2022 NFL Offseason: Minnesota Vikings

Minnesota Vikings (Last Year: 8-9)

2022 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
WR Albert Wilson, TE Johnny Mundt, OT Jesse Davis, DE Za’Darius Smith, DE Jonathan Bullard, DT Harrison Phillips, LB Jordan Hicks, CB Chandon Sullivan.
Early Draft Picks:
S Lewis Cine, CB Andrew Booth, G Ed Ingram, LB Brian Asamoah, CB Akayleb Evans, DT Esezi Otomewo, RB Ty Chandler. Vikings Rookie Forecast
Offseason Losses:
WR Chad Beebe, TE Tyler Conklin, C Mason Cole, DE Everson Griffen, DT Sheldon Richardson, LB Anthony Barr, CB Mackensie Alexander, S Xavier Woods.

2022 Minnesota Vikings Offense:
The Vikings were reportedly planning to draft Justin Fields had he fallen to them in the 2021 NFL Draft, so the old front office obviously wasn’t thrilled with Kirk Cousins’ performance. Cousins threw for 4,221 yards, 33 touchdowns and only seven interceptions last year, but posting pretty stats is nothing new for Cousins, who tends to fold in big moments. He’s not a bad quarterback by any means, but he’s a slightly above-average passer who is grossly overpaid. The Vikings must realize by now that they won’t make a deep run into the playoffs with Cousins’ mediocrity and big contract restricting them. However, with no alternatives, the Vikings gave Cousins yet another $35 million.

Cousins cannot complain about his supporting cast; it’s why he routinely posts monstrous numbers in the first place. Justin Jefferson, who is only 23, has emerged as one of the best receivers in the NFL. He had a great rookie year and was even better in his sophomore campaign, catching 108 passes for 1,616 yards and 10 touchdowns. He should continue to improve, though that can’t be said of Adam Thielen, who is on the decline. Though he’s still a good receiver, Thielen turns 32 in August. He had some big games in 2022, but ended up accumulating only 726 yards in 13 games. His 10 touchdowns helped his fantasy owners, but it’s clear that Thielen is not the same receiver he once was. If he continues to decline, promising third receiver K.J. Osborn could step up after a nice second year in which he caught 50 passes for 655 yards and seven touchdowns. There’s also tight end Irv Smith Jr., who missed all of 2021 with a torn meniscus.

Of course, Dalvin Cook will continue to be a huge part of the offense, both as a runner and a receiver out of the backfield. Cook is a great talent, but his one weakness is his health. He has never played a full season, including 2021 when he missed four games. Fortunately for the Vikings, they have one of the better No. 2 running backs in the NFL, Alexander Mattison, who can handle the workload when Cook gets hurt.

As for the offensive line, it’s been the primary weakness of the Minnesota offense for quite some time. This was the case to start the 2021 season, but things improved once rookie Christian Darrisaw returned from injury. Darrisaw played well in his first season, and he has good upside as an athletic blocker, so he should improve in 2022. He’ll be playing next to Ezra Cleveland, who has been a decent run blocker in his young career. The former second-round pick needs to work on his pass protection abilities.

Right tackle is also a strength with Brian O’Neill, but there are questions at the other two positions. Center Garrett Bradbury has struggled despite being a former first-round pick, while the right guard position could be manned by rookie Ed Ingram. The LSU product has promise as a second-round pick, but he obviously has no experience.

2022 Minnesota Vikings Defense:
Kirk Cousins’ albatross of a contract forced the Vikings to allow some talented players to walk in free agency. They lost four starters this offseason, but they were able to compensate for this by making a big splash on the open market, signing Za’Darius Smith to a $42 million contract. Smith is a high-risk, high-reward player. If healthy, he and perennial All-Pro Danielle Hunter will form one of the top edge-rushing duos in the NFL. Smith logged 26 total sacks in 2019 and 2020, but played just one game last year. Smith had a back problem, which could persist. If it does, it’s fair to wonder where the Vikings will get pressure on the quarterback outside of Hunter.

