Urgent Needs for the Vikings Offense in 2024
It’s the Vikings bye week, so now is the opportune time to step away from the rollercoaster of the Vikings 2023 season and look at the list of urgent needs for the Vikings in 2024. It’s a lengthy list that Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Kevin O’Connell must work through. Let’s split it into offense and defense, starting with the offense.
Urgent Needs for the Vikings Offense in 2024
Looking at the Vikings roster right now, some obvious holes prevent them from being Super Bowl contenders like the Philadelphia Eagles or Kansas City Chiefs. The bad news is those holes threaten to become even more significant, with several vital players heading towards free agency. When this season concludes, and it’s time to focus on the next one, there are several positions that the Vikings need to focus on during the offseason.
No position will get more focus than the QB. Kirk Cousins is out of contract at the end of the season but will carry a $28.5 million cap hit from void years. Do the Vikings eat the dead cap and move on from Cousins?
The brief hopes of Joshua Dobbs being a capable bridge QB came crashing down to earth on Monday Night Football. Jaren Hall has shown some promise in his brief playing time so far, but it has only been some promise and very temporary. The Vikings will continue their mantra of the competitive rebuild, and the best chance of being competitive next season is with Cousins at QB.
The stumbling block will be the contract. If the Vikings were willing to give Cousins a long contract (e.g., a 4-year, fully guaranteed $160 million contract), I suspect the deal would have been done this year. Minnesota needs a deal they can “get out of” after two seasons. Will Cousins accept that, or will he look to get a better deal on the open market? There is a hunger for the Vikings to draft a quarterback next year, and I believe they should do it — with or without Cousins returning.
Cousins is only a short-term solution at this stage of his career. It’s time to start the process of his successor. Giving a rookie at least a year to learn from behind Cousins would be my preferred route.
Vikings fans are used to Adrian Peterson or Dalvin Cook being a dominant bellcow back. O’Connell’s offense is a modern passing game-focused style that doesn’t require a running back of that ilk. However, the Vikings need to exhibit complementary football, and while the Vikings’ run game hasn’t always been as disastrous as some make out this season, it hasn’t been as good as the Vikings would want, and adding another back into the mix next season would make sense.
How big of a priority is it? Some will have it higher on the agenda than me, but in my view, it’s a Day 3 draft pick or a relatively cheap veteran. Some big-name RBs are set to hit free agency, like Derrick Henry, Josh Jacobs, Saquon Barkley, Tony Pollard, and Austin Ekeler. That’s not where the Vikings need to be splashing big money, but someone like Zack Moss would be a good target. Moss has 672 rushing tards and five touchdowns this season for the Indianapolis Colts.
He was particularly impressive when deputizing for the injured Jonathan Taylor. He would probably demand similar money to Alexander Mattison, who will be in the last year of his contract next year.
K.J. Osborn has been the model of consistency since becoming the Vikings WR3. He has amassed 655 and 650 receiving yards in his first two seasons and is on pace for a similar figure this year. That’s a factor in his 14 career touchdowns, and those are good numbers for a WR3. Will there be a market for a WR-needy team to gamble on him as a WR2? If Osborn garners some interest across the league, it could price the Vikings out.
Brandon Powell — also a free agent — has proved he can bring his speed to good use on offense. I expect him to return as the Vikings punt returner and depth receiver. There were high hopes for Jalen Nailor this season, but injury has kept him on the sidelines for the most part. If he can stay healthy, can he push to climb up the depth chart like Osborn?
The Vikings lack a big physical receiver, someone who can be a matchup problem in the red zone. It’s an area of the Vikings offense struggling more than it should be. Finding a player like that on Day 3 of the draft and adding them to Powell and Nailor to fight it out for the touches behind Justin Jefferson and Jordan Addison would be the cost-effective way to solve this problem.
The Vikings brought in Dalton Risner on a one-year deal and traded away pending free agent Ezra Cleveland. Risner has been a solid addition who could be even better next year with a full preseason and time in the offense. I would expect the Vikings to try to find a deal to keep Risner longer term. The other four OL starters are contracted for next season, but no one else is. Minnesota will have to fill out their OL depth either by re-signing the depth players, signing cheap FA veterans, or using draft picks — probably on Day 3.