Mike Zimmer is entering his seventh season as the Minnesota Vikings head coach. His record is 57-38-1 in his six seasons leading the team. The Vikings have made the playoffs three times and won the NFC North twice while making it to one NFC Championship game during his coaching tenure. With many roster moves this offseason he will be coaching a team that looks very different from last year.
The team released Xavier Rhodes this offseason who signed with the Indianapolis Colts and lost both Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander to the Cincinnati Bengals in free agency. That leaves the two most experienced players at the position, Mike Hughes and Holton Hill both 23-year-olds. An already young group will need the immediate help of two corners drafted in the 2020 draft. The Vikings selected Jeff Gladney from TCU with the 31st pick and Cameron Dantzler from Mississippi State with the 89th pick in the draft.
Stefon Diggs Trade
General Manager Rick Spielman was content enough with the offer from the Buffalo Bills to trade big-play wide receiver Stefon Diggs. The Vikings received the Bills first, fifth, and sixth round pick in the 2020 draft and a fourth in the 2021 draft. That trade left the team’s receiving core thin, so they drafted LSU wide receiver Justin Jefferson with the 22nd pick in the draft. Adam Thielen is the only proven receiver on the roster. This offseason the Vikings signed ex-Tennessee Titan Tajae Sharpe in free agency to add some depth at the position. Other receivers looking to contribute in the upcoming season are Bisi Johnson and Chad Beebe.
This position group is tasked with pass protecting quarterback Kirk Cousins as well as run blocking for Pro-Bowl running back Dalvin Cook. There are three players on the roster that are definite starters heading into the season. Center Garrett Bradury and right tackle Brian O’Neill are returning starters who will maintain that status. Pat Elflein will play one of the guard positions. If left tackle Riley Reiff wins the starting job, the offensive line from left to right is projected as Reiff, Elflein, Bradbury, Brett Jones and O’Neill. Though, other left tackles on the roster will be battling for the position. If Rashod Hill or 2020 second round pick Ezra Cleveland win the starting left tackle job, Reiff will slide into guard and take Brett Jones out of the starting lineup.
Similar to the cornerback position the Vikings lost multiple starters along their defensive line this offseason. Run-stuffing defensive tackle Linval Joseph signed with the Los Angeles Chargers in free agency. Defensive end Everson Griffin, a 10-year veteran, is currently an unsigned free agent who is looking for a team this offseason. The line is anchored by star defensive end Danielle Hunter. Last season the 25-year-old became the youngest player in NFL history to record 50 sacks. The Vikings signed ex-Baltimore Raven defensive tackle Michael Pierce this offseason. He will play inside along with Shamar Stephen in the middle of the defensive line. Two 2020 draft picks were used to select defensive lineman D.J. Wonnum from South Carolina and James Lynch from Baylor. Both rookies will battle to steal reps from, Ifeadi Odenigbo, the starting defensive end opposite of Danielle Hunter.
Can Kirk Cousins Win a Super Bowl?
Cousins is being paid to produce at the level of a top-tier quarterback. Throughout his time in Minnesota Cousins has endured constant change in offensive coordinators. This season will be no different as Gary Kubiak takes over that coaching position this season. Kubiak brings with him an offensive system that has allowed quarterbacks to succeed in the play action pass game. Tight ends Kyle Rudolph and Irv Smith Jr. will look to be large contributors in that area this season.