After an NFC Championship appearance, the Minnesota Vikings had a lot of potential to repeat. The team believed that all they needed was to sign a franchise quarterback in hopes to take the next step. They signed former Washington Redskins signal-caller Kirk Cousins to a three-year, $84 million contract. It was a full-guaranteed deal, making it the most expensive guaranteed […]
After an NFC Championship appearance, the Minnesota Vikings had a lot of potential to repeat. The team believed that all they needed was to sign a franchise quarterback in hopes to take the next step. They signed former Washington Redskins signal-caller Kirk Cousins to a three-year, $84 million contract. It was a full-guaranteed deal, making it the most expensive guaranteed deal in the NFL.
While he was solid, he struggled at times in games that mattered, from prime-time games to a Week 17 loss that ultimately knocked them out of the playoff hunt, ending the season 8-7-1. Outside of Cousins, starting receivers Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs each had a 1,000 season while the defense was solid with guys like Danielle Hunter, Everson Griffin, Linval Joseph, Anthony Barr, Xavier Rhodes, and Harrison Smith leading the way.
The Vikings did not make any huge splashes in the offseason, unlike last season. The team drafted NC State Center Garrett Bradbury in the first round to boost the offensive line while drafting Alabama Tight End Irv Smith Jr. to provide another solid target for Cousins.
Here are the position breakdowns for the team, which include my projections for the 53-man roster.
- Starter: Kirk Cousins
- Backups: Sean Mannion, Kyle Sloter
- Preseason Cuts: Jake Browning
Cousins has a lot to prove in 2019 as he heads into his second year of his massive contract. He is a solid and consistent quarterback but sometimes goes non-existed when the primetime games come around. Viking fans need to hope that Cousins can turn it around quickly to show the contract was well worth it.
Mannion was a longtime backup for the Los Angeles Rams while Sloter will be the third QB.
- Starter: Dalvin Cook (RB), C.J. Ham (FB)
- Backups: Alexander Mattison, Mike Boone, Ameer Abdullah
- Preseason Cuts: Khari Blasingame, De’Angelo Henderson
Cook was a beast during his time at Florida State but injuries have hurt his NFL tenure so far. After 615 yards last season, Cook looks to be one of the top running backs heading into 2019. Ham will be used a lot as the Vikings frequently use the fullback.
Mattison was drafted in the third round in this past draft and provides a nice backup option to Cook if his injuries come about once again. Boone was on the team last year and has been impressive in the 2019 preseason so he makes the cut as the third half-back. Abdullah has developed into a solid kick returner and will likely continue that role
- Starters: Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs
- Backups: Chad Beebe, Brandon Zylstra, Olabisi Johnson
- Preseason Cuts: Laquon Treadwell, Jeff Badet, Dillon Mitchell, Jordan Taylor, Davion Davis, Alexander Hollins
Thielen and Diggs form one of the best starting duos in the NFL. Both can easily top 1,000 once again in 2019 and are guaranteed starters. Outside of that, there is a lot of unknown with Johnson being a seventh-round rookie while Beebe and Zylstra have only five career receptions combined but with an expanded role, they’ll have a lot more targets.
A notable name on the preseason cuts I have is Treadwell, who was drafted 23rd overall in 2016 and has struggled to make any impact. With 395 career yards and only one touchdown during his tenure, his time with the Vikings might be up. It isn’t a good sign when the team declines your fifth-year player option during the offseason.
- Starter: Kyle Rudolph
- Backups: Irv Smith Jr., Tyler Conklin
- Preseason Cuts: Cole Hikutini, Brandon Dillon
- PUP: David Morgan II
Rudolph was rumored to be on the trading block but after signing a four-year extension, you can put those rumors to rest. He has been solid in the Vikings offense and will be one of the focal points for the team until his contract is up in 2023. Smith Jr. was drafted in the second round of this past draft and will get plenty of playing time alongside Rudolph. Conklin will provide depth for the team and is a solid blocker.
Morgan is set to start the season on the PUP list, so he will not count for a roster spot for the first six weeks of the season.
- Starters: Riley Reiff, Pat Elflein, Garrett Bradbury, Josh Kline, Brian O’Neill
- Backups: Rashod Hill, Aviante Collins, Dakota Dozier, Nate Wozniak
- Preseason Cuts: Oli Udoh, Danny Isidora, Brett Jones, Cornelius Edison, John Keenoy,, Storm Norton, Dru Samia
The starters are guaranteed here with veteran Reiff leading the way as well as rookie Bradbury as the center. Kline was signed this past offseason and is an upgrade at right guard. Elflein and O’Neill are young players that’ll look to improve in 2019.
