The Next Months Will Be Exciting in the Vikings Orbit
When Kwesi Adofo-Mensah entered the 2023 offseason, he had little to work with. The resources were scarce. Minnesota was among the teams with the lowest cap space. In fact, they were way over the cap. He had to clear over $23 million to be in the black.
It cost the team some beloved veterans. Both Adam Thielen and Eric Kendricks had to depart from the organization after combined 18 years with the Vikings. In addition, the Vikings only had four draft picks and received a fifth one via compensatory picks, a little present of our old friend, Tyler Conklin. The GM still managed to bring in some serious talent to the roster.
The Next Months Will Be Exciting in the Vikings Orbit
Through those additions, Adofo-Mensah created some fascinating storylines for the upcoming months and the 2023 season.
K.J. Osborn Is Not a WR2 after All
Debates on social media were ongoing about the ability of fourth-year receiver K.J. Osborn to transform from a third wideout to a second option. Thielen’s leaving left a spot to be filled, and superstar Justin Jefferson needs help. He won’t carry the offense alone in last year’s Bills game fashion every week. Osborn comes with the resume of two seasons with decent production for a third WR, 655 and 650 receiving yards, and he added 12 touchdowns in those two campaigns after not playing a single offensive snap in 2020, his debut season.
Osborn was expected to be in the mix for the vacant WR2 spot, especially when the team didn’t add a free agent at the position, but the Vikings threw a monkey wrench into that idea when they selected Jordan Addison with the 23rd overall pick.
Addison is a more talented player and is ready to be a pro. His skillset is so refined, he shouldn’t take too long to acclimate to the NFL. He is the clear front-runner for the WR2 job, but Osborn might still be able to carve out a bigger role than last year.
The Preseason Will Be Exciting
Preseason games can be boring even to the biggest Vikings superfans. When there are players on the field in the second half who will never even come close to the field on an actual NFL regular season gameday, it simply tends to get boring.
This year should be different, and one man is the reason, Jaren Hall, Vikings’ fifth-round pick. Drafting QBs is always exciting because fans are eager to see what he brings to the table. His first exposure to prove his worth to the masses is the preseason, and he will spend a lot of time on the field. The starters nowadays don’t bother suiting up for those exhibitions to limit the injury risk.
Hall isn’t guaranteed to make the 53-man roster as a fifth-rounder, and the purple team also employs experienced backup, Nick Mullens. Hall will either beat out Mullens and make him expendable, or Mullens will clinch the backup spot. In the latter scenario, Hall must show enough potential to convince the team to keep three QBs on the roster.
Who Will Win the CB2 Job?
The cornerback group underwent a complete turnaround, five players departed, and many new faces entered the locker room. Free agent signing Byron Murphy is undoubtedly the top guy, but the second spot is up for grabs.
2022 rookies Andrew Booth and Akayleb Evans and the new rookies Jay Ward and Mekhi Blackmon are all competing to win the starting gig. Ward is primarily competing for the nickel CB spot, but Blackmon is a perfect scheme fit in Brian Flores’ defense as an outside CB and was handpicked by the new defensive coordinator, while Evans and Booth were picked by the fired DC Ed Donatell.
Regardless of who is playing, that someone must be good if the purple team wants to turn around the defense after some disastrous units in the last three seasons.
How Does DeWayne McBride Fit In?
The Vikings drafted running back DeWayne McBride in the seventh round. Dalvin Cook is still on the roster, but that could change in the upcoming weeks and months. A release and a trade are both options to eliminate Cook’s huge contract.
Alexander Mattison is certainly the favorite to replace him if Cook indeed leaves the organization after re-signing. He signed a lucrative two-year contract.
In addition to the three aforementioned players, Ty Chandler and Kene Nwangwu are still rostered. While Nwangwu appears to be a kick returner only, Chandler is a true running back. He was a draft pick last year but rarely played in his rookie campaign. His team immediately turning around and drafting another runner is a warning signal. He might not have lived up to the expectations in practice. He is also older than Mattison and McBride.
Chandler and Mattison are better receivers than McBride, but the rookie is an excellent runner in the style of a good old-fashioned powerback.
Can the OL Step Up?
One of the most significant weaknesses of the purple team in recent years was the interior offensive line. The team can’t seem to fix it. The starting trio of center Garrett Bradbury and the two guards Ezra Cleveland and Ed Ingram are expected to be in the starting unit once again.
Bradbury played a solid 2022 campaign, his first one at that level. Ingram and Cleveland were amongst the league leaders in pressures allowed.
GM Adofo-Mensah didn’t add any meaningful competition in free agency or the draft. The team appears to trust them. It’s important to offer better protection for Kirk Cousins. Cleveland improved every season, Bradbury is coming off his best career season, and Ingram was a rookie. There’s hope they can increase their level of protection.
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
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