Vikings Draw Lousy Reviews for TE Signing

Baltimore Ravens tight end Josh Oliver (84) spikes the ball after a touchdown score as tight end Mark Andrews (89) looks on and Jacksonville Jaguars safety Andre Cisco (5) is slow to get up after an attempted stop during the fourth quarter of a regular season NFL football matchup Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022 at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville. The Jaguars edged the Ravens 28-27. [Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union]

The Minnesota Vikings entered free agency with many needs, but a tight end was not one of them. Despite that and a lack of resources, the cap-strapped Vikings decided to sign tight end Josh Oliver, formerly of the Baltimore Ravens.

Fans weren’t pleased with the signing, and media personalities were just as confused. The reviews have been a disaster.

Vikings Draw Lousy Reviews for TE Signing

Vikings Draw Lousy Reviews for Oliver Signing
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Oliver signed a deal for three years, worth $21 million and $10.75 guaranteed, which is a decent-sized contract for a player with his resume. The tight end caught 26 passes in his career.

Cody Benjamin from CBSSports named the Vikings a “loser” of the early free agency stages.

Committing top-20 money to Ravens tight end Josh Oliver, who boasts all of 26 career catches, is a bit of a head-scratcher considering they just acquired ex-Lions star T.J. Hockenson, who proved in his half-season Vikings debut that he’s worthy of a big-money extension — for which he’s currently eligible. Unless this is part of a secret recruiting plan to land Oliver’s former teammate, Lamar Jackson, via blockbuster trade from Baltimore, it just feels like an excess of money for a role player.

Cody Benjamin, CBSSports

The Vikings were expected to transition away from 12 personnel, plays on which two tight ends are on the field, when they hired Kevin O’Connell — an offensive coordinator from Sean McVay’s tree. However, the move indicates the opposite. Paying big-time money for primarily a blocking tight end is an interesting move. However, Oliver has potential in the passing game. Despite limited passes thrown his way, he was a good receiver in college and even has some highlight catches in the NFL.

Do the Unexpected
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports.

Benjamin isn’t the only one who didn’t like the move. PFF gave the signing a C+ for need and fit on the team and a C- for the value of the signing:

We have seen pretty strong contracts for predominantly blocking tight ends in years past, including players like Nick Boyle and Tyler Kroft, who signed for similar deals. That’s what this is here, with Oliver amassing just 26 receptions for 230 yards over his first four NFL seasons.

Kevin O’Connell wants to be able to operate more effectively out of 12 personnel, and Oliver’s 74.6 run-blocking grade in 2022 ranked second among tight ends with at least 100 run-blocking snaps on the season.

After Minnesota traded for tight end T.J. Hockenson, they’re likely about to pay him near the top of the position market and could approach $25 million per year in spending on their top two tight ends, which would comfortably lead the NFL following the trade of Jonnu Smith to the Atlanta Falcons.

PFF about the Josh Oliver signing

Oliver has not been used as a pass catcher in Baltimore, an offense that primarily runs the football. Oliver only played four games in his first two career seasons because of injury. There is a good chance that O’Connell sees some more potential than just a blocking tight end.

Justin Jefferson Weighs in
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota struggled to run the ball in 2022, and the new acquisition should be a big help in that area as one of the elite blocking tight ends. If the Vikings opt to use more 12-personnel, that should also help Justin Jefferson in his production. Safeties must come up to defend the possible run, and Jefferson would see more single-high safety looks. That can limit the defense’s ability to throw double teams at him.

Another change compared to last season could be Hockenson’s role. He played as a true tight end for the Vikings, but he can line up out wide and in the slot, where he is actually one of the most productive players in the league. Hockenson could transition even more into the WR2 in Minnesota, with Oliver handling the in-line tight-end duties.

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