Today we round out our review of the NFC North with a look at the Minnesota Vikings' season, their free agents, and their potential needs.
The Vikings had a headline-driven offseason from the get-go, and it never really subsided for one reason or another. Adrian Peterson was suspended from nearly the beginning of the season due to the controversy surrounding his domestic abuse charges. The situation continues to develop, especially since he has yet to be reinstated by the league. Should he be reinstated, the Vikings would have to make the choice as to whether or not they want to keep Peterson around. They would save a considerable amount of money by letting him go, however. I've seen reports of $13 million dollars in cap space for his release.
Ultimately, though, the Vikings have room for some serious optimism. Teddy Bridgewater was the other headline-grabber this last season, especially since he ended the season quite strongly. There was some inconsistent play and some unfortunate injuries, but Bridgewater looks like the QB of the future for the heretofore QB-ailing Vikings. With a young - and cheap - QB in place, the Vikings really have the sort of player that they can start building around. Granted, they are in an incredibly tough division; but, if they can put up a 7-9 record in a season with inconsistent QB play and major distractions from their former franchise RB, then the team has enough talent to start trending upwards. This offseason will be key for the Vikings as they look to take the next step forward.
Free Agents (courtesy of NFL.com):
Unrestricted Free Agents: Christian Ponder, QB; Jerome Felton, FB; Corey Wootton, DT; Jasper Brinkley, ILB; Vladimir Ducasse, G; Joe Berger, C.
Restricted Free Agents: Matt Asiata, RB.
There's not much here, which has got to be fortunate for the Vikings. Christian Ponder gets a shout out for name recognition only, but I don't think he really is a concern for the Vikings now that Bridgewater has settled in nicely. The Vikings have a chance to maintain their core this offseason while bringing in new players through the draft.
Because the Vikings don't have many players leaving in free agency, most of their potential needs will be upgrades. Providing Bridgewater with adequate protection is going to be a must, and that means shoring up the left side of the o-line. Look for the Vikings to pick up a LG. I wouldn't be surprised, moreover, if the Vikings look to LT as well. Matt Kalil has name recognition and a high draft pick status, but he hasn't been too hot the last couple of seasons. Similarly, the Viking might look to do something with Cordarrelle Patterson. He was a disappointment last season, and bringing in WR depth to push him might be what the team needs.
On the defensive side of the ball, look for the Vikings to try to shore up their run defense. ILB could be upgraded. Look also for the Vikings to draft an OLB.