Kevin O’Connell’s Old Friend Could Fill Vikings Roster Hole

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Minnesota’s offense is supposed to be the team’s strong suit. Offensive-minded head coach Kevin O’Connell has a plethora of weapons, headlined by star wideout Justin Jefferson and top tight end T.J. Hockenson. Still, the 2023 Vikings ranked 22nd in points scored and 10th in yards gained. After Kirk Cousins’ season-ending injury, the offense couldn’t continue to produce at a similar level.

Kevin O’Connell’s Old Friend Could Fill Vikings Roster Hole

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The veteran quarterback is no longer on the team, and Sam Darnold or J.J. McCarthy will take his place. Former Packers runner Aaron Jones has replaced Alexander Mattison to improve the disastrous rushing attack.

Dalton Risner and K.J. Osborn are two departed players who haven’t been fully replaced. At both spots, the Vikings failed to acquire a serious replacement and put faith into last year’s backups, Blake Brandel and Brandon Powell, to increase their workloads.

The two external signings were veteran depth receiver Trent Sherfield and former third-round guard Dan Feeney. Neither should be more than a backup if the Vikings want to field an explosive offense in 2024.

Someone who could help the receiving group seems to be in his final moments in Los Angeles. The Rams, formerly the employer of Vikings head coach O’Connell, reportedly plan to release their wideout Ben Skowronek.

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Ian Rapoport reported on X: “The Rams are expected to release veteran WR Ben Skowronek, source said. With 12 starts in 3 seasons, Skowronek is a young player with plenty of experience.”

Skowronek was a seventh-round pick in 2021. He spent his final collegiate season at Notre Dame after four campaigns at Northwestern.

In his first season in the NFL, Skowronek appeared in 14 games and caught 11 passes for 133 yards. He even contributed in the Super Bowl with two catches for 12 yards. In 34 career games (12 starts), the 26-year-old has caught 52 passes for 522 yards through three years with the Rams.

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So why would a player with that production be interesting for the Vikings? Well, Skowronek played his rookie season under ex-Rams offensive coordinator O’Connell, and connections like that are significant in the free agency market.

While the Indiana native wouldn’t be replacing Osborn’s production, he could be part of the committee behind the top guys Justin Jefferson and Jordan Addison. Unless the Vikings sign one of the few available receivers with proven production, adding someone with a certain skill set to fit a specific role in the offense is the next best solution.

Skowronek is 6’3″ and 224 lbs and is an excellent blocker. While he doesn’t put up huge numbers, he was a valued piece in Sean McVay’s offense for years. Osborn’s skills as a blocker have always been a factor, and Skowronek could replace him in that area. Interestingly, the receiver played a role as a fullback in Los Angeles. That job is, of course, taken by C.J. Ham. However, having someone who can move around in different spots could be on O’Connell’s wishlist.

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Numerous candidates could emerge in the WR3 role. After years as a return man, Powell showed some promise as a wideout in 2023, especially Joshua Dobbs trusted him. Jalen Nailor had a solid debut season in 2022, but injuries derailed his second campaign. He is talented enough to become the third option on the outside, but he could also be without a job if he can’t stay healthy. Free agent addition Sherfield is, like Skowronek, an excellent blocker and had 417 receiving yards in 2022.

Undrafted free agents Devron Harper, Ty James, and Jeshaun Jones can’t be ruled out, and neither can returning receivers Trishton Jackson, Lucky Jackson, and N’Keal Harry.

Regardless, it wouldn’t be shocking to see the Vikings add Skowronek. He can be a valuable part of the wide receiver rotation.

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