4 Ex-Rams Who Could Reunite with Kevin O’Connell
Since becoming the head coach of the Minnesota Vikings, Kevin O’Connell has gone back to his former team to pick up two free agents. Could he go back to his old team to fill more spots on his team’s roster? Currently available in free agency, there are four ex-Rams that could reunite with O’Connell.
Last year, Johnny Mundt came to play in purple as a solid blocking tight end who could make an occasional play. That’s exactly what he proved to be, doing enough to be on the Vikings roster for a second season. Already this offseason, O’Connell signed Brandon Powell, a player who adds competition to the wide receiver depth and is a kick and punt returner.
4 Ex-Rams Who Could Reunite with Kevin O’Connell
We are a month away from the 2023 NFL draft, and the Vikings could stand to considerably improve their roster at several positions: wide receiver, cornerback (including someone to play in the slot), interior defensive line, interior offensive line, linebacker, and even outside linebacker — depending on the future of Za’Darius Smith.
With growing speculation that the Vikings are in the quarterback market in this year’s draft, and not having a second-round pick this year, free agency may have to be the place to fill all these needs. If the Vikings HC wants to bring in players with familiarity, there are four ex-Rams that could reunite with O’Connell.
They are as follows.
The biggest name currently still a free agent is Odell Beckham after taking the league by storm as a New York Giant, notching five 1000 seasons in his first six — the last of which came as a Cleveland Brown. The only time he didn’t hit that mark was the 2017 season, when he only started two games due to injury. His second year in Cleveland was disrupted by injury. Then, in Year 3, he was traded to the Rams. He made a significant impact as the Rams went on to win Super Bowl 56.
Unfortunately for Beckham, after scoring the Super Bowl opening touchdown, a knee injury in the 2nd quarter took him out of the game and subsequently the entire 2022 season. Despite status as such a talented player, Beckham is still a free agent as we head toward April. The history of injuries and not playing for over a year is understandably causing caution across the league. Someone is going to pull the trigger. Will it be the Vikings?
The team that welcomes Beckham into the fold will get a serious talent — a two-time second-team All-Pro and three-time Pro Bowler. O’Connell witnessed what impact he could have on a team, but can Minnesota make the finances work? Are they willing to for a 30-year-old who is on his way back from a second torn ACL? The longer he remains a free agent, the better the deal the Vikings may be able to strike. If the Vikings don’t add a top receiver to the roster in the draft and Beckham is still available, the time could be right for Minnesota to pounce.
Minnesota’s cornerback room needs some serious attention. As it stands, the depth chart reads new signee Byron Murphy, plus second-year players Andrew Booth and Alaykeb Evans, who both had injury-troubled rookie seasons.
After that, there is Tay Gowan and Kalon Barnes. Even with the optimistic view that Booth and Evans can make significant jumps in Year 2 under the tutelage of Brian Flores, if significant improvement isn’t made to that group, then the Vikings will have a problem.
The starting trio of cornerbacks to begin the 2022 season were Patrick Peterson, Cameron Dantzler, and Chandon Sullivan. None of whom remain in Minnesota, nor does Duke Shelley, who finished the season opposite Peterson as a starter. The Vikings should be looking to bring in three cornerbacks, whether veteran signings or through the draft. One option for a veteran presence is former Ram Troy Hill.
An eight-year veteran, Hill could be the guy to take on a leadership role in what is a very young secondary, with the exception of Harrison Smith. The benefit of Hill is he’d be a solid short-term safety blanket while Booth, Evans, and any possible rookies develop. The 31-year-old should be available relatively cheaply.
Dalvin Tomlinson left for Cleveland and a four-year, $72 million contract that Minnesota would never match. Khyiris Tonga, who impressed in a relatively small sample size last season, has been re-signed as the big nose tackle. He played on 276 defensive snaps, earning a 77.8 grade from Pro Football Focus — the 13th-best grade across the league for an interior defensive lineman. Do the Vikings see him as a starter alongside Harrison Phillips and the newly acquired Dean Lowry?
The Vikings have a lot of depth at the position with men who can play a role. However, there’s no one to frighten the opposition with their pass rush and no real competition for Tonga at nose tackle.
Step forward A’Shawn Robinson, a versatile defensive lineman who can play nose tackle or on the edge of a front three. He was impressive in the Rams Super Bowl run in 2021 and was having another solid season last year. Unfortunately, a torn meniscus caused him to miss the second half of the season.
That could lead the Vikings to pick him up on the cheap. Robinson has seven seasons under his belt but has only just turned 28. His 73.6 run-defense grade from PFF over the last two seasons ranks tied for 12th among interior defenders. Despite only playing 10 games in 2022, his 46 defensive stops ranked inside the top 20 across the league. He’d be a signing that improved the Vikings at the position, and he’s a player who should still have plenty left in the tank.
The Vikings need at edge rusher largely depends on whether there can be a reconciliation with Za’Darius Smith. The former Green Bay pass rusher tweeted a farewell to the team and fanbase over two weeks ago. Since then, there has been radio silence. New signing Marcus Davenport is the heir apparent, and DJ Wonnum has proved a capable backup. Patrick Jones developed in his second season, but the Vikings should look to add to the ranks without Smith.
The draft is one place the Vikings may look, but if they want someone with experience, then Leonard Floyd would be a direct replacement for Smith. They were both born on the same day — September 8, 1992.
While Floyd has never quite reached the heights of Smith, he has been a consistent performer, with 29 sacks in three seasons in LA. He also doesn’t have a history of injury, having played every game of the past five seasons. His addition would strengthen the Vikings pass rush and lessen the pressure on immediately unlocking Davenport’s potential.
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