The Vikings will get a bit of a pass rush from Dalvin Tomlinson, who does everything very well. Tomlinson is a talented player in the interior and should continue to play well. That’s it for the pass rush though, as Harrison Phillips has produced 1.5 sacks in four years. He’s a monstrous run stuffer, so he’ll contribute in that regard.

As for the remainder of the front seven, the linebackers are mixed, with Eric Kendricks and Jordan Hicks being the projected starters. Kendricks is one of the best non-pass-rushing linebackers in the NFL, while Hicks hasn’t played well in years. He might just be a stopgap until third-round rookie Brian Asamoah is ready to step into the lineup.

The Vikings had huge concerns with their secondary entering the offseason, which is why they spent first- and second-round picks addressing this area. The opening-round choice was used on Lewis Cine, who will fill a void at safety, vacated by the departed Xavier Woods. Cine is projected to be a solid pro, and he’ll start next to Harrison Smith, who continues to be one of the top safeties in the NFL.

Minnesota spent the second-round choice on Andrew Booth, who was projected to be a first-round pick by some. He slipped into Day 2 because of medical issues. That must be discouraging for the Vikings, given that they also have health concerns with Za’Darius Smith. They’ll need Booth to pan out because the other starter is 32-year-old Patrick Peterson, who is not a good player anymore. There’s no hope with slot corner Chandon Sullivan either. Perhaps 2020 third-rounder Cameron Dantzler can be more consistent. If not, there’s the potential for fourth-round rookie Akayleb Evans to beat expectations.

2022 Minnesota Vikings Schedule and Intangibles:
The Vikings have endured kicking issues for years. Greg Joseph, despite his missed potential game-winner versus Arizona in Week 2, was solid last season. He went 33-of-38, including 7-of-9 from 50-plus.

Jordan Berry was ranked in the middle of the pack in terms of net punting average.

The Vikings surrendered a touchdown on special teams, but they scored two of their own.

Minnesota has a fairly easy schedule. Outside of games against the Packers (twice) and Bills, there aren’t any overly difficult games on the slate.

2022 Minnesota Vikings Rookies:
Go here for the Vikings Rookie Forecast, a page with predictions like which rookie will bust and which rookie will become a solid starter.

2022 Minnesota Vikings Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
Offensive Line
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams

2022 Minnesota Vikings Analysis: The Vikings will once again likely endure a mediocre season. It’s possible they could reach the playoffs, but they have plenty of questions and injury concerns that will make it difficult for them to reach their full potential. It seems like another seven- or eight-win season is in the cards.

Projection: 8-9 (3rd in NFC North)

2021 Projection: 8-9. 2021 Actual Result: 8-9.
2020 Projection: 9-7. 2020 Actual Result: 7-9.
2019 Projection: 7-9. 2019 Actual Result: 10-6.
2018 Projection: 9-7. 2018 Actual Result: 8-7-1.
2017 Projection: 8-8. 2017 Actual Result: 13-3.
2016 Projection: 11-5. 2016 Actual Result: 8-8.

NFL Draft Team Grade: C+ Grade

Goals Entering the 2022 NFL Draft: The Vikings have just two picks between Nos. 12 and 156, so they’ll likely want to trade down. Thanks to Kirk Cousins’ albatross of a contract, the Vikings have several big needs, including cornerback, guard, linebacker and the interior defensive line.

2022 NFL Draft Accomplishments: Someone needs to tell the Vikings’ new front office that it’s a bad idea to give talented players to other teams in the division. This happened not once, but twice, as Minnesota dealt with both Detroit and Green Bay, gift wrapping Jameson Williams and Christian Watson to them, respectively.

I don’t need to tell you that this will be a total disaster if both receivers live up to their potential. Making matters worse, the Vikings may not have the personnel to cover them, though Andrew Booth helps. Booth was a terrific pick in the middle of the second round, given that he was projected to be chosen in the opening frame. Lewis Cine, obtained at the end of Thursday night, was a very good pick as well.

In fact, I liked most of Minnesota’s picks, giving only two of them a grade lower than a “B.” The best of the non-defensive back picks was Ed Ingram, who will provide some much needed blocking for Kirk Cousins and Dalvin Cook. He, Booth and Cine are a nice trio, and the Vikings got a great haul overall, thanks to their willingness to trade down. However, they didn’t get full value in the deal with the Lions, and both Williams and Watson could easily come back to haunt them for many years. I have to punish the Vikings for this reason.

