2023 NFL Offseason: Minnesota Vikings

Minnesota Vikings (Last Year: 13-4)

2023 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
WR Brandon Powell, TE Josh Oliver, DE Marcus Davenport, DE/DT Dean Lowry, LB Troy Reader, CB Byron Murphy, CB Joejuan Williams.
Early Draft Picks:
WR Jordan Addison, CB Mekhi Blackmon, S Jay Ward, DT Jaquelin Roy, QB Jaren Hall. Vikings Rookie Forecast
Offseason Losses:
RB Dalvin Cook, WR Adam Thielen, TE Irv Smith Jr., DT Dalvin Tomlinson, LB Eric Kendricks, CB Patrick Peterson, CB Cameron Dantzler, CB Duke Shelley, CB Chandon Sullivan.

2023 Minnesota Vikings Offense:
Kirk Cousins often gets lots of flak for not winning big games, but he can’t be blamed for the team’s first-round exit last year. Cousins led the Vikings to 25 points per game, and he scored 24 versus the Giants in the postseason loss. Cousins had a great year overall, throwing for 4,547 yards, 29 touchdowns and 14 interceptions on a 65.9-percent completion rate.

Cousins had a tremendous supporting cast last year, and that will continue to be the case. Justin Jefferson is arguably the best receiver in the NFL despite being just 24 years old. Jefferson just logged 128 catches for 1,809 yards. He’ll start across from first-round rookie Jordan Addison, who was drafted to replace the rapidly declining Adam Thielen. With Addison on the roster, K.J. Osborn will serve as a fine third receiver. There’s also tight end T.J. Hockenson, who had some dominating performances after joining the Vikings via trade during the middle of this past season.

The Vikings also have some talent next to Cousins in the backfield. Dalvin Cook was the subject of trade rumors before being released. However, the Vikings have a quality replacement in Alexander Mattison, though depth will be lacking. Mattison has shown off his talent on the rare occasions in which he was given a chance to start in Minnesota. He’ll also have fresh legs, and he doesn’t have Cook’s checkered injury history.

Both Mattison and Cousins will benefit from the outstanding blocking that Minnesota’s offensive line often provides. The Vikings have a prolific tandem of tackles. Christian Darrisaw has emerged as one of the best blind-side protectors in the NFL, while Brian O’Neill has been considered an excellent right tackle for quite some time.

The interior of Minnesota’s offensive line isn’t as strong, but it has some talent. Garrett Bradbury struggled early in his career, but he has become a quality center recently. Former second-round pick Ezra Cleveland has also made some strides, becoming a solid guard. Right guard Ed Ingram had a rough rookie campaign, but he’s a talented player who should improve entering his second season.

2023 Minnesota Vikings Defense:
If Kirk Cousins wasn’t at fault for the Vikings’ first-round exit, then who was? The defense was the obvious culprit, as the unit couldn’t stop a Giants offense whose top receivers were Darius Slayton, Isaiah Hodgins, and Richie James. This didn’t come out of the blue, as the Vikings surrendered 25.4 points per game in 2023. That’s right – Minnesota had a negative point differential despite its 13-4 record.

The weak point of Minnesota’s defense was the secondary, particularly the cornerbacks. The Vikings made a nice signing to address this area by bringing in Byron Murphy. However, the Vikings also lost Patrick Peterson this offseason, so that should be considered a wash for the short term. The only other cornerback of note that Minnesota acquired was Mekhi Blackmon, who was chosen in the third round of the 2023 NFL Draft. Blackmon is one of a few young cornerbacks who will be competing for playing time. Andrew Booth and Akayleb Evans, chosen in the second and fourth rounds of the 2022 NFL Draft, respectively, are the current favorites to start on the outside, while Murphy plays in the slot. Neither Booth nor Evans performed well last year, but both corners don’t have much experience either.

The best player in Minnesota’s secondary should continue to be Harrison Smith, but there are age issues with the long-time Viking safety. Smith turned 34 this offseason, and while he’s still a very good player, he’s not the same talent he once was. Smith will start next to Camryn Bynum, who struggled last year after looking much better during his rookie campaign in 2021.

A strong pass rush would help Minnesota’s lackluster secondary. The team was 10th-worst in pressure rate last year, and there’s reason to believe that it could be worse in that department this upcoming season. This is because of two departures on the defensive line. Za’Darius Smith was traded to the Browns, so the starting defensive ends will be Danielle Hunter and Marcus Davenport, assuming the former isn’t traded. Hunter is a great player, so perhaps Davenport will benefit from the attention he’ll draw from the opposition. Davenport will be looking to bounce back from an underwhelming season that he had with the Saints.

Dalvin Tomlinson is the other defensive lineman who has departed. The Vikings at least had a replacement for Smith in Davenport. As for the void Tomlinson has caused, the new defensive tackle rotation figures to be comprised of Harrison Phillips, Khyiris Tonga, Esezi Otomewo, and Dean Lowry. None of these players are very good, though Tonga and Otomewo are young. Phillips is not a liability, but he’s just a mediocre option.

