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The future of the Vikings: The complete series

As the Minnesota Vikings head into a vital offseason, we will look at each position under a microscope. What worked? What didn’t work? What might change in 2019? What are the best and worst case scenarios? What options do they have going forward? Read the entire series below or click the links for a specific position group….

Quarterbacks

Running backs 

Wide receivers 

Tight ends

Offensive line

Defensive line

Linebackers

Cornerbacks

Safeties


QUARTERBACKS

Kirk Cousins

What worked

Two areas of the Vikings’ passing game were strong: Play-action and deep passing. When using play-action, Cousins posted a 111.3 rating (10th best in the NFL with QBs who had at least eight games) and averaged 8.6 yards per attempt, according to Pro Football Focus.

Cousins had the ninth best passer rating on throws traveling more than 15 yards (106.8). His accuracy percentage was closer to the middle of the pack at 14th.

While the Vikings’ QB was fifth in percentage of drop backs under pressure, he managed to perform admirably at times with rushers in his face, posting the seventh best QB rating under pressure by PFF’s metrics. Cousins led the NFL in accuracy percentage under pressure. He ranked 13th in rating with a clean pocket.

Cousins also had the third best QB rating on third downs with less than five yards to go.

What didn’t work

Of course, the turnovers. Cousins’ fumbles and pick-sixes gave opponents 35 free points in 2018. He came into the year as the NFL leader in fumbles since 2015 and the trend continued. Likewise Cousins continued his streak of double-digit INT seasons.

In one-score games in the second half, Cousins ranked 17th in quarterback rating (85.0) just ahead — coincidentally — of Case Keenum. Averaging just 6.3 yards per attempt put Cousins at 21st in the NFL in those situations. The Vikings had the fifth worst offense in yards per play in one-score games in the third and fourth quarter. Cousins also won one game against a team that finished the year with a winning record.

The Vikings did not use enough play-action, dialing it up on 19.9 percent of passes, (26th among QBs with eight games). Lack of pass protection and a hesitancy to force the ball to Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen may have kept the percentage of deep passes down. Cousins ranked 25th in percentage of throws traveling over 15 yards. Overall the Vikings’ passing game ranked dead last in yards per completion.

Cousins ranked 25th in yards per attempt on third-and-long (with at least 50 passes on third-and-long)

While his offensive line struggled, the rate at which Cousins was under pressure wasn’t massively different than during his time in D.C. He was pressured on 38.9 percent of drop backs in 2018 and 35.6 percent, 32.0 percent and 36.6 percent in his three previous years as a full-time starter. Ranking 21st among QBs with at least eight games in snap-to-release time (per PFF) may have played a role in the high pressure rate.

The Vikings were also 21st in red zone touchdown percentage.

What might change in 2019?

There’s no doubt new offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski and offensive assistant Gary Kubiak will be increasing the amount of play-action passing and the front office will make it a goal to improve his offensive line. If the Vikings add a No. 3 receiver and receiving tight end to the mix, Cousins will have a better chance at succeeding on third-and-long when opposing teams double Diggs and Thielen.

Another goal will be improving the running game and getting Cousins more third-and-short situations where he excels. Running in the red zone may take away pressure from the QB to make throws into tight spaces.

Stefanski and Kubiak — with the addition of a new offensive line coach — could be more creative in pass blocking schemes than the team was in 2018.

Best case scenario for 2019

The new scheme along with an improved running game and more weapons on the offensive side helps Cousins become a more efficient quarterback. His ceiling — the 2016 season — will be difficult to reach without an elite offensive line, but cracking the top 10 in key passing categories like Expected Points Added (22nd in 2018) and Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt (14th) would make the Vikings a much more dangerous offense. With a top defense, that would put the Vikings in the hunt as a top NFC team.

Worst case scenario for 2019

The offseason changes make only a marginal impact and opposing teams — especially those within the division — have an idea of how to exploit Cousins’ shortcomings. That would cause the Vikings to still come up short in big games and late situations, putting them in the hunt for a wild card again at best. Even worse if they allow defensive talk to walk in favor of skill players, that marginal improvement could be evened out by worse defense.

Trevor Siemian 

The Vikings’ backup quarterback is an unrestricted free agent. A former Kubiak QB, he might be re-signed to continue to back up Cousins. Over two years as a starter, he went 13-11 with 30 touchdowns, 24 interceptions and 6.8 yards per attempt.

Kyle Sloter

Sloter has shown flashes of brilliance in both of his career preseasons. Last year in four games, he completed 73.2 percent of his passes and finished with a 114.4 rating. The Vikings have liked him enough to keep him on the roster, which could point to the former college receiver being Cousins’ backup.

Options

The free agent pool has some great backup options, including Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tyrod Taylor, Josh McCown and Brock Osweiler. All of them could be trusted to go .500 in a stretch of a few games in the case of a Cousins injury.

There’s the bigger option of a QB in the draft. The Vikings could pull a Brett Favre/Aaron Rodgers type move by selecting Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray if he slides in the first round and plan for life without Cousins in 2021 or draft a project quarterback like University of Buffalo’s 6-foot-7, rocket-armed Tyree Jackson.


RUNNING BACKS

Dalvin Cook

What worked

Despite struggles on the offensive line, Cook made the most of his opportunities. He gained 4.6 yards per carry on 133 rushes and caught 40 passes on 49 targets at 7.6 yards per reception. Cook ranked fourth in the NFL in Pro Football Focus’s Elusive Rating (among RBs over 100 carries), which uses broken tackles and yards after contact in attempt to separate the runner from his blocking. Cook also graded as the third best pass blocking running back in the NFL.

Head coach Mike Zimmer wanted to see Cook more often on first down for good reason. He averaged 5.0 yards per rush on first down and was tremendously successful running out of the shotgun, gaining 6.4 yards per carry on 39 runs.

The former Florida State star saw an increase in workload after Kevin Stefanski took over as offensive coordinator, gaining 248 yards in three games at 5.4 yards per carry.

What didn’t work

The Vikings’ 2017 second-round pick  suffered a hamstring injury that kept him out for most of a six-week span between Week 2 and Week 9. When he was healthy, Cook was vastly underutilized at times. Before Stefanski was handed play calling duties, he only cleared 15 carries once and was rarely given chances to make an impact in the passing game.

His biggest games in terms of catches came against New England and Seattle, but he only gained 50 yards on 13 catches in those two contests. He was targeted zero times on throws that traveled over 10 yards through the air.

