5 Takeaways from Vikings OTAs So Far

Sam darnold
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Sam Darnold addressed the media from the TCO Performance Center during OTAs. Darnold joined the Vikings' roster in March 2024 during free agency, on deck as a Kirk Cousins replacement and sharing the QB room later with rookie passer J.J. McCarthy of Michigan.

The Minnesota Vikings season formally begins in 101 days, and the club is ironing out final spring business at organized team activities (OTAs) in Eagan.

5 Takeaways from Vikings OTAs So Far

Sportsbooks forecast the purple team for 6.5 or 7.5 wins in 2024, depending on the website, so the year may seem like a transformational campaign, especially with a rookie quarterback in the mix.

And with mandatory minicamp just five days away, these are the five main takeaways from OTAs, ranked in ascending order (No. 1 = most important).

5. Sam Darnold, Of Course, Looks Great

The Carolina Panthers arrive at Wofford College for their 2022 training camp. The team plans to host 12 training camp practices that are free and open to the public. This Saturday, July 30, the team will hold the ‘Back Together’ event at Gibbs Stadium at the college. The Panthers’ S. Darnold talks about working with his fellow players at training camp. © ALEX HICKS JR./SPARTANBURG HERALD-JOURNAL / USA TODAY NETWORK.

The Athletic’s Alec Lewis tweeted Wednesday about Darnold’s performance at organized team activities (OTAs): “One day of practice, so no reason at all to make more of it than need be, but thought Sam Darnold looked very good today. Just unafraid throwing over the middle, accurate, some nice juice on it. Lot of solid connections with Jordan Addison.”

This is what Darnold does. Fans can assuredly be excited about it, but it’s nothing terribly new. In fact, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport said last week, “We don’t always get quarterback competition, and this is a real one. The fact that Sam Darnold is in there. I have also heard he has looked good, he is going to look good. Something he has done his entire career, when it’s the spring, when it’s the preseason or when he has been unbothered, he has looked excellent. It’s really a matter of when he gets in games, is he the same quarterback when it doesn’t all go perfectly?”

It’s certainly not bad news that Darnold looks great at OTAs, but he’s merely continuing his steak from stops in New York, Carolina, and San Francisco. We shall see if it translates to a regular season field.

4. Dallas Turner and Danielle Hunter Comps

Minnesota outside linebacker Dallas Turner at the first day of rookie minicamp on May 10th, 2024, in Eagan, Minnesota. TCO Performance Center. Turner was drafted by the Vikings with the 17th overall pick on April 25th, 2024, in Detroit.

ESPN’s Kevin Seifert tweeted Wednesday, “Christian Darrisaw was just raving about rookie Vikings LB Dallas Turner. Said he saw Turner put a spin move on another lineman that was faster than the one Danielle Hunter used to put on people.”

Darrisaw told KSTP’s Darren Wolfson, “He had a spin move last week, it was quicker than Danielle’s. I was like, ‘Damn, this guy’s gonna be special.'”

Hunter vamoosed via free agency to the Houston Texans in March, and Minnesota responded by signing outside linebackers Jonathan Greenard and Andrew Van Ginkel. Greenard and Van Ginkel already have impressive NFL resumes, so Turner busting out in Hunterian fashion is noteworthy.

It hurt to lose Hunter, but Turner’s trajectory at OTAs is extremely promising.

3. J.J. McCarthy Has a Sweet Arm

Minnesota 2024 NFL Draft. Watch as QB J.J. McCarthy addressed the media from the TCO Performance Center on Friday. The Vikings traded up one spot on the draftboard with the New York Jets for McCarthy.

Vikings wideout Jordan Addison confirmed McCarthy’s throwing prowess this week, telling reporters, “He’s got a nice, tight spiral. So you’ve got to make sure you catch it. But I like him. J.J.’s been playing really well. Playing with confidence, anticipating throws. Making mistakes but learning from them. He’s got a bright future. They all look good. I’m confident with whoever they throw out there.”

Here’s one nifty montage, created by a Vikings fan, of all McCarthy’s throws — the Zapruder footage of OTAs.

2. Dalton Risner Returns

Dalton Risner
Minnesota Vikings guard Dalton Risner addressed the media from the TCO Performance Center. Dalton Risner: “We All Know We Have A Great Culture But We Came Up Short This Season.”

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport tweeted Wednesday, 99 days before the start of the NFL season, “The Vikings are re-signing veteran guard Dalton Risner on a 1-year deal that has a signing bonus, per-game and 53-man bonuses and incentives if he’s the majority of season starter, sources say.”

So, last year, it took about four months for Vikings fans to have their wish fulfilled with Risner’s signing, and a similar timetable occurred this year. Barring something funky, Risner will resume his role as Minnesota’s starting left guard.

More importantly, the Vikings will showcase offensive line continuity, which is vital for a new quarterback like Darnold or McCarthy.

1. No Justin Jefferson

justin jefferson
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

Unsurprisingly, Jefferson did not show up at OTAs — he didn’t show up last year, either — amid contract negotiations with Minnesota’s front office. Jefferson is expected to become the NFL’s highest-paid wide receiver soon and perhaps even the richest non-quarterback in NFL history.

ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler said last week on SportsCenter, “CeeDee Lamb appears to be waiting on Justin Jefferson, really the whole league is waiting on him to get done. He could be the highest-paid non-quarterback in the league when it’s all said and done for Minnesota.”

This is how it often works with player contracts, as the market constantly resets. In theory, if Lamb signs down in Dallas for $33 million per season, for example, well, Jefferson can grab $34 million and claim the status of the league’s highest-paid wideout.

“So, if he’s making $34 million a year, and you’re Lamb, you don’t want to jump out yet you want to wait for him to do that and then circle back with Dallas,” Fowler added.

If Jefferson doesn’t make an appearance at next week’s mandatory minicamp, the club would have an honest-to-goodness holdout on its hands.

Jefferson’s deal will get finalized, and he will stay in the Twin Cities for the long haul, but when the best wide receiver in football is absent from OTAs, by default, it’s the top development.

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 MIN obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

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