How the Vikings Can Be a Super Bowl Contender by 2025

The 'Other' Important Race for Justin Jefferson
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Twenty-four rookies joined the Minnesota Vikings in the last week. And that was on top of the franchise signing 14 free agents in the last four months while watching as 16 players from the 2023 roster signed elsewhere.

How the Vikings Can Be a Super Bowl Contender by 2025

Minnesota’s roster has changed tremendously in the last three years, with the cake-topper this offseason adding quarterback J.J. McCarthy as Kirk Cousins left for the Atlanta Falcons.

In the draft, Minnesota added these players:

  • R1: J.J. McCarthy (QB, Michigan)
  • R1: Dallas Turner (EDGE, Alabama)
  • R4: Khyree Jackson (CB, Oregon)
  • R6: Walter Rouse (OT, Oklahoma)
  • R6: Will Reichard (K, Alabama)
  • R7: Michael Jurgens (C, Wake Forest)
  • R7: Levi Drake Rodriguez (DT, Texas A&M University-Commerce)

General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah claimed in January that the “rebuild” word in his competitive rebuild philosophy could fall from the storefront with a productive offseason, and he appears to be correct, at least per the strategy.

Most believe Minnesota won’t truly contend in 2024, but here’s how the Vikings can be in play for a Super Bowl in 2025. The items are ranked in ascending order of importance (No. 1 = most important aspect to contend for a championship in 2025).

4. Marked Rushing Improvement

Please Step Up
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports.

In 2022, Minnesota’s ground game ranked 27th in the NFL per DVOA. It promised to fix the rushing doldrums in 2023 — and proceeded to finish 27th in DVOA. Again.

Adofo-Mensah signed Green Bay Packers defector Aaron Jones this offseason, who should stabilize the rushing attack if his health stays intact. Jones is scheduled to be around for one year, so Minnesota must also plan for the future at the spot, which could include Ty Chandler.

No matter what, the Vikings’ rushing production must climb to at least the middle of the league per efficiency. If it does not, Kevin O’Connell’s offense will never be fully unlocked. As a playcaller, he doesn’t need to “establish the run” or change his methods; his offense must simply close out games when Minnesota grabs a two-score lead. Rushing the rock is the easiest way to do that. Move the sticks.

3. Acquisition of an Impact Defensive Tackle

Kenny Clark May Want to Be a Minnesota Viking
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Minnesota curiously signed no major defensive tackles in free agency seven weeks ago, even though men like Arik Armstead, D.J. Reader, and Christian Wilkins, among others, were available on the open market.

So, Vikings fans waited for the draft, and then the club failed to select an impact rookie DT. Minnesota needs juice in the middle of the defensive line, a spot long neglected by back-to-back coaching regimes. Next year’s free-agent class won’t have as many DTs on the market, but Adofo-Mensah must explore someone like Kenny Clark or a different veteran to beef up the defensive line’s interior.

2. Defense Emerges as Consistent Top 10 Group

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Brian Flores transformed the purple defense from 24th in DVOA two years ago to 11th-best in 2023. He was the special sauce, almost right away.

Now, the sky must be the limit, with newcomers like Dallas Turner, Jonathan Greenard, Andrew Van Ginkel, Blake Cashman, and Shaquill Griffin. Minnesota’s offense may not be gangbusters in 2024 or 2025 — that’s up to the next guy on this list — but the defense is gradually accumulating the personnel to become formidable.

In 2023, Flores’ defense became the best in the NFL from Week 4 through 14 before strangely dying (and never recovering) in a game at the Cincinnati Bengals. When Flores arrived in Miami five years ago, his defense ranked bottom in the league per EPA/Play in Year No. 1. By the end of his second year, he employed the NFL’s seventh-best defense.

Flores must replicate the improvement he authored in Miami — and hopefully stay with the Vikings in 2025 and beyond.

1. J.J. McCarthy as Good as Dak Prescott or Better

Minnesota Vikings 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.

Minnesota’s shiny new franchise quarterback may not start too many games as a rookie, but he must get his beak wet at some point in 2024. Thereafter, his bar is to progress into a passer as productive and efficient as Dak Prescott. Before McCarthy, Minnesota utilized Kirk Cousins for six years, and he was about one rung on the ladder below Prescott.

It won’t do Minnesota any good to showcase a QB1 worse than Cousins, so McCarthy must be as good as Prescott or better. Couple McCarthy’s emergence — hopefully at the Prescott-or-better level — with an improved rushing attack and a ferocious defense, and O’Connell might be onto something as a Super Bowl contender.

Adofo-Mensah is also slated to hold $70-$80 million in cap space next offseason, which, of course, will help everything on this list.

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, Basset Hounds, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).

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