Cook was ineffective in the red zone, gaining a first down or touchdown on just three of 16 carries inside the 20. His success also dropped off significantly in the fourth quarter, picking up just 58 yards on 23 carries in the final quarter.

What might change in 2019?

Lots.

With the addition of Gary Kubiak as an offensive advisor, you can bet the Vikings will be running an outside zone system, which Pat Shurmur favored for Cook in 2017 and Stefanski used effectively over the final three games. Cook has outstanding patience and vision, which fits perfectly with running to the outside and finding cutback lanes. The sheer number of touches by the Vikings’ No. 1 back is likely to jump exponentially. The top running backs in the league like Ezekiel Elliott, Todd Gurley and Christian McCaffrey are getting more than 20 touches per game whereas Cook saw 15.7 per game in 2018.

Using Cook’s full skillset should be a priority. With his terrific receiving ability, the Vikings should be aiming to get him in the range of 60-80 targets. While improving the screen game should be a top priority, it would also make sense to give Cook some downfield throws like we have seen to the likes of James White, Tarik Cohen and Gurley.

Best case scenario for 2019

Cook justifies everyone picking him at the top of fantasy drafts and fully lives up to his potential to gain 1,500-plus yards from scrimmage. He plays 16 games and becomes the centerpiece of the Vikings’ offense, taking pressure off quarterback Kirk Cousins.

Worst case scenario for 2019

Cook can’t stay healthy for a full season, making it difficult to find continuity with his usage.

Latavius Murray

While Murray’s total rushing yards came short of 600 yards for the first time since his rookie year, he admirably filled in when Cook was injured. Between Weeks 5-8, Murray carried the ball 63 times for 322 yards (5.1 yards per carry). He also scored four touchdowns and added 10 catches for 70 yards.

The former Raider said he would be interested in returning to Minnesota, but it’s hard to see him coming back to play a limited role behind Cook. When the Vikings’ RB1 was healthy from Weeks 9-17, Murray only saw 58 runs for 198 yards (3.3 yards per carry).

Mike Boone

After earning a roster spot out of camp, Boone rarely saw the field, rushing 11 times for 47 yards. He is an incredible athlete with a natural skill for breaking tackles and enough receiving ability out of the backfield to be used regularly in the passing game. Like many young backs, Boone needs to improve is pass blocking and his feel for reading blocks. He flashed enough potential to have a chance at being Cook’s backup in 2019.

Roc Thomas 

The Vikings put Thomas on the practice squad after a strong preseason and then elevated him to the active roster briefly before assigning him back to the PS. He ran eight times for 30 yards and caught two passes in five games. Thomas has vision and patience, but struggled to stay healthy.

Ameer Abdullah 

The Vikings brought in Abdullah when he was waived by the Lions. He caught one pass, rushed once and returned 10 kicks for 258 yards. Abdullah is a free agent.

CJ Ham

We can expect more of Ham this season. Historically Kubiak’s offenses have used the fullback regularly. Under John DeFilippo, he was used less than with Pat Shurmur calling the shots in 2017.  His snap count went down by 65 plays. Ham caught 11 passes for 85 yards and ran six times for eight yards.

Options 

In a money-saving venture, the Vikings could rely on Boone and Thomas to handle the backup duties, but with Cook’s injury history, it would seem they would want to either draft a running back as a No. 2 option or sign another veteran free agent backup.

There are some excellent options, including Atlanta’s Tevin Coleman, who spelled Devonta Freeman. He averaged 4.8 yards per carry and caught 32 passes out of the backfield. The 6-foot-1, 210-pound runner is just 26 years old.

TJ Yeldon is another all-around weapon on the market. He caught 55 balls at 8.9 yards per catch in 2018.

Other potential free agent options include Spencer Ware, Ty Montgomery, Jacquizz Rodgers, Alfred Blue, Doug Martin and Mike Davis.


WIDE RECEIVERS 

Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen

What worked:

You would be hard pressed to find a more productive duo of receivers in the NFL. Diggs and Thielen both cleared the 100-catch and 1,000-yard mark. When Kirk Cousins targeted Thielen, he had a 115.3 rating and managed a 107.9 rating when throwing in Diggs’ direction. Both of them caught over 70 percent of passes thrown in their direction and they each grabbed nine touchdowns. Amazingly the duo was targeted 290 times and only dropped six passes.

Diggs and Thielen each ranked in the top 10 in catches and touchdowns, top 20 in yards and top 15 in Pro Football Focus grade.

With the lack of running game, the Vikings routinely turned to Diggs on quick passes. On throws that traveled between 0-10 yards through the air, Diggs caught 60 of 71 passes for 437 yards, four touchdowns and one interception (105.2 rating).

According to Pro Football Focus, Diggs was the third best receiver in the NFL on contested throws.

Thielen opened the season with eight straight games of 100 yards or more. While he often lined up in the slot, Thielen was a downfield threat. On throws beyond 20 yards to Thielen, Cousins completed 11 of 20 passes with four touchdowns and one interception.

Intermediate throws were also incredibly effective when throwing to Thielen, hitting 34-of-47 for 499 yards and a 119.0 rating.

What didn’t work:

Diggs and Cousins struggled at times to connect on deep passes. The Vikings’ QB had just six completions over 20 yards to Diggs on 23 attempts. In 2017 Case Keenum/Sam Bradford went 13-for-26 on throws over 20 yards.

While Diggs racked up a huge number of receptions, his yards per catch ranked 40th of 40 receivers with at least 85 targets.

As teams adapted to the Vikings’ usage of their top receivers, Thielen saw his production dip. Over the final five games, Thielen caught just 20 passes on 29 targets for 235 yards and one touchdown.

Cousins and Thielen had a heated exchange late in the Vikings’ Week 17 loss to the Chicago Bears. Both players said that the situation was overblown by fans and media, but it certainly can’t be marked down in the positive category that they weren’t on the same page in the final week of the season.

What might change in 2019

If you owned Thielen and/or Diggs on your fantasy team in 2018, you probably had a great year. But the Vikings likely do not want to be so one-dimensional that they are throwing in Thielen/Diggs’ direction that often.

In 2017, they combined for 60 fewer catches than in 2018, but the team ranked sixth in Expected Points Added. In 2018 they ranked 22nd.

It would stand to reason that the front office will make it a top priority to find other weapons for Cousins to target, especially in key situations in which opponents will double team Thielen and/or Diggs.