The Vikings also lost someone who used to be a key member of their linebacking corps, as Eric Kendricks signed with the Chargers. Kendricks was once a great player, but he struggled this past season, likely due to age-related regression. With Kendricks gone, the top primary linebackers are Brian Asamoah and Jordan Hicks. Asamoah was a third-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. He saw a bit of action late in the year. Hicks, conversely, is a veteran who hasn’t performed well in several seasons.

2023 Minnesota Vikings Schedule and Intangibles:
Minnesota’s home-field advantage has been tremendous during the past decade; the team is 62-29 as a host since 2012.

The Vikings have endured kicking issues for years. Greg Joseph continued the tradition of letting down the fan base, as he was 26-of-33 last year with six missed extra points. He was 4-of-10 from 50-plus.

Ryan Wright did a great job of punting last year, ranking seventh in net average. He did a great job of pinning the opposition inside the 20.

The Vikings have a mixed schedule. On one hand, they get to battle the NFC South and the Raiders. On the other hand, they must go up against the Eagles, Bengals, Chiefs, 49ers, and Chargers.

2023 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.

2023 Minnesota Vikings Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
Offensive Line
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams

2023 Minnesota Vikings Analysis: The Vikings were the luckiest team in the NFL last year, accumulating bizarre wins on their way to a 13-4 record despite having a negative point differential. It’s likely that they’ll regress to the mean, though there’s still a chance they will make the playoffs. They reside in a weak conference and still maintain an explosive offense, so they shouldn’t be ignored as a potential threat come January.

Projection: 9-8 (2nd in NFC North)

2022 Projection: 8-9. 2022 Actual Result: 13-4.
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: B+ Grade

Goals Entering the 2023 NFL Draft: Minnesota’s front office must focus on upgrading receiver, linebacker, and cornerback. The rest of the roster has loads of talent, but these three areas are hurting in the wake of recent departures. Also, the Vikings must refrain from making trades after last year’s debacle.

2023 NFL Draft Accomplishments: The Vikings really needed receiving help, so I imagine the front office was hoping someone like Jordan Addison would fall to them. That ended up happening, as Addison was the fourth consecutive receiver off the board. Addison could easily be the best of the group, so you have to like the value Minnesota obtained at No. 23.

Minnesota lacked resources after that, so it wisely traded down in the third round to acquire more assets. Despite doing so, the Vikings were still able to obtain a great value with the final selection of the second day in Mekhi Blackmon, who will fill a big need at cornerback. The Vikings also made some solid choices on Day 3, including Jay Ward to help at safety, and Jaren Hall, who might be able to develop as the quarterback of the future.

The Vikings had a quality draft overall. They did a good job of acquiring resources and filling needs. Of their six picks, only one scored higher than a B+, but they also had only one grade worse than a “B.”

NFL Draft Individual Grades:

23. Jordan Addison, WR, USC – A Grade
No one is going to question this need. If Justin Jefferson goes down this year, Minnesota’s No. 1 receiver would be K.J. Osborn. Jordan Addison is a gifted receiver who easily could have gone several picks earlier than this. I love this pick.

102. Mekhi Blackmon, CB, USC – B+ Grade
The Vikings really needed a cornerback, and Mekhi Blackmon is very talented. He’s small, but very speedy. He had a great Senior Bowl to push himself up draft boards. I like him at the end of the third round.

134. Jay Ward, S, LSU – B Grade
The Vikings have a poor secondary, so they needed to add numerous defensive backs to help their woeful pass defense. Jay Ward moved from cornerback to safety at LSU, which proved to be a smooth transition. He’s a sound tackler, and I think he should have gone in this range.

141. Jaquelin Roy, DT, LSU – C Grade
I don’t think the Vikings needed to trade up for Jaquelin Roy. They at least had to find a replacement for Dalvin Tomlinson, and Roy has potential as an athletic player. However, he’s a raw player who needs to get stronger.

164. Jaren Hall, QB, BYU – B+ Grade
Kirk Cousins is entering the final year of his contract, so the Vikings had to find a quarterback to groom as a potential successor. We’ll have to see if Hall can develop, but he at least has plus mobility. His arm is fine as well.

222. DeWayne McBride, RB, UAB – B Grade
There’s talk that Dalvin Cook could be traded, so DeWayne McBride might be the No. 2 running back of the future. McBride is a power back, but he lacks speed and agility. Still, he’s a fine pick in the seventh round.

Season Summary:
The Vikings were extremely lucky during the regular season last year, inexplicably winning close games against bad teams every week. Their great fortune was bound to expire, and this is exactly what occurred in the opening round in the playoffs.

