Though fans do not like to wait around for the season to start, they always enjoy seeing what their favorite teams do to improve the rosters.
The Minnesota Vikings once again had a very active offseason. Their biggest move was adding quarterback Kirk Cousins. They also added defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson and wide receiver Kendall Wright.
Last season they received nice productions from free agent additions Riley Reiff, Mike Remmers, Latavius Murray and Case Keenum.
Rookies Dalvin Cook and Pat Elflein played very well, despite Cook only playing in four games. Having Cook back will be kind of like a new addition to the team.
First round pick Mike Hughes will not be counted on very much, since Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes will remain the starters at cornerback. Mackenzie Alexander had a good year and Terence Newman just announced his return two weeks ago. Newman will likely see fewer snaps at age 40, but will still see the field.
Hughes may not see many reps at cornerback, but could become the team’s kick returner.
If he can excel as a returner, it will benefit this improved offense that much more.
Last season the Vikings had 24.8 yards per kick return (fourth best in the league). The previous two years they were 27.3 and 28.3 (both league bests) with Cordarrelle Patterson.
If they can even get around 26 this year, it will be huge for this improving offense. Last season at UCF Hughes returned 20 kicks for 635 yards (31.8 yards per kick) and two touchdowns. How well he does in the NFL though of course is yet to be determined, but any upgrade would be huge.
He also returned a punt for a touchdown too. It makes you wonder if he succeeds at that too at that this level, will he take Marcus Sherels’ spot?
It will be very interesting to see what role second round pick Brian O’Neill will have. One option could be starting him at right tackle and moving Remmers to right guard. Best bet may be for him to be the backup this season and have Remmers stay at right tackle. Danny Isidora would then be an option to start at right guard too.
You never know until the season starts how the new additions will do with their new teammates and a lot of times new schemes, but this looks like it could be another very solid offseason for the Vikings. Rookies are always hard to predict, but this could be another good draft class too.
Cousins paired with Cook, Murray, Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs, Kyle Rudolph and Wright should make this offense better than last year. How much better? That will be very interesting to find out. The more the offense improves, the more it will help this defense too. The defense will also give this offense shorter fields to work with.
Cousins has thrown for 81 touchdowns and 36 the past three years and has thrown for over 4,000 yards in each of those seasons. Given the running game, he may not be able to throw for that many yards, but should still come close enough and do enough to help this offense get better.
Last season the offense ranked 11th overall in the league and their 23.9 points per game scored were 10th best. The offense this year has a very good chance of averaging 25 or more this year if they stay healthy, which would also give the defense more rest.
Wright could also be a very good no.3 receiver for them behind Thielen and Diggs. Last season with the Chicago Bears he caught 59 passes for 614 yards and a touchdown. His best season came in 2013 when he had 94 receptions for 1,079 yards and two touchdowns for the Tennessee Titans.
As for the defense, Richardson is a very nice addition to an already a very good defensive line. Sharrif Floyd missed all of last season with a knee injury and the final 15 games of the 2016 season. Tom Johnson did a nice job filling in for him, but this defense would have been even better with Floyd. They now have a replacement for him in Richardson.
Richardson was drafted 13th overall by the New York Jets in 2013. He spent his first four seasons there and last season with the Seattle Seahawks. He was named Defensive Rookie of the Year and made it to the Pro Bowl in 2014.
He had a combined 2.5 sacks the past two seasons, but had 16.5 total in his first three seasons (eight in 2014). His overall play will not only benefit Linval Joseph, but also the whole defense.
The defense was first overall in the league and also allowed a league low 15.8 points per game. Will they be able to top those numbers? Maybe not considering they will have a tougher schedule, but the addition of Richardson and the rest of the unit all returning, this defense should once again be in the top-five. The offense improving will also benefit them.
The Vikings surprised many people last season. Going 13-3 with your starting quarterback and running back missing nearly the entire season is very impressive. Can they now get over the hump? If they stay healthy for the most part and get solid contributions from their new additions, they very well could. Always a very unpredictable league though.