Offseason In Review: Minnesota Vikings

Notable signings:

Notable losses:

Extensions and restructures:

  • Chad Greenway (OLB): Restructured contract. Reduced 2014 base salary from $6.4MM to $5.5MM, and eliminated $100K workout bonus. ’14 base salary became fully guaranteed.
  • Jerome Felton (FB): Restructured contract. Reduced 2014 base salary from $1.95MM to $1.45MM in exchange for a $200K guarantee on his base salary and the right to void his 2015 season.
  • Jamarca Sanford (S): Restructured contract. Reduced 2014 base salary from $2.45 to $1.7MM in exchange for a $400K guarantee on his base salary and $500K in playing-time incentives.


  • Acquired a first-round pick (No. 9) and a fifth-round pick (No. 145) from the Browns in exchange for a first-round pick (No. 8).
  • Acquired a first-round pick (No. 32) from the Seahawks in exchange for a second-round pick (No. 40) and a fourth-round pick (No. 108).
  • Acquired a fifth-round pick (No. 168) and a seventh-round pick (No. 225) from the Panthers in exchange for a fifth-round pick (No. 148).
  • Acquired a sixth-round pick (No. 182) and a seventh-round pick (No. 220) from the Falcons in exchange for a fifth-round pick (No. 168).

Draft picks:

  • Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA (1.9): Signed
  • Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville (1.32): Signed
  • Scott Crichton, DE, Oregon State (3.72): Signed
  • Jerick McKinnon, RB, Georgia Southern (3.96): Signed
  • David Yankey, G, Stanford (5.145): Signed
  • Antone Exum, DB, Virginia Tech (6.182): Signed
  • Kendall James, CB, Maine (6.184): Signed
  • Shamar Stephen, DT, Connecticut (7.220): Signed
  • Brandon Watts, OLB, Georgia Tech (7.223): Signed
  • Jabari Price, CB, North Carolina (7.225): Signed


  • Hired Mike Zimmer as head coach.
  • Hired Norv Turner as offensive coordinator and George Edwards as defensive coordinator.
  • Declined Christian Ponder‘s fifth-year option for 2015 ($9.686MM).
  • Claimed Julian Posey off waivers.
  • Signed 16 rookie free agents after the draft.

There isn’t a team that more perfectly speaks to the devaluation of the running back position than the Vikings. In 2012, Adrian Peterson‘s historic season, which left him only nine yards short of the single-season rushing title, barely allowed Minnesota to sneak into the playoffs. Last year, though still effective, Peterson regressed, and the team finished 5-10-1. Today’s NFL offenses struggle if forced to lean primarily on the halfback — the quarterback position is still king. The Vikings seemed to have that notion in mind as they attacked the 2014 offseason, which saw them overhaul several position groups as well as the coaching staff.Teddy Bridgewater

The Vikings will enter training camp with a three-pronged depth chart at quarterback, but only one player is likely to be with the team for the long-term. General manager Rick Spielman and new head coach Mike Zimmer (formerly the defensive coordinator for the Bengals) traded back into the first round of the draft to select Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater, who was widely viewed as one of the top five college players available before a lackluster Pro Day forced his stock to drop. Minnesota is hoping that the Bridgewater’s game film, which shows him to be accurate and able to maintain poise under pressure, is more foretelling than his pre-draft workouts.

Bridgewater is likely to make some starts in 2014, but it’s doubtful that he’ll be the Opening Day starter at quarterback — veteran Matt Cassel will probably have that honor. Cassel started six games for the the Vikings last season, finishing with a 3-3 record, 11 touchdowns, and nine interceptions. Re-signed to a two-year, $10MM contract, Cassel figures to act as a mentor to Bridgewater, and hold the fort until the rookie is ready. Cassel’s 2014 cap hit is $5.75MM, which isn’t absurd for a low-end starter/high-end backup; if Bridgewater proves he’s ready to start, Cassel can be released before next season for no additional charge. 2011 first-rounder Christian Ponder is still around, but his 2015 fifth-year option was declined; a trade or release before the season starts isn’t out of the question.