NFL Draft Individual Grades:

32. Lewis Cine, S, Georgia – B+ Grade
I absolutely hated the Vikings’ trade with the Lions. This selection, however, is much better. Minnesota easily could’ve drafted Kyle Hamilton at No. 12. They needed a safety, so they’ll settle for Lewis Cine, who definitely fits the range at the end of the first round.

42. Andrew Booth, CB, Clemson – A Grade
The Vikings needed someone to cover all the talented receivers they gave to their divisional foes. Andrew Booth is whom I mocked to Minnesota at No. 34 in my re-draft, so I love this value. Booth could’ve gone at No. 25, so this is a stellar pick.

59. Ed Ingram, G, LSU – A- Grade
I mocked Ed Ingram to the Vikings at No. 46, so I like this pick. Ingram is a tough run blocker with good athleticism. He’ll fill a big need for Minnesota’s miserable offensive line. Kirk Cousins’ pass protection absolutely had to improve, and Ingram will make that happen.

66. Brian Asamoah, LB, Oklahoma – C- Grade
The Vikings aren’t having the best draft. Brian Asamoah is a bit of a reach here, as he was projected to go late third at the very earliest. He’s an athletic player, and he fills a need, but the Vikings could have moved down and gotten him or taken someone better.

118. Akayleb Evans, CB, Missouri – B Grade
There’s good cornerback value here in the fourth round, so I don’t think the Vikings needed to trade up necessarily. They surrendered a 2023 fourth-rounder to get Akayleb Evans, so that’ll weigh down this grade. I like Evans though, as he’s a tall corner with good athleticism, and we know the Vikings need corners.

165. Esezi Otomewo, DE/DT, Minnesota – B- Grade
The Vikings are familiar with this local player, who will be a fine depth fit in the team’s new 3-4 defense. I never slotted Esezi Otomewo into any of my mock drafts, but he was always in consideration in the late rounds.

169. Ty Chandler, RB, North Carolina – C- Grade
This pick neither fills a need or provides value. Ty Chandler is a late-round/UDFA guy, and the Vikings have a log jam at running back. Chandler can catch passes out of the backfield well, but I can’t see him contributing anytime soon.

184. Vederian Lowe, OT, Illinois – B Grade
Offensive line depth is always welcome, and Vederian Lowe brings tons of starting experience with him. He has a decent chance of making the roster. I thought he would go around this range, maybe a bit later.

191. Jalen Nailor, WR, Michigan State – B Grade
Jalen Nailor missed some action last year, but he was projected to go in this range, so that didn’t cost him his draft position. The Vikings needed receiving depth with Adam Thielen turning 32, so this is a solid choice.

227. Nick Muse, TE, South Carolina – B Grade
I slotted Nick Muse at No. 223 in the final mock, so this range is perfect for him. The Vikings lost Tyler Conklin this offseason, so they needed to address their depth at tight end.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

Season Summary:
It was another mediocre year for the Vikings. This was not a surprise, as Minnesota’s cap situation is a disaster as a result of Kirk Cousins’ contract. It’ll be extremely difficult for the Vikings to be a consistent playoff team as long as Cousins is at the helm.

Offseason Moves:
  • Vikings sign G Chris Reed
  • Vikings sign OT Jesse Davis
  • Vikings sign CB Chandon Sullivan
  • Vikings sign DE Za’Darius Smith
  • Vikings sign TE Johnny Mundt
  • Vikings sign LB Jordan Hicks
  • Vikings sign DT Harrison Phillips

    Team Needs:
    1. Quarterback: Kirk Cousins is a decent quarterback, but he’s not elite. This is significant because he’s being paid like one, which is ruining the roster. The Vikings need to do something about this.

