliver is viewed as a great blocker but hasn’t shown much as a receiver in the NFL – he only made 26 catches in his professional career.

The Vikings bank on his contribution to the running game as a strong blocker and some upside in the passing game. He is an underrated athlete and was a decent receiver in college. Signing Oliver also points towards more 12-personnel with Hockenson and Oliver on the field at the same time. Offensive coordinator Wes Phillips raved about his new player.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt