On to the offseason we go…
With the Minnesota Vikings’ 24-10 loss to the Chicago Bears on Sunday, they will get an unwanted jumpstart on decisions that will shape the 2019 season and beyond.
Those choices span from the coaching staff to every part of the roster. Here are the 10 boxes they will have to check off over the next few months…
After his first two games, it appeared Kevin Stefanski was in line to have the interim tag lifted and become the full-time offensive coordinator, but Sunday’s 10-point performance may give head coach Mike Zimmer pause about naming the former QBs coach his full-time OC. Stefanski is certainly qualified, having been with the organization for 13 years.
Kirk Cousins praised Stefanski following the final game of the season. But both Stefanski and the Vikings may want to explore options. This year was the final year of his contract, allowing the long-tenured assistant to look elsewhere for OC jobs and the Vikings may be in search of someone with more experience as a play caller.
It’s still possible that Barr and the Vikings could come to a long-term contract agreement, but it’s possible that ship sailed when the two sides couldn’t get a deal done last offseason. That means the choice will be between letting him hit the free agent market or franchise tagging him. The problem with franchise tagging a linebacker is middle linebackers and pass-rushing outside linebackers are under the same umbrella. So the Eric Kendricks types are mixed in with the Von Miller types. That means it will likely cost the Vikings in the range of $13 million or more to tag Barr.
The former first-round pick is a favorite if Zimmer’s and had a very strong overall season. But with cap constraints, there will have to be a decision on whether his role is that valuable.
The Vikings couldn’t have asked for much more out of Richardson in 2018. Pro Football Focus ranked him in the top 15 in QB pressures this season and he appeared to nicely compliment Linval Joseph on the inside as a run stuffer. He’s exactly the type of three-technique the Vikings always dreamed Sharrif Floyd could be. However, Richardson will be looking for top dollar.
Per OvertheCap, the top five defensive tackles are making $14 million and up. With Richardson keeping his nose clean and producing in Minnesota, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him attract quite a few potential suitors willing to pay up.
Over the last two years, Waynes has grown from a big question mark to a reliable outside corner. He allowed just two touchdown passes in 2018 and after a tough night in Los Angeles, only had one game in which he allowed more than 40 yards into his coverage.
He is set to play on his fifth-year option next season, which will cost the Vikings $9 million. They could release him for zero dead cap, but that would be surprising considering Mike Hughes will be coming off ACL surgery and Holton Hill will just be in his second year.
They could sign Waynes to an extension that would keep him in Minnesota long term. There are currently 15 corners who make over $10 million per season. It’s likely that would be his target area. Rhodes was signed two offseasons ago and he makes $10.2 million in base salary. It isn’t all superstars making big money as corners like Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan raked in deals worth over $10 million per year on the free agent market.
After this season there’s no question Thielen is among the elite receivers in the NFL, yet he’s only set to make $3.8 million in base salary next year. He can’t go into next season at that dollar amount with the rest of the NFL’s best receivers pulling in five times that figure. There are 13 receivers making $14 million.
The question is whether he would be willing to hold out to get the Vikings to increase his salary and how much they could afford with so many other cap questions. His partner in crimes against corners Stefon Diggs made $14.4 million this year. That would seem like a reasonable mark for the Vikings’ Pro Bowl receiver.
With a healthy scratch in favor of Chad Beebe against the Detroit Lions, it’s easy to wonder whether we will see the 2016 first-round pick back in purple next season. Do the Vikings believe there’s another step to be taken? Or did they give him every opportunity and saw everything there was for him to give? It would cost $2.5 million in dead money to cut him, but his cap hit is going to be $3.1 million, so there would be some small savings. With three seasons under his belt, Treadwell has 55 catches on 84 targets and a 66.8 QB rating when targeted.
It became clear throughout the season as Kirk Cousins targeted Aldrick Robinson more than Treadwell that the Vikings will be in search for more receivers. Last year they brought in Kendall Wright and Tavarres King in the offseason, but neither made the team.
At the top of the restructure list for 2019 is Everson Griffen, who is set to have a cap hit of $11.9 million, but could be released for only $1.2 million in dead cap. Generally that is a formula for a restructure. While he was battling a mental health issue mid-season, it’s hard not notice the drop in production from the last few seasons. Heading into the Week 17 matchup with Chicago, he’d only totaled 25 pressures on the year, down from 66 last season. His rate dropped from one pressure every 8.8 snaps to one every 12.3 snaps. The Vikings likely do not want to move on from their Pro Bowl defensive end, but they also have a chance to create space by restructuring him.
Other cut/restructure possibilities include safety Andrew Sendejo, who may be replaced by Anthony Harris, Kyle Rudolph ($7.6 million cap hit with zero dead money) and Mike Remmers ($1.8 million in dead money to cut).
This will be at the top of the list for most Vikings fans after a year of watching the offensive line struggle to create explosive runs and protect Kirk Cousins. There are a handful of good guards on the market, including Los Angeles’s Roger Saffold, a top-notch player at his position. Seattle JR Sweezy and Pittsburgh’s Ramon Foster will also be highly sought after.
The Vikings have the 18th pick in the draft. Last year they elected to wait until the second round to draft a lineman and got a 2018 starter in Brian O’Neill. He’s likely set in stone at that position, so the best guard available is the heavy, heavy favorite for the team’s first-round pick in 2019.
Working on a limited budget, it could be a challenge to find Cousins more offensive weapons, but it became clear as the season went along that he didn’t have a reliable playmaker through the air beyond Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen and Kyle Rudolph. While Aldrick Robinson hit on a few deep balls, that was his only real role. Against Chicago, it was clear how many players the Bears had who could step in and change the game. Cousins’ best season in Washington came when he had two top WRs and plenty of secondary options.
Trevor Siemian is a free agent. Backup QB is always important, even with Cousins’ good health record. Dan Bailey overall kicked well. He may return in 2019. It’s unlikely we will see Latavius Murray again. Does that mean Mike Boone? Or will they search for a veteran option?