We did not hear Diggs express any frustration with his role as a quick-pass receiver, but he is most dangerous when running routes between 10-19 yards. The Gary Kubiak offense includes all sorts of bootlegs and play-action passes that often have receivers running intermediate routes.

The hope for Cousins and his receivers is that Year 2 will bring an increase in chemistry — though they will once again be adapting to a new offense.

Best case scenario for 2019

Thielen and Diggs remain centerpieces of a balanced passing attack that utilizes more weapons and thus brings down their overall usage. They increase yards per reception and continue to find which routes and combinations best fit with their quarterback.

Worst case scenario for 2019

The Vikings fail to find more options for their quarterback and opponents force Cousins to go elsewhere with the ball in key situations because he isn’t willing to take risks when throwing to his two stars and the Vikings continue to struggle in third-and-long spots. The passing game does not take a step forward.

Laquon Treadwell

If you were hoping for a big step forward from Treadwell in Year 3, you did not get it. He caught 35 passes on 47 yards but gained just 8.6 yards per reception — an average that you usually see from running backs. Cousins only managed an 80.3 rating when targeting the former first-round pick, yet continued to look in his direction in important times. The low point of his season was a healthy scratch in a key game in Detroit.

After getting two years to show any flicker of potential and failing to do so, it might be better for Treadwell and the Vikings if the two part ways.

Aldrick Robinson

A favorite of Cousins’ while playing in Washington, Robinson quickly picked up the offense and jumped into the fray, grabbing 17 passes on 32 targets for 231 yards and five touchdowns. At 30, he showed that zero steps have been lost.

As a free agent, Robinson would be a good candidate to bring back as a depth receiver and pure deep threat.

Chad Beebe

The 24-year-old undrafted free agent started the year dead last on the depth chart and ended up getting the nod over Treadwell in Week 16. He was targeted four times and caught all four passes. With quick feet and good hands, Beebe will get a shot next season at becoming a regular.

Brandon Zylstra

The CFL star caught one pass for 23 yards against the New York Jets and did not see the field much beyond that. He filled in as a punt returner for Marcus Sherels at the end of the year. It’s possible he could compete for a roster spot again next year.

Options

Considering that Cousins was at his best in 2016 when he was surrounded by Pierre Garcon, DeSean Jackson and Jamison Crowder, the Vikings should be looking into every possible option to get him more weapons. It turns out that Garcon and Jackson could both be cut by their teams and Crowder is a free agent. That might be a place to start.

Other top free agent receivers in a deep class include: former Lions star Golden Tate, deep-threat receiver John Brown, slot receivers Cole Beasley and Adam Humphries and veteran Randall Cobb.

Any one of them would be a significant upgrade.

The draft does not appear to have a clear-cut superstar prospect, but CBS Sports ranks nine receivers as late-first round or second-round picks. The list includes an array of different types of receivers, including the freakishly sized DK Metcalf (Ole Miss), undersized/speedy Marquise Brown (Oklahoma) and the polished route-runner Deebo Samuel.


TIGHT ENDS

Kyle Rudolph

What worked

Rudolph has been remarkably consistent.

In each of the last four years, quarterbacks have finished with over a 100 quarterback rating when targeting their long-time tight end. He has averaged between 9.3 and 10.4 yards per reception in every season of his career and has only dropped two passes total since the beginning of the 2017 season.

Overall he finished the year with 64 receptions on just 76 targets, good for an impressive 84.2 percent completion percentage on passes in his direction. Per Pro Football Focus, Kirk Cousins had a 113.5 rating when targeting Rudolph and solid 7.8 yards per attempt.

Football Outsiders ranked him the ninth best tight end in the NFL by Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement.

The veteran tight end was particularly effective on third down, catching 16 of 20 passes and picking up 12 first downs while averaging 12.4 yards per catch.

Rudolph was fantastic on throws between 0-10 yards through the air. He caught 45 of 49 underneath throws for 7.3 yards per attempt.

The 2012 and 2017 Pro Bowler was not a deep target for Cousins, but did have success when targeted beyond 10 yards. On throws between 10-19 yards, Rudolph caught 11 passes on 17 attempts and nabbed four of six attempts traveling over 20 yards.

In 85 snaps as a pass protector, he allowed just two pressures, which was the best mark of his career during a full season.

He was used as a chess piece at times, lining up for 523 plays as a traditional tight end, 324 times in the slot and 68 times as an outside wide receiver.

What didn’t work

At the beginning of the season, it appeared John DeFilippo’s offense would be a good fit for Rudolph. Over the first five weeks of the year he caught 27 passes on 29 targets and scored two touchdowns. From the Vikings’ sixth game until DeFilippo was let go after a Week 14 loss to Seattle — a seven-game span — Rudolph made just 21 grabs on 27 targets and did not score a touchdown.

It’s unclear why Cousins stopped looking to his tight end, especially since the Vikings’ top two receivers Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen were routinely getting double teamed. At one point, head coach Mike Zimmer went as far as to mention meeting with Rudolph about his usage.

Rudolph had his biggest game — nine catches for 122 yards and two touchdowns — after the Vikings moved on from DeFilippo.

As has been the case for the majority of Rudolph’s career, run blocking was an issue. PFF ranked him 24th of 28 tight ends with at least 200 run blocking snaps. In 2017, he was 27th of 38 and in 2016 he rated 25th of 26. It might make sense for Stefanski to adapt what the team asks of Rudolph in run blocking.

Best case scenario for 2019

Rudolph’s contract situation will be worth watching. He is currently set to carry a $7.7 million cap hit in 2019. The Vikings could release him without any dead money. Usually that makes for a formula to restructure. However, he is set to hold the ninth highest cap hit among NFL tight ends, which isn’t a far cry from where he ranks talent wise. It could cause friction between Rudolph and the Vikings’ brass if he doesn’t want to re-work the deal. Signing him to an extension would also be dicy considering Rudolph is going to be 30 this year.

Best case for his contract might be a one-year extension that nets him more cash for this year but lowers his cap hit.

Base case on the field is that Rudolph continues to be exactly who he is. There have been few players who are more reliable when the ball is thrown their way.

The Vikings could use an extra weapon at tight end to create mismatches, but they have been hunting for that type of player for years to no avail.

Worst case scenario for 2019

There is a wide range of scenarios that could be problematic. If the Vikings are forced to cut Rudolph to create cap space, he might prove hard to replace. If they do keep him, at 30, injuries and the potential for a lost step are always in play. Or if Rudolph and Cousins can’t find consistent chemistry, there may be some head butting over targets. If they do not find a No. 2 receiving threat, Rudolph will be forced to play 90 percent of plays again and put into the same run blocking situations that have been an issue in the past.

