The Next Months Will Be Exciting in the Vikings Orbit

Jan 1, 2023; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Minnesota Vikings fans hold up a sign during the game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports.

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

The Next Months Will Be Exciting in the Vikings Orbit
Nov 20, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah talks with head coach Kevin O’Connell prior to the game against the Dallas Cowboys at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports.

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.

Vikings WR Will
Dec 17, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver K.J. Osborn (17) celebrates the win against the Indianapolis Colts after the game at U.S. Bank Stadium. With the win, the Minnesota Vikings clinched the NFC North. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

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.

Nov 19, 2022; Provo, Utah, USA; Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Jaren Hall (3) Is pushed out of the pocket by Utah Tech Trailblazers defensive lineman Mackavelli Malotumau (51) in the fourth quarter at LaVell Edwards Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Be Slept
Oct 2, 2022; London, United Kingdom; New Orleans Saints wide receiver Marquez Callaway (1) catches the ball as Minnesota Vikings cornerback Akayleb Evans (21) defends in the fourth quarter during an NFL International Series game at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. The Vikings defeated the Saints 28-25. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Aug 14, 2022; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Ty Chandler (32) carries the ball against the Las Vegas Raiders during a preseason game at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

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.

The Bradbury Update
Sep 19, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Minnesota Vikings center Garrett Bradbury (56) snaps the football alongside guard Ezra Cleveland (72) against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

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