The rest of the offense will remain mostly the same under new coordinator Norv Turner, who will seek to work some of his “tight end magic” on fourth-year player Kyle Rudolph. Entering a contract year, Rudolph certainly hopes he can experience the success that Antonio Gates and Jordan Cameron had under Turner en route to a new deal. Along the offensive line, guard Charlie Johnson was brought back on a two-year pact worth $5MM, and fifth-round pick David Yankey will act as his backup. The Vikings did lose longtime second-string RB Toby Gerhart to the Jaguars, but they drafted Jerick McKinnon in the third round in the hopes that he, along with holdover Matt Asiata, can spell Peterson.

The defensive unit saw significantly more turnover than did the offense, and will also feature a new coordinator in George Edwards, who was the Dolphins’ linebackers coach for the past two seasons; he was last a coordinator in 2010-11 with Buffalo. Many of Minnesota’s moves to improve the defense over the past several months were informed by Zimmer’s scheme and philosophy, which favors versatility and speed over pure physicality.

No position group saw as much change as the defensive line, which witnessed the loss of stalwarts Jared Allen and Kevin Williams, who, between them, had played 17 seasons in Minnesota. Using Zimmer’s Bengals D-line as a reference, 2012 first-rounder Sharrif Floyd will play the Geno Atkins role with free agent signee Linval Joseph (five years, $31.25MM) emulating Domata Peko. 2013 No. 8 overall pick Anthony Barr will act as a hybrid LB/DE, primarily acting as an edge-rusher in sub packages. Corey Wootton was signed, Fred Evans was re-signed, and Scott Crichton was drafted to bolster the unit’s depth.

The most questionable move of the Vikings offseason might be the re-signing of defensive end Everson Griffen, who received $42.5MM ($19.8MM guaranteed) on a five-year deal; the guarantee is the fourth-highest among 4-3 defensive ends (omitting Dion Jordan‘s rookie contract). However, the 26-year-old graded as just the 20th-best 4-3 DE in the league last season per Pro Football Focus (subscription required). More confounding is that Griffen has historically played worse against the run than the pass, Zimmer’s defense is predicated on stopping the run. Griffen’s proponents might argue that this is a forward-looking contract, and that the market for talented ends simply dictated this deal. But as of now, this looks like an overpay, and an expensive one at that.

A much more reasonable contract was proffered in the secondary, where Captain Munnerlyn was added on a three-year, $11.75MM deal to replace Chris Cook. The pact, which contains only $3.45MM in guaranteed money, might prove to be one of the steals of the offseason, as PFF graded Munnerlyn as the 10-the best cornerback in the NFL last year. He’ll join 2013 first-round pick Xavier Rhodes at corner, while Harrison Smith and Jamarca Sanford will hold down safety.

The Vikings are probably still the favorites to finish last in the NFC North, and have a lot of work left to do to compete with tough division foes like the Packers and the Bears. The defense does have some interesting pieces, and Peterson can take over entire games by himself. But in what seems like a rule for every team, quarterback play will be crucial. If Cassel can succeed as a game-manager, or Bridgewater can step in and perform as well as he did at Louisville, the Vikings could make for a surprise team in 2014.

Spotrac and Over The Cap were used in the creation of this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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One comment on “Offseason In Review: Minnesota Vikings

  1. biggs

    Very nice piece. Saw an NBC sports preview that essentially just pointed out the QB issues. The team was bad last yr but QB was far from its only issue.

    I think the defense should be better and if Cassel (assuming he’s the starter) can give them 3200 yds 20 tds and 14 ints roughly I think the vikes could go anywhere from 7-9 to 10-6.

    I hope Bridgewater can win the job out of camp but ppl around the team have Cassel as the heavy favorite for now.

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