Among Many ‘Good Problems,’ Vikings Have a TE One

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The Minnesota Vikings traded for tight end T.J. Hockenson at last year’s trade deadline, totally revamping the club’s offense and likely solidifying the TE room for years to come.

After that, Minnesota simply became deeper at the position, culminating in some roster decisions due in one week when NFL teams reduce from 90 players to 53.

Among Many ‘Good Problems,’ Vikings Have a TE One

Along the way, the Vikings signed free-agent tight end Josh Oliver away from the Baltimore Ravens, Colin Thompson from the Carolina Panthers, undrafted free-agent Ben Sims, and retained 2022 contributors Johnny Mundt and Nick Muse.

That’s six tight ends for about three or four roster spots.

Good Problems
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Here’s the close-to-official TE depth chart for the Vikings as of August 21st:

TE1: T.J. Hockenson
TE2: Josh Oliver
TE3: Johnny Mundt
TE4: Nick Muse
TE5: Ben Sims
TE6: Colin Thompson

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

And right in the middle is the tricky spot for determining how many tight ends the franchise plans to carry over in the regular season. Mainly, it’s a yes or no test on Muse, the second-year playmaker from South Carolina.

Muse has dazzled this preseason, scoring the only offensive touchdown in the first game against the Seattle Seahawks. Nine days later, versus the Tennessee Titans in Minneapolis, Muse resembled the Vikings WR1 — not TE4. The man looks like a player deserving of a roster spot.

Nick Muse greets campers onto the field during the 2nd Annual Muse Boys 3rd-9th Grade Football Camp Friday morning, June 23, 2023, on the practice field next to Lineberger Stadium on the campus of South Point High School in Belmont. © Mike Hensdill/The Gaston Gazette / USA TODAY NETWORK.

The Vikings kept three tight ends on the roster heading into the 2022 season, so Muse, in theory, will have to dethrone Johnny Mundt — who is loved by the current coaching staff — or Minnesota must keep four TEs. We shall see. Muse’s production, albeit in ‘meaningless’ games, cannot be ignored.

On love for Mundt, head coach Kevin O’Connell said on August 12th, “I believe Johnny Mundt is the best 3rd TE in the NFL. If there was a category for that, Johnny would certainly get that, in my opinion.”

That doesn’t sound like the praise that would follow a man who will lose a job anytime soon.

Vikings Waive Rookie TE
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So, that leaves Muse and a roster bubble. Various Vikings fans will simply ‘fix the problem’ with a statement like, “They’ll just keep four tight ends.” While that may be true next week, the club can’t simply keep extra players all over the depth chart. A frequent solution among the team’s faithful is ‘keep six WRs instead of five’ or ‘six CBs rather than five.’

Those numbers add up quickly, and if that’s the solve-all repeatedly, one is left with a 58-man depth chart, not 53. Which is illegal.

The good problem? Muse as TE4 or Muse as practice squader – a verdict will be known in one week.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

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