Offseason Moves:
  • Vikings sign LB Troy Reeder
  • Vikings sign WR Brandon Powell
  • Vikings sign DE/DT Dean Lowry
  • Vikings sign CB Byron Murphy
  • Vikings sign DE Marcus Davenport
  • Vikings waive CB Cameron Dantzler
  • Vikings sign TE Josh Oliver

    Team Needs:
    1. Three Cornerbacks: Yes, three cornerbacks. Minnesota’s secondary was a disaster last year. Patrick Peterson was the only player at the position who performed on a high level all year, yet he’s set to enter free agency. Signed Byron Murphy

    2. Two Defensive Tackles: Dalvin Tomlinson is an impending free agent, yet the Vikings already needed an upgrade at the position. Two new defensive tackles will be needed if Tomlinson leaves. Signed Dean Lowry

    3. Safety: Another spot in the secondary must be addressed. A new safety is needed next to Harrison Smith.

    4. Two Linebackers: Jordan Hicks struggled to cover, so the Vikings will have to look into a better linebacker to play with the defender replacing Eric Kendricks. Signed Troy Reeder

    5. Wide Receiver: Adam Thielen is slowing down, so Minnesota may want to find a cheaper replacement. Signed Brandon Powell

    6. Young Quarterback: The Vikings may want to find a young quarterback to groom behind Kirk Cousins, who turns 35 this offseason.

      Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    2023 NFL Free Agent Signings:
    1. Byron Murphy, CB, Cardinals. Age: 25.
      Signed with Vikings (2 years, $22 million)

      Byron Murphy is a talented cornerback who somehow is only 25. He missed eight games last year, but missed just two other contests in his career.

    2. Marcus Davenport, DE, Saints. Age: 26.
      Signed with Vikings

      Marcus Davenport logged nine sacks in 2021, but had just half of a sack this past year. Davenport played much better than that number indicates, however.

    3. Josh Oliver, TE, Ravens. Age: 26.
      Signed with Vikings (3 years, $21 million)

      Josh Oliver has been buried on the depth chart, but he’s an excellent blocker and can be a decent receiver. At just 26, Oliver has plenty of upside.

    4. Dean Lowry, DE/DT, Packers. Age: 29. — Signed with Vikings (2 years, $8.5 million)
    5. Brandon Powell, WR, Rams. Age: 28. — Signed with Vikings
    6. Troy Reeder, LB, Chargers. Age: 28. — Signed with Vikings

    Minnesota Vikings Free Agents:

    Salary Cap: TBA.
    1. Dalvin Tomlinson, DT, Vikings. Age: 29.
      Signed with Browns (4 years, $57 million)

      Dalvin Tomlinson is a stellar defensive tackle who can generate great pressure and also play the run very well.

    2. Alexander Mattison, RB, Vikings. Age: 25.
      Re-signed with Vikings (2 years, $7 million)

      Alexander Mattison has been trapped behind Dalvin Cook his entire career. He’s talented enough to be a three-down starter on another team.

    3. Patrick Peterson, CB, Vikings. Age: 33.
      Signed with Steelers (2 years)

      Patrick Peterson had some poor moments in recent years, but he did very well to bounce back last season. Peterson was great, but there’s a good chance he could regress now that he’s 33.

    4. Garrett Bradbury, C, Vikings. Age: 28.
      Re-signed with Vikings (3 years, $15.75 million)

      Garrett Bradbury had a very rough start to his career, but he finally lived up to his first-round billing last year. He was sorely missed toward the end of the season when he was injured.

    5. Eric Kendricks, LB, Vikings. Age: 31.
      Signed with Chargers

      Eric Kendricks was once one of the better linebackers in the NFL, but he looked terribly lost in coverage last year. He still played very well against the run, however.

    6. Irv Smith Jr., TE, Vikings. Age: 25.
      Signed with Bengals

      The Vikings traded for T.J. Hockenson because Irv Smith Jr. couldn’t stay healthy. Smith is a physically gifted player who could eventually live up to his potential if he can remain healthy.

    7. Duke Shelley, CB, Vikings. Age: 26.
      Signed with Raiders

      Minnesota found something in Duke Shelley late in the year. He’s young, but undersized, so it remains to be seen if he can continue his solid play.

    8. Adam Thielen, WR, Vikings. Age: 33.
      Signed with Panthers

      Adam Thielen has been a shell of his former self, so it’s not a surprise if the Vikings cut him.

    9. Chandon Sullivan, CB, Vikings. Age: 27.
    10. Jonathan Bullard, DT, Vikings. Age: 29. — Re-signed with Vikings
    11. Oli Udoh, OT, Vikings. Age: 26. — Re-signed with Vikings (4 years)
    12. Olabisi Johnson, WR, Vikings. Age: 26.
    13. Kris Boyd, CB, Vikings. Age: 26.
    14. Austin Schlottman, C, Vikings. Age: 27. — Re-signed with Vikings

    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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