This offseason the Vikings have seen 12 players depart while bringing in four new faces so far, and it looks like the Vikings roster will have a much younger make up to it than what is typical in the Twin Cities. Many dots have yet to be connected, as the Vikings look to possibly add a veteran wideout and some depth at linebacker, but with a very talented defense already, and some much-needed changes on the offensive line the Vikings put themselves in position to contend again for the NFC North crown even with all of the following departures:

RB- Adrian Peterson (Free Agent)
LB- Chad Greenway (Retired)
T- Andre Smith (Bengals)
WR- Cordarrelle Patterson (Raiders)
CB- Captain Munnerlyn (Panthers)
LB- Audie Cole (Jaguars)
TE- Rhett Ellison (Giants)
P- Jeff Locke (Colts)
T- Matt Kalil (Panthers)
WR- Charles Johnson (Panthers)

The Vikings did however help patch up some of those holes with some quality free agent signings:

RB- Latavius Murray (previously with Raiders, signed for 3 yrs./$15 million) comes to Minnesota to replace the franchise’s most notable player the past decade in Adrian Peterson. Murray and Jerrick McKinnon should prove to be a more cost effective yet efficient dual replacement for AP. Former Tennessee Titan and Kansas City Chief Bishop Sankey is a third year pro who had moments in Tennessee but didn’t see the field last season in Kansas City. The jury is still out as to whether or not the team will look to re-sign bruising back Matt Asiata or look to the draft the fill the depth chart. Murray recently underwent ankle surgery and is scheduled to miss OTAs but should be ready for training camp.

DE- Datone Jones (previously with Packers, 1 yr./$3.75 million) The Packers’ first-round pick in 2013 finished his time in Green Bay with 9.5 sacks and 82 tackles over 67 games. While Jones’ production didn’t fly off the charts in Green Bay he was a useful tool for Dom Capers’ defense as he could shift from outside linebacker to defensive end in passing situations. While it was a bit surprising that Jones left Green Bay, he sought becoming more of “the man” instead of being in the shadows of Clay Matthews and, recently, Nick Perry. His one year deal could be the ultimate “prove it” test, and Jones’ could be a the best sleeper offseason pick up in the NFC North.

OT- Mike Remmers (Panthers, 5 yrs./$30 million) came into the NFL as an undrafted rookie and had stints in Denver, Tampa Bay, San Diego and Minnesota before making getting his break in Carolina in 2014.Once a Viking briefly in 2013 when the Vikings picked him up off of waivers, Remmers did not play a game with the team before moving onto Carolina and becoming a starting RT during Carolina’s 2015 Super Bowl run.  A few years younger (27) than the departed Andre Smith, Remmers also has a tendency to be called for an above average number of penalties.  Last season Remmers played LT in what tuned out to be a very disappointing season which ultimately led Carolina to cut ties with Remmers. Remmers is currently penciled in as the starting RT and looks to bounce back to help solidify the Vikings new-look offensive line.

OT-Riley Reiff (Lions, 5 yrs./ $58.75 million) was drafted 23rd overall in the 2012 draft out of Iowa by the Detroit Lions, and was the second tackle taken in the draft behind, ironically, the guy he is replacing in Matt Kalil. Reiff moved over to RT last season for Detroit to accommodate first-round pick Taylor Decker but will move back to his original LT position (and see an increased paycheck) with Minnesota. Reiff is seen as an athletic and overall slightly above average tackle, but, as one of the top-5 available tackles in free agency, was paid very handsomely and higher than projected.

Other potential pickups that would make sense for the team on offense are a veteran wideout such as Anquan Boldin (FA-Lions), Steve Johnson (FA- Chargers) or Michael Floyd (FA-Patriots). On the defensive side the team could stand to grab a nickel back in the form of Nickell Robey (FA-Bills) , Brandon Flowers (FA-Chargers) or Lardarius Webb (FA-Ravens).

As for the draft The Vikings traded their #1 to Philadelphia in exchange for Sam Bradford and will not make their first pick until #48 overall. The main focus according to several pundits is for the Vikings to sure up their offensive line, which, to say the least, was dreadful overall in 2016. Coach Mike Zimmer was quoted as saying “We got to figure out the right guard position,” so look for the Vikings to target that with one of their early picks or look to fill a need of depth at defensive tackle, offensive tackle or running back. Here are some possible options for them in the draft.