David Morgan

In 2017, Morgan was regularly used by Pat Shurmur and ranked as PFF’s No. 1 run blocking tight end. He did not have the same type of success in 2018. The Vikings’ 2016 sixth-round pick was banged up and missed weeks 10-14 and only played 231 total snaps. On the 1-100 PFF scale, he dropped from an 81.5 to 51.5 from his sophomore season to Year 3.

Morgan has shown the ability to be a weapon in the run game and an occasional outlet in passing situations. Stefanski should make it a priority to use him to the best of is abilities.

Tyler Conklin

Conklin was the latest iteration of Vikings Late-Round, Receiving-First Tight End Club. In Year 1, it was about as effective as such other members of the Late-Round, Receiving-First Tight End Club as MyCole Pruitt and Bucky Hodges. The 2018 fifth-round pick caught five passes for 77 yards in 146 snaps. Without top-notch athleticism, there may be a limited ceiling

Options

This isn’t a bad year for the Vikings to be in need of another tight end. They chased after Jared Cook in free agency last year, but he ultimately signed with the Oakland Raiders. Coming off a 68-catch season with 13.2 yards per reception, Cook is a free agent again. He will be expensive, but maybe not quite as much so as the top receivers on the market. When Cousins was at his peak, Washington had two strong receiving tight ends in Vernon Davis and Jordan Reed.

Baltimore’s Maxx Williams is a younger option. He’s just 25 years old — though his production has been disappointing since a solid rookie year. At one time, Cincinnati’s Tyler Eifert would have been a top name, now he’d be worth taking a flier after a rash of injuries. The Bengals’ replacement for Eifert C.J. Uzomah caught 43 passes and is also a free agent.

There are a number of quality prospects in the draft, so the Vikings could go a similar route as the Eagles in 2018 when they drafted Dallas Goedert despite already having Zach Ertz. CBS Sports has six tight ends in their top 100 prospects, including likely first-round pick Noah Fant, who caught 39 passes for the Hawkeyes last year. Alabama’s Irv Smith Jr. has a second-round grade.


OFFENSIVE LINE

LT, Riley Reiff 

What worked:

The Vikings’ left tackle had a solid season by the numbers, ranking 22nd of 61 tackles by Pro Football Focus grades and 18th in the run game (with at least 500 snaps). Per Football Outsiders, the Vikings were ninth in yards per carry (4.4) behind the left tackle. Overall Reiff tied for 22nd in sacks allowed (3). He put together eight games with above average grades, including two matchups with Green Bay in which he allowed only a total of four pressures, zero QB hits and zero sacks.

What didn’t work:

Reiff’s two bad games were disastrous. He allowed 12 pressures in a nightmare matchup with Jerry Hughes and the Buffalo Bills and then gave up 11 pressures to Khalil Mack and the Chicago Bears over the two matchups. He was dominated in the Vikings’ season-ending Week 17 loss. As a pass blocker, Reiff was graded below average at 37th and gave up the eighth most pressures. He missed three games with injury and played through other injuries throughout the year, playing the fewest snaps of his career since his rookie year.

Best case scenario in 2019:

There are a few scenarios that could work out well for the Vikings. One could be that he stays healthy for an entire season and gives them a similar performance to the past, only his play is helped by Gary Kubiak/Kevin Stefanski’s scheme.

Another potential option, according to Andrew Krammer of the Star Tribune, is moving Reiff to left guard. As a strong run blocker, the best case would be Reiff becoming an impact player on the inside with the ability to use his size and strength against the NFC North’s beast interior defensive linemen Akiem Hicks, Mike Daniels, Kenny Clark and Snacks Harrison. In this scenario, the Vikings would be drafting their franchise left tackle.

Worst case scenario in 2019:

Reiff battles injuries again, struggles to protect Kirk Cousins’ blind side and has two or three games in which he gets dominated by superior players and ends up showing signs of age (Reiff is 30) throughout the year.

LG, Tom Compton

What worked:

Compton was signed to be a backup option behind Nick Easton. Instead he was thrust into the starting job when Easton suffered a season-ending injury in camp. He graded 33rd of 55 guards by PFF and 15th in the run game. Considering he only cost $800,000, that’s about the best bang-for-buck. He started a career-high 14 games.

What didn’t work:

The journeyman lineman was not up to the task of facing skilled interior pass rushers. He rated 45th in pass protected and gave up the fifth most sacks by a guard in the NFL and 12th most pressures.

Best case scenario in 2019:

Compton is a free agent. While he didn’t have a great year, he is a solid veteran backup option.

Worst case scenario in 2019:

If he was brought back as a versatile guard and ended up starting double-digit games again.

C, Pat Elflein 

What worked:

Almost nothing. After a solid rookie season, Elflein only had one season that was graded above average by PFF. That came against Arizona.

What didn’t work:

Elflein suffered a serious injury in the 2017 NFC Championship game that, combined with a shoulder injury, kept him out until Week 3. Missing the entire offseason and preseason put the former Ohio State center so far behind the ball that he never caught up. Without the required play strength from a full offseason, he routinely was overpowered by interior D-linemen. PFF ranked Elflein as the worst center in the NFL in 2018 and his six pressures allowed in Week 17 were a ill-timed career high. It didn’t appear he fully got on the same page with Cousins and wasn’t a great fit with John DeFilippo’s offense.

Best case scenario in 2019:

Elflein has a full offseason, puts on muscle and strength that will help him in situations where opponents can pin their ears back or in power run plays. With his ability in space being Elflein’s strongest asset, the Kubiak/Stefanski offense could be built to his strengths with zone runs and screen passes.

Worst case scenario in 2019: 

You couldn’t come up with much worse of a scenario than Elflein faced in 2018. As long as he’s healthy throughout the offseason, we should see improvement.

RG, Mike Remmers

What worked:

Remmers finished the year ranked 36th of 55 by PFF, but he did show some flashes of talent as an interior lineman. He did not allow a single pressure against the New Orleans Saints in Week 8 and in Week 15 against the Miami Dolphins and was an average or above average run blocker in seven games.

What didn’t work:

The puzzling move to bring Remmers inside to guard did not pay off in pass blocking. He gave up seven sacks and 42 pressures, which is seven more sacks and 15 more pressures than he allowed as a tackle in 2017. The sack total ranked fifth most allowed and his pressure total was third worst among guards.

