After a successful 2017 season that ended with a loss in the NFC Championship game, the Minnesota Vikings enter the offseason on the doorstep of being a championship-contending team with very few glaring needs.
The Vikings understand better than most how quickly a team’s fortunes can change from one season to the next. If they are to not only remain an NFC contender but a team capable of winning the Super Bowl, they will need to address the few vulnerabilities that cropped up in 2017.
Free agency will be the first opportunity to turn those vulnerabilities into strengths. Here are five potential candidates that could potentially be wearing purple and gold in 2018:
5. Lamarcus Joyner, Defensive Back
Despite the depth and talent in their secondary, the Vikings may not rule out a talent such as Joyner. Even with the possible return of Terence Newman, he will be 40 when the 2018 season kicks off. Though Mackenzie Alexander showed improvement from his rookie year, the Vikings may still look to add another quality player to this group also capable of playing in the slot. Adding Joyner would give the Vikings unquestionably the deepest secondary in the league.
4. Sammy Watkins, Wide Receiver
Since being taken fourth overall in the 2014 NFL Draft by the Buffalo Bills, Watkins has not lived up to his high draft status. After being traded to the Rams last offseason for a fresh start, he caught 39 passes for just 593 yards, though he also had eight touchdown catches. He was often the third option among L.A.’s receivers. He would make a great third receiver who could be a number two if Stefon Diggs or Adam Thielen miss games. Watkins also provides another red zone threat. The price for his services may not be too expensive either.
3. Sheldon Richardson, Defensive Tackle
The Vikings got solid play from the Tom Johnson and Shamar Stephen at the 3-technique. However, neither brings the level of talent to the table that Richardson can. Unfortunately, he also brings questions. His best season came three years ago and he has not approached that level of play since. If the Vikings were to get him, can he reach his 2014 level of play again? If so, pairing him with Linval Joseph would give them the their strongest interior line pairing since the Williams Wall in the late-2000s.
2. Andrew Norwell, Guard
With Joe Berger rumored to be retiring, adding another talent to the interior offensive line is a must for the Vikings offense. Norwell would provide the Vikings with not only a replacement for Berger, but a significant upgrade inside, particularly in pass protection. Pro Football Focus had him rated as the third-best guard in the NFL and the highest grade in pass protection. It is imperative that the Vikings continue to rebuild the offensive line. Adding a player of Norwell’s caliber would greatly help in that endeavor, though it would also be pricey.
1. Kirk Cousins, Quarterback
With all three of their own quarterbacks set to hit free agency, the Vikings make perfect sense as a possible destination for the best quarterback on the market. He has averaged over 4,000 yards and 25 touchdowns for the past three seasons. Pair that with a top-10 rushing attack that should get even better with the return of Dalvin Cook and Cousins’ game has the chance to jump to the next level. With Minnesota’s elite defense and improving talent on offense across the board, he could be the final piece to the franchise’s championship puzzle. There may not be a team in the league that has a better combination of talent, playoff readiness and salary cap space to offer Cousins than Minnesota. This is a match that makes almost too much sense.
The Vikings have largely stayed away from making huge splashes in free agency in past years. However, with last year’s investments paying big dividends in Riley Rieff, Mike Remmers and Latavius Murray, could the Vikings dive in one more time? Fans will be watching and waiting starting March 14th, the date that free agency officially opens.
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