The Vikings Looming 2023 Offseason Needs — Ranked

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Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah in his first year on the job at the 2022 NFL Combine in Indianapolis, Indiana.

The Minnesota Vikings ended the 2022 regular season with a 13-4 record and an NFC North title. Those achievements were delightful, but the New York Giants dropped the team a week later at home in the playoffs, so change feels necessary for the 2023 roster.

Free agency is six weeks away, and the NFL Draft is 84 days from commencement. Before then, Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah will clear cap space, presumably to make the team younger, leaner, and faster.

The Vikings Looming 2023 Offseason Needs — Ranked

While doing so, these are the team’s six most urgent positional needs, ranked in ascending order of importance.

6. EDGE Rusher

The Vikings Looming 2023
Minnesota Vikings linebacker Za’Darius Smith (55) celebrates with linebacker Danielle Hunter (99) after Hunter sacked Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the fourth quarter during their football game Sunday, September 11, 2022, at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Min. Dan Powers/USA TODAY NETWORK.

This need isn’t emergent if the Vikings plan to retain Danielle Hunter and Za’Darius Smith as a 2023 twosome. However, Hunter’s 2023 contract is dinky, and he may not enjoy it. Minnesota could be heading toward another offseason of “what will Hunter do?” And that would mark four consecutive offseasons with fans on Hunter Watch.

Moreover, Smith was quiet down the stretch of the 2022 season after beginning the campaign like the Defensive Player of the Year. He was probably hurt — and kudos to him for toughing it out — but his 0.5 sacks after the win in Buffalo weren’t ideal.

After Hunter and Smith, the Vikings employ Patrick Jones and D.J. Wonnum as semi-notable pass rushers. Again, this group will “be fine” if they all return, but Hunter’s and Smith’s statuses are up in the air as of early February.

If Adofo-Mensah moves on from one or both of Hunter or Smith — wowzers, the Vikings would need immediate help at EDGE as no NFL team can skimp via rushing the passer and expect to contend for a Super Bowl.

5. Interior Defensive Line

Vikings Designate Defensive
Peter van den Berg-USA TODAY Sports.

These are the Vikings solutions at defensive tackle since 2016:

  • 2016 = Shamar Stephen
  • 2017 = Tom Johnson
  • 2018 = Sheldon Richardson
  • 2019 = Shamar Stephen
  • 2020 = Jaleel Johnson
  • 2021 = Armon Watts
  • 2022 = Jonathan Bullard

It always seems the Vikings “just do whatever” at the DT spot next to the nose tackle. They should end this tendency.

A roster upgrade at Jonathan Bullard’s spot should be prioritized. Bullard did a serviceable job when healthy, but he did not add extra pizazz or production as a defensive tackle, and the Vikings pass rush correspondingly struggled much of the time.

And to be clear, that doesn’t mean the team needs to part ways with Dalvin Tomlinson, nor does this apply to Harrison Phillips. This is the “other spot.” Let’s shoot for the stars with a Daron Payne or Bryan Bresee.

4. Interior Offensive Line

The Bradbury Update
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports.

Minnesota has two franchise-cornerstone offensive tackles, and that is marvelous. Cross those spots off the list because the Vikings are finally set with OTs after years of pursuit.

But the guts of the offensive line — generally a problem for the Vikings — are merely passable at the moment. Garrett Bradbury is a free agent, Ed Ingram wasn’t a God in Year One, and Ezra Cleveland will need a new contract soon. On Cleveland, it is unclear if the Vikings will pay him big bucks.

To capitalize on magnificent tackles in Christian Darrisaw and Brian O’Neill, the Vikings need an LG, C, and RG that hold serve. Ingram will remain a question mark while the team monitors his development. Bradbury could easily waltz to another team. And Cleveland will be back in 2023 for the final year of his rookie deal.

Ergo, this need is essentially a theoretical Bradbury replacement and Ingram contingency plan.

3. Off-Ball Linebacker

Vikings Squander Golden Opportunity
Minnesota Vikings linebacker Jordan Hicks (58) against Green Bay Packers during their football game on Sunday, January 1, 2023, at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis. © Wm. Glasheen/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin / USA TODAY NETWORK.

In 2022, the Vikings employed two age-30 off-ball linebackers. That was fine and dandy, but it’s time to become younger, faster, and probably less expensive.

A new defensive coordinator will be named in the coming days, and that person will probably demand more speed on defense. That starts at off-ball linebacker because speed is not currently on the menu.

Kendricks will likely be released, and Hicks might follow suit. Brian Asamoah — who is young, fast, and inexpensive — should start, along with a big-name free-agent linebacker like Tremaine Edmunds.

Speed and new blood, please.

2. WR2

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

For a handful of games each year, opposing defensive coordinators will double-cover Justin Jefferson. It will be the blueprint. When that happens — it will probably become more prevalent — the Vikings need a bonafide WR2 to handle the workload.

T.J. Hockenson is great at helping in these games, but imagine the possibilities with a Jefferson-lite wideout on the other side. Adam Thielen may not be cut out for the task any longer, and K.J. Osborn is a huge maybe at WR2.

Minnesota needs a sure-fire WR2 that puts fear in the hearts of the opposition when teams sell out to stop Jefferson.

1. Cornerback

CB Represents Fortune
Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports.

The motto should go like this — if a team has no sure things at cornerback, well, it doesn’t really have any sense of security at the position.

Patrick Peterson is a free agent but wants to reunite with the 2023 Vikings. He was marvelous in 2022, firing up an 80.7 Pro Football Focus grade. He’ll be 33 next season, and it is unclear if his 13th season will be as productive as his 12th. Can the Vikings really strut into September after re-signing the savvy veteran merely assuming he’ll play at a top-tier level? It’d be risky.

Duke Shelley, like Peterson, was another outstanding performer — on a defense that needed all the standout performers it could find. However, nobody knew who he was before the middle of the 2022 season, so the Vikings brass might “have to” pretend his 2022 production was a mirage. He’s also a free agent and not guaranteed to re-sign in Minnesota.

Andrew Booth and Akayleb Evans were injury-riddled rookies. Would you trust either as a true-blue CB1 during Week 1 of 2023? If so — wonderful. But that’s dangerous in a pass-happy NFL.

Finally, Cameron Dantzler seemed to be lapped on the depth chart by everyone else. That is not ideal for his career trajectory.

Adofo-Mensah must find one tried-and-true CB1. If he does, then the rest of these cornerbacks feel like tremendous depth and complements. Until then, the Vikings CB room is just a bunch of decent guys.


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,’ and The Doors (the band).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by OverTheCap.com.