Best case scenario in 2019:

Clearly the Vikings need improvement at guard, so he can’t continue starting without a massive leap forward, but if Remmers stayed on the team as a swing tackle who could step into either side in case of emergency, that would be the ideal situation for the Vikings. He would instantly be one of the best backup linemen in the NFL.

Worst case scenario in 2019: 

The Vikings are simply forced to cut Remmers because of his price tag ($6.4 million) and his signing goes down in the “L” column.

RT, Brian O’Neill

What worked:

As a converted tight end, the 2018 second-round pick wasn’t expected to start right away, but he was forced into action because of injuries and then took over the full-time job from Rashod Hill. While there were ups and downs, O’Neill did not seem overwhelmed by NFL edge rushers and appeared to gain confidence as the season went along. He was one of four tackles with more than 500 snaps to not allow a sack.

What didn’t work:

While he didn’t give up a sack, O’Neill was routinely overpowered due to his lack of size/strength and inexperience setting an anchor against NFL talents. Of 61 tackles with more than 500 snaps, O’Neill was graded by PFF as the 53rd rated tackle in pass blocking and 40th in run blocking.

Best case scenario in 2019:

O’Neill continues to put on weight and improve technique and then takes a significant step toward becoming a franchise tackle. His tremendous athleticism becomes an asset for the Vikings in the screen and run games and gives the impression O’Neill could reach his ceiling as an above average tackle.

Worst case scenario in 2019: 

He plateaus with his progress and continues to struggle with speed-to-power rushers, which would make the team question whether he can be a long-term option.

T, Rashod Hill

After performing admirably in 2017 as a fill-in, Hill proved that he isn’t ready for a full-time starting gig. He allowed five sacks and 28 pressures in just 342 pass blocking snaps before losing his job to O’Neill. It doesn’t appear the former Jacksonville Jaguars’ practice squad member will take another step, but he could continue to be a reliable reserve.

C, Brett Jones

Acquired just before the season to start in the place of the injured Elflein, Jones did his best to hold down the fort for a few weeks. He could not provide the type of quickness required in the run game to be a full-time starter.

G, Danny Isidora

In four games, Isidora got thoroughly dominated by opponents in the passing game, giving up 11 pressures in just 145 pass blocking snaps. It is yet to be seen whether the Vikings stick with him as a developmental player.

Options

Where to begin…

— If the Vikings move Riley Reiff to left guard, it becomes a foregone conclusion that they will draft a left tackle in the first round. This year isn’t a bad draft to be in the market for a tackle. Alabama’s Jonah Williams, Greg Little of Ole Miss, Cody Ford from Oklahoma and Jawaan Taylor of Florida are all listed by CBS Sports as first-round prospects at tackle while Kansas State’s Dalton Risner is a rising prospect who shined at the Senior Bowl. He might play tackle or guard.

— If Reiff remains at left tackle, the Vikings could still draft a future tackle in the first and look for guards later in the draft. Players like Chris Lindstrom from Boston College, Michael Jordan of Ohio State and Penn State’s Connor McGovern are examples of players receiving second-round grades who could step into a starting role. We will have a much clearer picture of the draft going forward. Considering the Colts took offensive linemen in the first and second round last year, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Vikings considered doing the same.

— Free agency presents all types of options. The Vikings could think about Bucs tackle Donovan Smith if Reiff slides inside. New England’s starting left tackle Trent Brown is also a free agent. Washington’s Ty Nsekhe is an under-the-radar swing tackle who may have the capability to start full time.

— The guard market isn’t deep. Indy’s Mark Glowinski already signed a three-year deal to stay with the Colts and Los Angeles’s Roger Safford, the top free agent, has expressed interest in staying with the Rams. That leaves Pittsburgh’s 33-year-old Ramon Foster and Tennessee’s Quinton Spain as the top names on the market. Mike Pearson of San Francisco and Jacksonville’s AJ Cann could also get consideration.

— Another potential fix would be to move Elflein to guard, where he shined as a junior at Ohio State. Denver’s free agent center Matt Paradis is one of the top players at the position. It might be a more savvy play to sign a top center and slide Elflein over than going all-in on a veteran, less talented guard.


DEFENSIVE LINE 

DE, Danielle Hunter

What worked:

In training camp, defensive coordinator George Edwards said Danielle Hunter appeared ready to take the next step. He nailed that prediction. Hunter finished the season tied for seventh among defensive ends in total QB pressures (per Pro Football Focus) and fourth in the NFL in sacks. During Everson Griffen’s five-week absence, Hunter proved that he could carry the Vikings’ pass rush without Griffen manning the other side. He picked up 22 QB pressures in that five-week span.

Durability has been a plus for Hunter, who played in all 16 games for the third straight season.

Getting Hunter, 24, signed to a reasonable long-term contract before the season was a boon for the Vikings. He signed for about $9 million less per season than Chicago’s Khalil Mack.

What didn’t work:

Any criticism of Hunter’s 2018 season is nit picking, but the one area in which he was short by Pro Football Focus grades was run defense. He ranked 34th of 63 edge rushers who played at least 500 snaps.

Best case scenario for 2019:

Best case is pretty simple: That Danielle Hunter is the same player in 2019 as he was in 2018.

Worst case scenario for 2019: 

Odds are against repeating his sack total next season, but his pressure numbers will tell the story more accurately. In 2017, Hunter had 68 pressures and only 7.0 sacks. He had 67 pressures last year and 14.5 sacks.

If teams start to make Hunter their focus up front, he could see some regression in pressure numbers. But it’s difficult to see a player in his young prime falling off much outside of injury.

DT, Sheldon Richardson

What worked:

Richardson did what he came to Minnesota to do: Put pressure on the quarterback. He ranked 14th among defensive tackles in total pressures and managed 4.5 sacks (and 12 QB hits, seventh among DTs). He added an extra layer of explosiveness to the defensive line, which helped make up for the absence of Griffen in the middle of the season. There were some concerns about his off-field issues of the past, but his time in Minnesota appeared to go swimmingly.

What didn’t work:

Richardson did not have as much success down the stretch as early in the season. He was shut out from QB pressures twice in the final five games, including Week 17 in a crucial loss to the Bears.

By PFF grades, he had an average season for a starting three-technique defensive tackle. He rated 40th out of 63 DTs with more than 450 snaps and 39th against the run. Richardson was 38th in run stops.

