With a disappointing 8-7-1 season behind them, the Vikings officially have their eyes set on returning to postseason glory next year. GM Rick Spielman has his work cut out for him though; here are five areas that Spielman needs to address before training camp starts next season.
?Nothing looked worse for the Vikings than the offensive line during 2018. But the line’s performance isn’t indicative of the investment Minnesota has made in past years. The Vikings signed both Mike Remmers and Riley Reiff in 2017. They also drafted Pat Elflein, who before his injuries looked like a long term piece. Still, after a down year from Elflein, he still needs to be seen as one-fifth of the solution.
Last year the Vikings also spent a second-round pick on Brian O’Neill. So Spielman has made attempts at fixing the Vikings’ eyesore. However, the Vikings can no longer miss on offensive lineman they bring in. The Super Bowl window is now, and this is the number one priority.
One free agent the Vikings should look at is Matt Paradis, the free agent center of the Denver Broncos. By picking up Paradis, they could move Elflein over to guard, thus fixing two spots. Elflein did not have a great season at center, and moving him to guard could fix that.
Another man the Vikings should consider is Colts lineman Mark Glowinski. He gave up one sack all season long. That stat alone should sell fans on Glowinski. A guard of this caliber has to be on the Vikings radar.
?This may not look like the biggest need for a team that has Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, but that’s where the depth stops. The Vikings are in desperate need of a third wideout. Laquon Treadwell is a complete bust, and while Aldrick Robinson catches touchdowns, he doesn’t do much else.
Brandon Zylstra and Chad Beebe could turn out to be fun to watch and good role players, but the Vikes need a receiver of a higher ilk right now.
?The player the Vikings need to call and inquire about is Desean Jackson. He still has the speed to take the top off of a defense and seems to make the big play when needed the most. He has chemistry with Kirk Cousins, which could possibly be the biggest upside of the whole idea. Look for a Jackson-Cousins reunion in the near future.
?Linebacker seems to now be a need for the Vikings after so many solid years. With Anthony Barr becoming a free agent, the depth is now thin. The Vikings have Eric Wilson, who seems to be a team and fan favorite, but additions need to be made to the unit. Eric Kendricks had an up and down year, to say the least, and honestly didn’t seem to possess the same killer instinct as the previous year. He also struggled in coverage, which seemed to be picked up by many teams.
?The one player that makes all the sense in the world is Anthony Barr. Yes, he wouldn’t be a new name, but he is the start of Mike Zimmer’s legacy. Zimmer saw a player that could run his defense and took Barr with his first pick as the head coach of the Vikings.
He knows the system Zimmer wants and can be used in many different ways with pressure. If the Vikings cannot keep Barr to themselves, a player that could fit right in is Kwon Alexander. He’s a fast linebacker that can cover, and at the age of 24, he could fit the model linebacker Zimmer wants. However, the linebacker the Vikings need already has his place within the defense.
The Vikings have an All-Pro manning the safety position; that’s about it. Harrison Smith, arguably the best player on the Vikings, is going nowhere; but the second half of the safety tandem is missing.
Andrew Sendejo played very well in 2017 and 2018 until he got injured, but he could be on his way out due to his cap hit. Anthony Harris stepped up in a huge way this season but is now a free agent.
?The player that needs to be signed is Harris. He earned his money and starting position next to Smith. Harris covers extremely well and complements Smith nicely. There is no need to discuss any other safety as a Vikings need. Harris knows the system, and continuity is what is needed now.
?Not everyone might agree with this being a top five need, but the Vikings need to figure out this position going forward. Dan Bailey coming in seemed to be the solution, but after almost a full season, it may be time to pump the brakes on that idea.
Bailey had a strong track record coming to the Twin Cities. He was the second most accurate kicker in the NFL but ended the season woefully underperforming. Bailey finished the season making 75 percent of his field goal attempts. He missed a career-high five attempts between the 40-49 yard range. He also missed one of his 31 extra points. This is not going to cut it if the Vikings have hopes of a Super Bowl win. As the Bears found out, bad kicking can come back to bite teams in a soul-crushing way.
Even Kai Forbath in the two seasons he was in Minnesota made 100 and 84 percent of his field goal attempts respectively. If Forbath was attempting kicks Week 2 of this year, the Vikings might have been undefeated against the Packers in 2018.
?The kicker that could fix all of this is a well-known former NFC North kicker, Robbie Gould. In his last two seasons with the 49ers, Gould made 72 of his 75 field goal attempts, and 55 of his 59 extra points, 96 and 93 percent respectively. Gould could be the answer to the dreaded kicking curse of the Vikings.