The Vikings’ playoff exit created a blueprint for their offseason

NFL: Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings

Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota can make it back to the playoffs, but it needed to address a couple holes first.

The Minnesota Vikings struggled out of the gate in 2019, but ultimately rode a stalwart defense and the play of Kirk Cousins to a 10-6 record. In the playoffs, they scored an upset win over the Saints in the Wild Card Round before running into the San Francisco 49ers in the Divisional Round.

Minnesota’s major flaws were laid bare in that 27-10 loss. The lack of big plays from Cousins and the Vikings’ inability to win in the trenches had the 49ers running all over them. Now the Vikings have to deal with several pressing questions.

What do they do next with Cousins, who is entering the final year of his guaranteed contract? Is Mike Zimmer the right coach to lead them to the Super Bowl? Can they keep one of the league’s best defenses intact? Will they take the next step while losing both their offensive and defensive coordinators?

Minnesota Vikings (10-6), lost in Divisional Round

Minnesota entered the offseason over the league’s salary cap. On top of that, they have potentially departing free agents at two major positions.

Before free agency:

  1. Cornerback: Minnesota’s biggest weakness by far is at cornerback. Xavier Rhodes badly regressed this past season, while Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander are set to be free agents. The Vikings could turn to the draft to add talent at the position with a player like Alabama’s Trevon Diggs (brother of current Vikings receiver Stefon Diggs).
  2. Offensive tackle: The Vikings may have found something great in Brian O’Neill at one tackle spot, but the left tackle position is a huge concern. Riley Reiff is the starter now, and he might be better off moving to guard. Minnesota needs an upgrade there and could find one in the tackle-rich draft class.
  3. Defensive end: The Vikings have a strong pass rush, with Danielle Hunter anchoring one of the edge spots. Re-signing Everson Griffen would be ideal and is the likeliest move. However, if they get priced out of his services, they’ll need to land someone, preferably a cheaper veteran.

What Daily Norseman wants most this offseason: The Vikings have a lot of questions on defense. There’s a good chance Rhodes, Waynes, and Alexander, their top three cornerbacks from last season, will not return. It also looks like Anthony Harris, who has developed into a top-five player at safety, won’t be back, either. On offense, they need some help along the offensive line, and for the love of Randy Moss, could they get a wide receiver who can take some heat off of Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen? Depending on whether or not they extend Cousins, the Vikings could also be looking for a developmental QB. — Ted Glover

After free agency:

Using the franchise tag on Anthony Harris was a smart move considering he is one of the Vikings’ best players. They also extended Kirk Cousins, but then lost their biggest playmaker, Stefon Diggs, via trade. The Vikings neglected to address any of their three biggest needs. However, they now have two first-round picks due to work with, thanks to the Diggs trade.

  1. Cornerback: You don’t know what you’ve lost until it’s gone. Trae Waynes and Xavier Rhodes weren’t perfect and at times struggled. But with both departing, along with nickel corner Mackensie Alexander, the Vikings have nobody proven at cornerback. Expect them to draft a corner with one of their first-round picks.
  2. Wide receiver: Diggs is one of the best receivers in the league. They still have Adam Thielen, but he’s coming off an injury and things look rather dismal looking at last season’s stats. Diggs led the team with 1,130 receiving yards, and then Dalvin Cook, a running back, was second with 519 yards. So far, the only move the Vikings have made is bringing in former Titans receiver Tajae Sharpe on a one-year deal. They will likely target a receiver with their other first-round pick.
  3. Offensive line: Not only have the Vikings not signed a tackle, they’ve also released a guard, Josh Kline. Their offensive line has now taken a step back and they could use new starter at one interior and one outside spot on the line. They need to get someone in the middle rounds.

After the draft:

As expected, the Vikings went wide receiver (LSU’s Justin Jefferson) and cornerback (TCU’s Jeff Gladney) with their two first-round picks. Check and check. After that, they added two more cornerbacks, one of which was Mississippi State’s Cameron Dantzler, who has a lot of potential.

In the second round, Minnesota lucked into Boise State tackle Ezra Cleveland. He was getting a lot of first-round buzz heading into the draft and could start right away. The Vikings brought in two more guards, though not until Day 3.

Dan Kadar’s draft grade: A

Read more at SB Nation.

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