Hill, Collins, Dozier, and Wozniak are solid backups that can play multiple positions on the line if the starters struggle or get injured.
- Starters: Danielle Hunter, Shamar Stephen, Linval Joseph, Everson Griffen
- Backups: Stephen Weatherly, Jaleel Johnson, Jayln Holmes, Ifeadi Odenigbo
- Preseason Cuts: Armon Watts, Hercules Mata’afa, Stacy Keely, Tashawn Bower, Ade Aruna, Curtis Cothran, Tito Odenigbo, Anree Saint-Amour, Karter Schult
The Vikings defensive line is a very solid group. Hunter, Griffen, and Joseph are all Pro Bowlers that can rush the quarterback as well as stopping the run. Stephen, while not a Pro Bowler, is still a solid starting tackle for the team.
Weatherly, Johnson, and Holmes will rotate nicely while Odenigbo will look to finally get some playing time after playing in one career game.
- Starters: Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks, Ben Gedeon
- Backups: Eric Wilson, Kentrell Brothers, Cameron Smith
- Preseason Cuts: Devante Downs, Reshard Cliett, Greer Martini
The linebacking core is also a solid group, much like the defensive line. Barr was going to sign with the New York Jets but ultimately decided to stay put in Minnesota, which is good due to his excellent coverage ability as well as pass-rushing skills. Kendricks is a solid middle linebacker that is a tackling machine and can run all of the fields in coverage. Gedeon heads into his third season and looks the complete the starting trio.
Wilson, Brothers, and fifth-round rookie Smith will get some time in the rotation but will also contribute to Special Teams.
- Starters: Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes
- Backups: Bené Benwikere, Mackensie Alexander, Kris Boyd
- Preseason Cuts: Craig James, Nate Meaders
- PUP: Mike Hughes
- Suspended: Holton Hill
The starting corner spots seem to be set with Rhodes being one of the best corners in the league while Waynes became a full-time starter last season.
2018 first-round pick Hughes is still recovering from his torn ACL and will likely miss the first couple of weeks during the season while Hill is set to miss the first four games due to a league suspension. Benewikere was recently signed and with the backup corner spots wide being wide open for now, he’ll get plenty of time on the field. Alexander and seventh-round rookie Boyd will mainly get reps on Special Teams.
- Starters: Anthony Harris, Harrison Smith
- Backups: Jayron Kearse, Derron Smith
- Preseason Cuts: Marcus Epps, Isaiah Wharton
The four-time Pro Bowler in Smith is one of the best strong safeties in the league and is a guaranteed starter. Harris looks to start opposite of Smith. Kearse and Smith are young safeties that’ll look to contribute on Special Teams.
- Kicker/Punter: Kaare Vedvik
- Long Snapper: Austin Cutting
- Preseason Cuts: Dan Bailey, Matt Wile
An interesting take I have here. After having an impressive performance in the first preseason game, where he went 4-4 on field goals that included a 55-yarder, Vedvik was traded to the Vikings from the Baltimore Ravens for a 2020 fifth-round pick. You don’t trade away a draft pick for a kicker to not make the team, so I have him making the team. He also is a skilled punter, so I can see Minnesota making Vedvik responsible for the kicking as well as punting duties. Minnesota has had troubles in both departments and Vedvik can possibly fix that problem.
Minnesota is in a tough division with the like of Chicago and Green Bay seemingly being the top two teams in the division. The main question is can Cousins perform up to his contract. His $84 million contract is fully guaranteed and needs to show that he is worth that contract. It helps when you have Thielen, Diggs, and Rudolph as targets to throw to while Cook looks to finally take a big step forward as the feature back.
The front seven on defense is one of the best in the league. Their Pro Bowl defensive line will continue to be great in 2019 while linebackers Barr and Kendricks will continue to hold down the middle. Rhodes and Smith are one of the best players at their respective positions while Waynes will look to take a huge step forward in his second season as the full-time starter.
I think Minnesota has the skill players on both sides of the ball. I still think the Bears are the best team in the division but they will definitely compete for a playoff spot towards the end of the season. Viking fans just hope that Cousins will lead them to victory.