Final Impressions and Random Thoughts on 2024 Vikings

How Crazy Was
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This will be one of the toughest years to predict how the Vikings will fare in the regular season. There are so many new starters—starting with the quarterback and at least five newbies on defense. And a difficult NFC North to navigate. I’ll take my shot at prognosticating the season ahead next week.

Let’s first put a wrap on the Vikings offseason with my random impressions from free agency, the draft, contract drama, OTAs, and minicamp.

Final Impressions and Random Thoughts on 2024 Vikings

1. Free agency was a mixed bag and has resulted in major change: The quarterback transition from Kirk Cousins to Sam Darnold or J.J. McCarthy is a good thing salary-cap-wise but may result in lesser initial production at the position. If McCarthy turns into a Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback over the long haul, then it was worth it to let Cousins depart.

I see Darnold as a short-term place-holder until McCarthy is ready to start, which I predict will be in Week 7 or 9. I thought the Vikings should’ve kept Danielle Hunter, but if the trio of Jonathan Greenard, Andrew Van Ginkel, and Dallas Turner can produce 25 or so sacks (as Hunter and D.J. Wonnum did), then it’s a big win for the organization to move on to younger and less expensive players. As I’ve said, I think Turner is the key with the biggest upside.

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Blake Cashman is an upgrade over Jordan Hicks at inside backer. We’ll see what DT Jerry Tillery and corner Shaquill Griffin bring. I thought it was smart to re-sign a quality guard in Dalton Risner and add tight end Robert Tonyan. Overall, we’ll have to see on free agency 2024. 

2. The Jefferson deal is done—finally—so there will be no training camp holdout drama, except the two first-rounders still have to be signed, but that will surely happen before camp opens in late July. “Jets“ deserved his big payday to become the league’s highest-paid non-QB. And I like how he is embracing a bigger leadership role. Now he has to stay healthy and produce as he did in 2022 when he was Offensive Player of the Year, which may be tougher initially with a new quarterback. 

3. Draft takeaways: I say it’s a potential first-round bonanza with McCarthy and Turner and an interesting bigger corner in the fourth round in Khyree Jackson. But they need to get acclimated quickly and help lead the team to a position of playoff team and Super Bowl contender. 

4. Time for Nailor to step up: Jefferson and Jordan Addison are as good as or possibly better than any WR duo in the league. The Vikings have waited on Jalen Nailor for a couple of years, and it’s time for him to stay healthy and prove he’s worthy of the third receiver role where he can bring his speed to the mix. Brandon Powell or Trent Sherfield would be better as fourth and fifth WRs. 

Sep 14, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Jalen Nailor (83) against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports.

5. The wait for T.J. to hit the field: we’re talking about one of the Vikings’ top three weapons on offense possibly missing the first six weeks of the season if he is on the PUP (physically unable to perform) list early on as he recovers from his ACL injury. The offense needs him back ASAP. I think the signing of Tonyan is a somewhat under-the-radar move that can become an important factor as long as Hockenson is out and perhaps once he returns.

Tonyan has looked good in his early days with the Vikings. Ed Oliver is a great run-blocking tight end who can make plays in the passing game. Johnny Mundt is a good player, too, but Tonyan is a more proven receiving tight end who had 50-plus catches in 2020 and 2022 in Green Bay and has 17 career TD receptions.

6. Vikings dissed by league and networks with their schedule: Obviously, because of uncertainty at quarterback, the league office and the networks didn’t think highly of the Vikings when they gave them only two prime-time national TV dates—on Thursday, October 24, at the Rams (every team gets one Thursday night game) and Monday, December 16, at home against the Bears.

random thoughts
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Vikings-Packers or Vikings-Lions were not deemed worthy unless one of the last two games—home vs. Green Bay or at Detroit—is flexed later on. We’ll see if the 2024 Vikings make them pay as they did when they were one of the NFL’s most exciting teams in 2022. 

7. Back to the QBs—Will there be a QB battle in training camp or is Darnold clearly the starter in New York on September 8? And Mullens is in a bad spot—the Vikings save $1.348 million by cutting him less the $915,000 Hall will cost in his second season, so the team’s net savings is $433,000 by going with Hall, and why wouldn’t they unless Darnold or McCarthy have a serious injury in the preseason? We saw enough of Mullens late last season to know he’s a turnover machine (eight interceptions in four games down the stretch, all losses).

8. The most intriguing players for me to watch in training camp, preseason games, and on into the early regular season are Darnold, McCarthy, Hockenson (his rehab progress), Nailor, Turner, Griffin, Jackson, and second-year corner Mekhi Blackmon, who I think is a better player than his fellow young corners and recent draftees Akayleb Evans and Andrew Booth Jr. 

9. O’Connell says Risner will compete in training camp for both starting guard spots, with Blake Brandel at left guard and Ed Ingram at right guard. This puts pressure on Ingram as a second-round pick in 2022 to become a more consistent player. He’s been a better run blocker than pass protector in his first two seasons. And it makes Brandel earn a starting spot when it appeared to be handed to him before Risner re-signed.

dalton risner
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This competition should help the Vikings’ interior offensive line improve this season. But I still worry about center Garrett Bradbury when he’s matched up against elite nose tackles such as the Giants’ Dexter Lawrence in the opener and Kenny Clark of the Packers. 

9. I may sound like a broken record, but are the Vikings trying to make a free agent run at a very good vet corner in Stephon Gilmore to add more quality depth at a seemingly shaky position? 

10. I think the Vikings will make positive strides on both sides of the ball this season and find a solid new kicker in Will Reichard, but they look like a 2025 playoff team (not 2024) with an exciting young QB in McCarthy at the helm by then. But hey, we were surprised by a 13-win Vikings team in 2022, and every year, teams unexpectedly rise, as was the case with the Houston Texans and C.J. Stroud last year (3-13-1 in 2022 to 10-7 AFC South champs plus a playoff win over Cleveland).  

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11. One thing we know for sure: training camp and preseason games take on extra importance this year with the quarterback situation, so many new starters on both sides of the ball, and a new kicker breaking in. We should see both Darnold and McCarthy for extended periods in the three preseason games, which will actually make these usually lousy games worth watching. It will not be a boring August for the Minnesota Vikings and their fan base. 

Jeff Diamond is a former Vikings GM, former Tennessee Titans President and was selected NFL Executive of the Year after the Vikings’ 15-1 season in 1998. He now works for the NFL agent group IFA based in Minneapolis and does other sports consulting and media work along with college/corporate speaking. Follow him and direct message him on Twitter– @jeffdiamondnfl