Best case scenario for 2019:

He may not be perfect, but Richardson is a proven starter who draws the attention of opposing teams’ offensive lines. If he can be brought back on a reasonable contract, repeating his 2018 season would be a win for the Vikings.

Worst case scenario for 2019: 

If Richardson is looking for a long-term contract in the ballpark of the top paid DTs (around $15 million per season), it’s hard to see the Vikings being able to keep him.

Letting him walk is the lesser of the two worst case scenarios. The other is that the Vikings pay top dollar and Richardson’s production dips.

DT, Linval Joseph

What worked:

Joseph’s fumble return against the Philadelphia Eagles was probably the best moment of the 2018 season for Vikings fans. The Vikings’ run defense, which starts with Joseph, finished seventh in the NFL in yards per carry. The veteran nose tackle was durable, missing just one game — his first absence since 2015.

What didn’t work:

The 2017 Pro Bowler was not as dominant in 2018 as he had been the year before. He graded 27th against the run among defensive tackles by PFF, a drop from sixth in ’17. While he only missed on game, Joseph played through injuries for a good chunk of the year.

Best case scenario for 2019:

Joseph bounces back and gives the Vikings another elite NT season.

Worst case scenario for 2019: 

Age begins to creep up on Joseph, who will be playing his age-31 season this year.

If he’s not as the top of the league, it becomes a poor investment to spend the seventh highest average annual dollars on a pure nose tackle.

Everson Griffen

What worked:

Griffen opened the season in typical form, creating eight pressures over the first two weeks and registering two sacks. The veteran pass rusher put together two excellent performances down the stretch, one against Detroit in which he picked up two sacks and then his highest graded game of the year against Miami in Week 15 (four pressures, one sack). He was solid in the run game overall, ranking 16th of 63 by PFF.

What didn’t work:

In 2017, Griffen graded as a top 10 defensive end — and that’s despite battling a foot injury down the final stretch of the season. In 2018, he ranked 40th of 63. Between 2014 and 2017, Griffen did not have a single game in which he failed to create at least one QB pressure. This year there were three such games. PFF grades in the 80s are generally considered top notch. He did not have a single such game last season. His QB pressure total was the lowest since 2011.

He never seemed to recover after missing five games dealing with an off-field issue. Griffen had just two games graded over 70 beyond Week 2.

Best case scenario for 2019:

The Vikings re-work his contract to create more cap space and then he returns to Pro Bowl form.

Worst case scenario for 2019: 

The Vikings don’t feel like he will ever be the same and they release him this offseason. Or the Vikings bring him back and Griffen fails to bounce back, creating a difficult situation with his playing time and that of young defensive end Stephen Weatherly.

DE, Stephen Weatherly

After two years of special teams work, Weatherly finally got his chance to play on a regular basis. He flashed potential that should be exciting to the Vikings going forward. In 307 pass rush snaps, the former seventh-round pick picked up three sacks and 27 pressures. He totaled 14 of those pressures in the five weeks he spent starting over Griffen. At worst, he should be a rotational pass rusher in 2019. It’s possible his growth could influence the team’s decision on Griffen.

DT, Tom Johnson

Under some bizarre circumstances in which the Seahawks cut Johnson eaerly in the season with plans to re-sign him, the veteran pass rusher instead returned to Minnesota. In a situational role, he created 23 pressures and picked up 4.5 sacks in 222 pass rush snaps. It’s unclear whether the Vikings would bring him back for 2019, but he has been a consistent presence during Mike Zimmer’s tenure.

DT, Jaleel Johnson

The second-year defensive tackle out of Iowa got his first opportunity to see the field, playing 261 snaps. He managed one sack and seven QB pressures. The Vikings will be looking for him to take a step forward in 2019.

DE, Tashawn Bower

The Vikings had hopes for Bower as a situational pass rusher, but he struggled to get on the field, playing only five games. Next year’s camp will be make-or-break.

DT, Jalyn Holmes 

As is often the case, the Vikings picked a high-ceiling defensive end in the later rounds of the draft and didn’t play him much as a rookie. That player was Holmes this year. He saw just 58 total snaps. They will be looking for progress in next year’s camp.

Options

— The Vikings could release Griffen and try to fill the spot with another highly-paid pass rusher like Brandon Graham or Demarcus Lawrence or they could put Stephen Weatherly into the starting role and support him with a veteran situational rusher like Cameron Wake or Bruce Irvin.

— If Richardson walks, that would move defensive tackle up to the top of the Vikings’ draft needs. If so, there are some monster prospects at the top of the draft. Ed Oliver from Houston, Mississippi State’s Jeffery Simmons, Clemson’s Christian Wilkins and Ohio Stat’s Dre’Mont Jones all have a chance to be in play at 18.

— The Vikings could also look to the free agent market for a situational three-technique and a run stuffer. Former New England first-round pick Malcom Brown is known as a situational run stopper and veteran like Clinton McDonald (Oakland) or Darius Philon (Chargers) might fit the pass rushing role if Tom Johnson doesn’t return.

— Other notable defensive line free agents who played more than 50 percent of snaps last year: Frank Clark (Seahawks), Trey Flowers (Patriots), Margus Hunt (Colts), Grady Jarrett (Falcons), Alex Okafor (Saints),  Jonathan Hankins (Oakland), Bruce Irvin (Falcons)


LINEBACKERS

Anthony Barr

What worked:

In the final season of his contract, the Vikings’ ninth overall pick in 2014 had the second highest graded season of his career by Pro Football Focus, only behind 2015. He was effective in multiple areas, grading positively as a run defender and pass rusher. PFF graded him the 16th best linebacker (of 57) against the run, seventh best in the pass rush and 13th in tackling. Overall he was graded 23rd.

Only four linebackers created more pressures (23) than Barr and despite an ugly game in Los Angeles in Week 4, there were 52 linebackers who were targeted more in coverage in 2018 than the Vikings’ linebacker. In fact, following that miserable night in L.A., Barr only allowed 73 yards in coverage for the remainder of the season.

What didn’t work:

On several occasions Barr talked about wanting to rush the passer more often than in the past. His rush percentage did increase in 2018, but not by much. Barr chased opposing QBs on 103 of 477 pass plays (21.6 percent). Over the last two seasons, he rushed on 18.2 percent of pass plays. Three percent probably isn’t enough to convince Barr, who is a free agent, that things will be any different going forward if he says in Minnesota.