G/C- Pat Elflein-(6’3” 303 lbs., Ohio State) – Elflein is a prototypical stout BIG TEN Offensive lineman who is ranked as the #1 center in this year’s draft class, but he also has the versatility to play guard. He’s been compared to former Buckeye and New York Jet center Nick Mangold. Played in 53 games at Ohio St., including 40 starts, and he transitioned from guard to center his senior season. With incumbent center Joe Berger turning 35, adding Elflein would help shore up their future at center and provide an immediate plug in at right guard.

G- Dan Feeney- (6’3” 305 lbs., Indiana) – A four-year starter and two-time All-American who could be inserted into the lineup on day one. Feeney has the versatility to play other positions while also having the quickness and balance to help maximize the skills of Latavius Murray in the backfield. Scouts rave about his power, awareness and the fact he was rarely caught out of position. Feeney has been projected to be a long-term starter at guard, however, the biggest achilles heel with him is the fear of concussions. Feeney missed 6 games in 2016 due to concussion concerns and, in today’s rising concern about concussions, Feeney could see himself drop down farther than expected in the draft.

T- Antonio Garcia- (6’6” 291 lbs., Troy) – viewed as one of the most athletic lineman in this draft class, Garcia gave up just 5.5 sacks in 43 career games at Troy, not giving up any his senior year.  While Garcia is ridiculously athletic and long at 6’6,” he needs to bulk up and add strength, or he will be pushed around in the running game. NFL Teams can never have enough talent at the tackle position, even with the newly signed Remmers and Reiff on the roster, Garcia would be a nice developmental backup who could rise if the veterans skills diminish at any point during their 5-year contracts.

RB- Brian Hill- (6’0” 210 lbs., Wyoming) – Hill was a big reason for Wyoming’s resurgence in the Mountain West Conference. Hill is a well-rounded back who had 349 carries for 1860 yards and 22 TDs in 2016. Hill is also a solid pass protector, but his receiving skills could use a boost. He only had 41 receptions for 403 yards in 3 seasons. He’d be a solid get for the Vikings in round 3.

DT- Caleb Brantley (6’2” 295 lbs., Florida) – Due to Sharrif Floyd having lingering knee issues his status being consistently up in the air, the team could benefit to draft a DT on day 2 to pair up with Linval Joseph and Floyd, when/if healthy. Reserve Tom Johnson is 32 and coming off a torn hamstring, so it would be wise for the Vikings to target a DT in the mid 2nd or 3rd round if they are available. Brantley is  highly disruptive interior run defender, and posted 16 total tackles for loss the past two seasons. While only having 5.5 sacks since 2015, he was constant presence in the pocket and has been compared to the Saints’ Nick Fairley.

As usual, Mike Zimmer will field a competitive Vikings squad who will look to be the in the running for the NFC North crown. After starting 5-0 in 2016, the wheels fell off the VIkings’ ship and they went 3-8 over the final 11 games, enduring a gluttony of injuries and uncharacteristic mistakes to miss the postseason. On offense, Sam Bradford will be the signal called once again as the career of former quarterback incumbent Teddy Bridgewater remains up in the air. Bridgewater, the franchise’s former future at quarterback, continues to heal from a freak, devastating knee injury suffered late last August. Bridgewater has yet to even go through any sort of football activities as he is working to just become “functional” again according to Vikings’ GM Rick Spielman, and his future in football remains cloudy at best. Unlike the 2016 campaign, Bradford will have a full offseason, instead of a week, to get ready for a season in purple and gold, and up and coming WR Stefon Diggs will look to make another stride and improve on his eye-opening 2016 campaign. While on defense LB Anthony Barr and S Harrison Smith lead one of the most talented defensive units in the NFL who will continue to create havoc for opposing offensive coordinators. As the frost hit the US Bank Stadium’s windows, instead of the birds, look for the Vikings to make a run not only NFC North title, but also possibly a deep playoff run. Super Bowl LII will be in the Twin Cities next February, but it will dependent on an upright efficient Bradford and a healthy play-making defense as to whether or not the Vikings will be in it too.

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