For Vikings, Where’s the Beef?

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Two days into a whirlwind start to free agency, we can officially say Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Kevin O’Connell have transformed the Vikings roster into “their team.” Whether you like that or you don’t, it was always coming.

Minnesota has made some good acquisitions of key players at an age to be long-term players — and a couple of more short-term options as well. The one big question is — where’s the beef?

For Vikings, Where’s the Beef?

As free agency opened, the Vikings had major question marks regarding their defensive front. Most of them have been answered, with Danielle Hunter heading to Houston, Marcus Davenport heading to Detroit, and DJ Wonnum visiting a couple of teams. Incoming are Jonathan Greenard and Andrew Van Ginkel to fill the OLB spots, with a rookie likely added to the mix come the draft.

Houston Texans defensive end Jonathan Greenard (52) celebrates a touchdown on a recovered fumble Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023, during a game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Minnesota native, and former Golden Gopher, Blake Cashman has arrived to replace the Cleveland-bound Jordan Hicks to partner with Ivan Pace at linebacker. It’s a positive start to free agency for Brian Flores’ defense, but Harrison Phillips currently looks lonely on the interior of the defensive line with only 2023 rookie Jacqueline Roy for company. The Vikings need to add bodies there to give some depth and find a quality starter to play with Phillips, who preferably has some significant pass-rush upside to his resume.

The IDL Options

Christian Wilkins was Minnesota’s dream free agent acquisition, but a huge money deal from Las Vegas thwarted any attempt Minnesota may have had to sign him. Other players who could have been good options, like Raekwon Davis, Grover Stewart, and Javon Kinlaw, are now also off the board. So who’s left?

DJ Reader is the top name left out there, but he would be expensive and is reportedly visiting the Lions. The other top option, especially regarding pass rush, is Arik Armstead — his seven sacks from last season would be a nice addition up the middle.

After that, it’s players like Teair Tart, Tim Settle, and Sheldon Rankings. Tart would be my choice as a “cheaper” option, as it is young enough to have plenty of upside working under the tutelage of Flores.

Cincinnati Bengals nose tackle D.J. Reader (98) celebrates a sack of Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) (not pictured) in the third quarter during Super Bowl 56, Sunday, Feb. 13, 2022, at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif. The Cincinnati Bengals lost, 23-20. © Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK.

The draft is a place where I also think the Vikings are likely to add a DT. Will it be another mid to late-round guy, or will they go earlier for a potential immediate difference-maker? T’Vondre Sweat, on Day 2 of the draft, is a mountain of a man who would certainly make his presence felt on anybody’s defensive line. Any move for one of the first-round rated guys — Byron Murphy or Jer’Zhan Newton — now seems very unlikely, given the Vikings QB situation.

Then There’s the IOL

It’s not just the defensive line that needs some beef; so does the offensive line. Blake Brandel has re-signed, and although he has been spoken of highly by the coaching staff, I would be very surprised if he is the only answer for the left guard position vacated by the currently still unsigned Dalton Risner.

Brandel is an excellent depth piece who can play tackle and guard and should if anything, compete with Ed Ingram for the right guard spot. Ingram showed some signs of improvement last season but is still way off reaching what you want from a starting guard you spent a second-round draft pick on.

Being a free-agent guard has been a good offseason, with all the good ones cashing in on some big-money deals. The only guy left out there is Risner. I would expect the Vikings to have put an offer on the table. Risner took to the X app to express frustration that he’s not receiving the monetary offers he was hoping for from the Vikings or anyone else. There’s still time for the Vikings and Risner to come to a deal, but if they don’t, they look very light at IOL and may have to look to the draft to add a guard into the mix.

Dalton Risner
Former Denver Broncos offensive guard Dalton Risner on Monday Night Football during his first start with the Minnesota Vikings. U.S. Bank Stadium, October 23rd, 2023. Risner started for an injured Ezra Cleveland.

Connor Williams, who has played at center for the Dolphins the last two seasons but previously played guard, is still available. Miami signed Aaron Brewer to play center with Williams, who had suffered a torn ACL back in December. A fully fit Williams would be a great addition, especially with that center/guard flexibility, if it comes at a discounted price, as the Vikings don’t currently have a second center option on the roster. Garrett Bradbury will likely start his sixth season as the Vikings center, but I expect the Vikings to look at drafting a potential replacement sooner or later.

Where’s the beef? Hopefully, it’s on the way.