Mike Zimmer has expressed that he wants to keep Barr long term, but the price tag might simply be too high if he’s looking for pass rusher money.

While Barr’s overall grades and stats were solid — and it should be noted that his position is one of the most difficult to place value with grades — his performance in Week 17 was the second worst of the season by PFF measures (Los Angeles was the worst). That was a game where the Vikings needed the dominant version of Barr.

Best case scenario 2019:

The Vikings re-sign Barr at a reasonable dollar and he carries over his 2018 play into his prime years. Or they let him walk and either find a quality replacement in free agency or the draft, saving the team significant cap space.

Worst case scenario 2019: 

Barr walks and the Vikings’ attempts to fill his shoes come up short and they see a significant drop in play from the position.

Eric Kendricks

What worked:

By the numbers, Kendricks has been very durable. He’s only missed five games since entering the league (two in 2018) and has been graded by PFF somewhere in the middle of the pack among NFL linebackers each year. He was 34th of 57 in 2018, 29th of 58 in 2017 and 23rd of 57 in 2016. Kendricks ranked 20th in tackling and registered the fewest missed tackles (seven) of his career. He’s finished with between 108 and 113 tackles in each of the last three years. There’s a lot to be said in the NFL for consistency.

What didn’t work: 

The former UCLA standout allowed the second highest yards per catch (12.9) among all linebackers and gave up a 104.7 rating. Both of those numbers were much higher than in 2017 (7.7 yards per catch, 83.1 rating). Overall he graded 29th in coverage grade (lowest ranking since his rookie year). The 2018 season was also his least effective as a pass rusher, picking up just nine pressures. His previous low was 13.

Best case scenario 2019:

In most ways, Kendricks continues to play the same way the Vikings have come to expect. Scheme improvements might help his coverage numbers bounce back.

Worst case scenario 2019: 

There is a high floor for Kendricks. Worst case scenario, aside from injury, is a repeat of his 2018 season. That’s still pretty solid.

Ben Gedeon

The Vikings knew what they were signing up for when they drafted the Michigan product in 2017: A hard-nosed run stuffer with some limitations. In 311 snaps, Gedeon graded as the defense’s second best tackler with at least 300 snaps (Harrison Smith ranked No. 1). Over his two years with the Vikings, Gedeon has allowed 17 for 23 passing for 220 yards into his coverage. At 24, there may be some for growth, but he is likely to continue solid play in his base defense role.

Eric Wilson 

With injuries to Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks, Wilson got his first significant playing time since signing as an undrafted free agent prior to the 2017 season. He graded similarly to Barr as a run defender and created six pressures in 31 pass rush opportunities. In coverage, opposing teams targeted him 26 times with 20 completions, but only averaged 6.7 yards per completion.

The Vikings may have found something with Wilson as a rotational player. It would be a stretch to ask him to take all of Barr’s jobs on the defense, but he proved in 2018 he can be effective in a fill-in role.

Kentrell Brothers 

The Vikings showed how much they like Brothers as a special teamer by keeping him on the squad despite a four-game suspension. PFF has continually graded him as one of the best special teams players in the NFL.

Options

The Vikings could re-sign Barr to a long-term contract or franchise tag him with the price coming in the range of $15 million per year. If they do not keep Barr, here are several ways they could go:

— Use the cap space left by Barr to sign one of the top free agent LBs, Baltimore’s CJ Mosley, Seattle’s KJ Wright or Tampa Bay’s Kwon Alexander

— Sign a role-playing linebacker like Detroit’s Eli Harold or Pittsburgh’s L.J. Fort and create a group by committee that could include safety Jayron Kearse in some packages.

— As much as it might drive some Vikings fans up the wall, they could look to a few of the top linebackers in the first round. Michigan’s Devin Bush, for example, is rated as the 24th best player in the draft by CBS Sports.


CORNERBACKS

Xavier Rhodes

What worked:

Opposing teams did not have a ton of success when targeting the Vikings’ shutdown corner. They threw in Rhodes’ direction 69 times with 45 completions for 470 yards (6.8 yards per attempt), two touchdowns and one interception, good for an 88.4 rating. While that isn’t quite as good as his previous two seasons (47.0 rating in 2016 and 77.4 in 2017), it’s still a solid mark, ranking 35th out of 80 corners with at least 300 coverage snaps, according to Pro Football Focus.

Rhodes continued to be a solid run defender, grading 25th of 77 against the run by PFF standards, and was 16th rated in tackling.

What didn’t work: 

While his coverage numbers are still above average, his coverage grade by PFF was well below average. Of 77 corners with at least 600 snaps, he ranked 70th. Why the disparity? Penalties. Only eight corners in the NFL took more penalties in 2018 than Rhodes.

The veteran corner battled injuries throughout the year, which likely played a role in some of his rough games. However, he’s consistently been one of the most penalized corners in the NFL.

Best case scenario for 2019:

Rhodes returns fully healthy and continues to be the lockdown corner he was in 2016 and 2017.

Worst case scenario for 2019: 

He continues to battle nagging injuries, causing inconsistency and forcing the Vikings to scramble to fill his shoes.

Trae Waynes

What worked:

After his first two years in the NFL, it was fair to wonder what he might become, but Waynes has turned into a reliable starting corner over the past two seasons. In 2018, opponents targeted him 54 times for 7.9 yards per attempt with a 95.4 rating. Those numbers are similar to 2017, in which he gave up a 92.3 rating. Waynes was only penalized in coverage three times.

The former first-round pick’s best asset is his run defense. PFF graded him the seventh best run defender and fourth best tackler at his position.

What didn’t work: 

If the Vikings were hoping for one more step forward from their athletically-gifted corner, they were probably disappointed. Overall he graded 35th of 77 by PFF — a similar mark to his 46th ranking in 2017.

The silver lining is that, as the Vikings decide whether to give him a contract extension, they know exactly what they have.

Best case scenario for 2019:

Waynes continues to be a league-average cover corner with exceptional tackling ability.

Worst case scenario for 2019: 

Opponents find ways to target him down the field more often, where he sometimes struggles to get his head around, and his numbers regress.

Mackensie Alexander

What worked:

The season began disastrously for Alexander. In the first four games, opponents completed every throw in his direction. But during the second half of the season, he proved to be a viable — if not above average — nickel cornerback. Alexander finished the year giving up just an 85.6 rating. Only one time over the final seven weeks did an opponent register a rating over 75 when targeting the former Clemson corner.