    2. Cornerback: This position has been a big issue for the Vikings in recent years. Luckily for them, the 2022 NFL Draft class has plenty of talented cornerbacks. Signed Chandon Sullivan

    3. Two Defensive Ends: Minnesota’s pass rush needs some major help. Danielle Hunter is a stud, but he’s all the Vikings have at the position with Everson Griffen gone. Signed Za’Darius Smith

    4. Guard: The Vikings have a weak interior offensive line that sorely needs an injection of talent at one of the guard spots. Signed Chris Reed

    5. Defensive Tackle: The Vikings also could stand to add another defensive lineman to bolster the interior. Signed Harrison Phillips

    6. Linebacker: Anthony Barr is an impending free agent, so he’ll need to be replaced or re-signed. Signed Jordan Hicks

    7. Punter: Jordan Berry is set to hit free agency, but the Vikings needed an upgrade anyway. Re-signed Jordan Berry

      Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    2022 NFL Free Agent Signings:
    1. Za’Darius Smith, DE/OLB, Packers. Age: 29.
      Signed with Vikings (3 years, $42 million)

      Za’Darius Smith is one of the top edge rushers in the NFL when healthy. He missed all of 2021, but he should be back this upcoming season. He recorded 25 sacks in the two years prior to 2021, but was cut because of his massive cap figure.

    2. Harrison Phillips, DT, Bills. Age: 26.
      Signed with Vikings (3 years, $19.5 million)

      Harrison Phillips has just 1.5 career sacks, but he’s a stout run defender. He’s also 26 and a couple of years removed from an ACL tear, so perhaps he’ll improve next season.

    3. Jordan Hicks, LB, Cardinals. Age: 30. — Signed with Vikings (2 years, $10 million)
    4. Chandon Sullivan, CB, Packers. Age: 26. — Signed with Vikings
    5. Jesse Davis, OT, Dolphins. Age: 30. — Signed with Vikings
    6. Jonathan Bullard, DE, Falcons. Age: 28. — Signed with Vikings
    7. Chris Reed, G, Colts. Age: 30. — Signed with Vikings
    8. Johnny Mundt, TE, Rams. Age: 27. — Signed with Vikings

    Minnesota Vikings Free Agents:

    Salary Cap: TBA.
    1. Anthony Barr, OLB, Vikings. Age: 30.
      Signed with Cowboys

      Anthony Barr is a well-rounded linebacker who excels at stopping the run. He turns 30 this offseason.

    2. Xavier Woods, S, Vikings. Age: 27.
      Signed with Panthers (3 years, $15.75 million)

      Xavier Woods isn’t great in coverage, but he’s a great tackler and run-supporting safety.

    3. Patrick Peterson, CB, Vikings. Age: 32.
      Patrick Peterson rebounded from a dreadful 2020 campaign with Arizona and did fairly well this past season. However, he’s not close to the same player he used to be.

    4. Sheldon Richardson, DT, Vikings. Age: 31.
      Sheldon Richardson is a quality defensive tackle with no weaknesses, but he is not the same interior force he once was.

    5. Tyler Conklin, TE, Vikings. Age: 27.
      Signed with Jets (3 years, $21 million)

      Tyler Conklin did a great job filling in for Irv Smith Jr., catching 61 passes for 593 yards and three touchdowns.

    6. Everson Griffen, DE, Vikings. Age: 34.
    7. Mason Cole, C/G, Vikings. Age: 26. — Signed with Steelers (3 years)
    8. Chad Beebe, WR, Vikings. Age: 28. — Signed with Texans
    9. Mackensie Alexander, CB, Vikings. Age: 28.
    10. Dede Westbrook, WR, Vikings. Age: 28.
    11. Nick Vigil, LB, Vikings. Age: 29. — Signed with Cardinals
    12. Jordan Berry, P, Vikings. Age: 31. — Re-signed with Vikings
    13. Wayne Gallman, RB, Vikings. Age: 27.
    14. Rashod Hill, OT, Vikings. Age: 30. — Signed with Redskins
    15. Sean Mannion, QB, Vikings. Age: 30. — Re-signed with Vikings (1 year)
    16. Luke Stocker, TE, Vikings. Age: 34.
    17. Dakota Dozier, G, Vikings. Age: 31. — Signed with Bears

    NFL Free Agent Tracker:
    QB | RB | FB | WR | TE | OT | G | C | DE | DT | OLB | ILB | CB | S | K/P | FA Grades | FA Rumors

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