Like his cohorts, Alexander rated as one of the best run-stopping corners in the league and he picked up four sacks and eight pressures on 21 pass rushes.

What didn’t work: 

The beginning of the year can’t be completely forgotten. Opponents started the year 21-for-24 for 254 yards (10.5 yards per attempt) over the first six games. While it appeared that Alexander bought into the nickel job and fully took grasp of the job, the final handful of games are an extremely small sample size.

Best case scenario for 2019:

If Alexander carries over his play from the second half of the year, he’ll be one of the better nickel DBs in the NFL.

Worst case scenario for 2019: 

If he regresses back to the player he was in the first half, the Vikings may end up being uncertain about his future.

Mike Hughes

Hughes got off to a great start with a pick-six in his first game, but overall it wasn’t an easy rookie year for the 2018 first-round pick. He gave up 21 catches on 28 targets before suffering a season-ending ACL injury. However, the UCF product made a strong impression on head coach Mike Zimmer. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him take the same development path as Waynes and Alexander.

Holton Hill

The Vikings were excited to sign Hill as the top undrafted free agent. They likely didn’t expect him to be forced into a starting role at times, but they couldn’t have asked for any more than they got from Hill in Year 1. Opponents completed just 16 of 31 passes with a 67.0 rating against.

Options

— The cap-strapped Vikings  could trade either Xavier Rhodes or Trae Waynes in order to create cap room. Rhodes is set to carry a $13.3 million cap number in 2019 and Waynes is playing on his $9 million fifth-year option. With Hughes and Hill on the rise, dealing either starter might not take as much of a toll on the defense as we might expect. However, the return might not be all that impressive. Last offseason the Chiefs dealt Marcus Peters for a 2018 fourth-round pick and 2019 second-round pick.

— If the Vikings believe Waynes is an answer long term, they could sign him to a contract extension this offseason the same way they did with Stefon Diggs, Danielle Hunter and Eric Kendricks last offseason.

— There isn’t much reason to sign another corner unless a deal was made. If they did move on from Rhodes or Waynes in exchange for draft picks, they could sign a veteran to improve the depth. Solid (and likely affordable) players set to hit the market on March 13 include: Darryl Roberts, Sam Shields, Bashaud Breeland, Jimmie Ward, Buster Skrine and Darqueze Dennard.

— It wouldn’t be surprising to anyone if the Vikings drafted a corner in the middle rounds.


SAFETIES

Harrison Smith

What worked:

In 2017, Smith put together a campaign that was worthy of defensive MVP consideration. He wasn’t able to repeat his five-interception season in 2018 or rank at the top of PFF’s grades in nearly every category, but Smith was every bit as effective as he’s ever been for the Vikings’ defense.

He allowed just a 71.1 rating into his coverage, graded as the No. 1 run defender and No. 1 tackler by PFF’s standards and was effective in the pass rush, picking up nine QB pressures. He also set a career high in tackles for loss (nine).

Smith’s ability to play in any area of the field causes nightmares for opposing quarterbacks, whose first job is to find him. Per PFF, the Vikings’ star safety lined up 380 times inside the box, 417 times at free safety, 108 times on the defensive line, 91 times at slot corner and 29 times at outside corner. There are few players in the world capable of that type of versatility.

Importantly, Smith played all 16 games and more than 1,000 snaps for the second straight season. He had suffered injuries and missed five games between 2015 and 2016.

What didn’t work:

On every defender’s report card is the team’s meltdown against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 4. It was his lowest graded regular season game by PFF since he attempted to play through an ankle injury at the end of the 2016 season.

There aren’t many other blemishes on his record.

Best case scenario for 2019:

Smith continues to be himself. As long as he dominates against the run, continues to be the key cog in Mike Zimmer’s defensive scheme and plays all-out, Smith will be a Pro Bowl-caliber player.

Worst case scenario for 2019: 

At 30 years old, there’s always concern that a player will start to show signs of aging. Barring injury, the floor for 2019 for Smith is very good play instead of great.

Andrew Sendejo 

Sendejo suffered his worst-case scenario. Coming off his best career year in 2017, he started 2018 slow (as did most of the defense) and never had a chance to recover because of a season-ending injury.

Anthony Harris

What worked:

Seemingly everything. Harris stepped in when Sendejo went down and played very well. He allowed just seven catches on 13 targets for 52 yards and picked off three passes. PFF rated him as the fifth best safety among players with more than 600 snaps, grading his run defense and coverage sixth in the NFL.

Harris is a remarkably smart player whose familiarity with Zimmer’s defense and experience as a backup set him up to be prepared for a starting role.

What didn’t work:

While the Vikings’ defense held Chicago in Week 17 down for a large portion of the game, Harris did not have a great performance. He put together his third lowest overall grade by PFF and his worst tackling grade since his rookie year (2015).

Best case scenario for 2019:

If Harris, a Restricted Free Agent, returns to Minnesota and continues to work well alongside Smith.

Worst case scenario for 2019: 

If Harris is given the full-time starting gig in 2019 and proves to be a flash in the pan.

Jayron Kearse

Zimmer said since Day 1 he was a fan of Kearse’s unique skillset. It finally was put to use in 2018. Kearse became a part of a package the Vikings called the “big nickel.” He played anywhere between two and 37 snaps, depending on the opponent’s personnel. The 2016 seventh-round pick lined up in the slot on 132 of his 202 defensive snaps. Going forward, he should give the Vikings an extra weapon to face off with opposing teams’ athletic tight ends.

George Iloka

While Iloka had previous experience with Zimmer, things did not go they way he hoped. He played just 40 defensive snaps and acted mostly as a special teamer.

Options

Smith will be back. Everything else is in flux.

— The Vikings would save $5.5 million if they released Sendejo

— If the Vikings believe depth is key, they could approach Sendejo about restructuring his deal.

— Harris’s tender may make for a difficult choice. If it’s too low, another team could give him an offer. If it’s higher than that, the Vikings will have to pay more. Last year it cost $2.9 million for a second-round tender and $4.9 million for a first-round tender.

— If the Vikings didn’t believe Sendejo or Harris was the answer, they could try to go big-game fishing with top free agents Landon Collins and Tyrann Mathieu. It wouldn’t be easy to afford either, but other subtractions like Sheldon Richardson and Anthony Barr could open up space to afford another star.

— With Smith entering the back half of his prime, the Vikings could draft a safety in the first or second round with hopes of that player taking over long term.





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