3 offseason moves the Minnesota Vikings have to make to take the next step

From NFC North champions to tied for the worst record in the division. How can the Minnesota Vikings bounce back from a disappointing 2023 campaign?

 

 

 

1. Make a decision on quarterback Kirk Cousins sooner rather than later

Kevin O’Connell’s club got off to a 0-3 start and dropped four of their first five games. That meant that after five weeks of action, the defending NFC North champions had already lost as many games as they did in 2022 when they topped their division with a 13-4 record.

 

The team was in the midst of turning things around when 12-year signal-caller Kirk Cousins went down with a season-ending Achilles injury. In eight games, he had hit on 69.5 percent of his throws for 2,331 yards and more than three times as many TD passes (18) as interceptions (5). However, Cousins also fumbled seven times and lost the ball on four occasions, giving him nine turnovers in eight outings.

 

O’Connell wound wind up using three more starting quarterbacks (rookie Jaren Hall, Josh Dobbs and Nick Mullens). All told, the Vikings dropped six of their final nine outings with those three men behind center. The club’s quartet of signal-callers combined for 30 touchdown passes and 28 of Minnesota’s 34 turnovers.

 

Like the aforementioned Danielle Hunter, Cousins can become a free agent in March. How soon he will be healthy is certainly a factor when it comes to his future with the team. Can they afford to part ways with a player who has enjoyed six productive seasons with the franchise?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Don’t allow edge rusher Danielle Hunter to test free agency

He seemed to be the subject of trade rumors during the first half of the season. Fortunately for head coach Kevin O’Connell and defensive coordinator Brian Flores, Danielle Hunter remained in the Twin Cities and turned in a tremendous performance.

 

He played and started in all 17 games for the second straight year and totaled career highs in tackles (83) and sacks (16.5), the latter making up more than one-third of Minnesota’s QB trap total (43). Hunter finished with four forced fumbles, led the Vikings with 22 quarterback hits and was named to the Pro Bowl for the fourth time in the last five seasons (he missed all of 2020) he has played.

The Minnesota defense was better than it was a year ago, although that may not be saying a lot. In 2022, only the Lions gave up more total yards per game and only the Titans surrendered more yards through the air. The Vikings were also 20th vs. the run. In 2023, only seven teams gave up fewer yards on the ground than Flores’ unit. The Purple Gang finished 16th in the NFL in total defense.

Hunter finished with at least one sack in 12-of-17 games and totaled five sacks in the team’s last three contests. The Vikings can’t afford to let him hit the open market.

3. Address the secondary early in the 2024 NFL Draft

As it stands at the moment, the Vikings own the 11th overall pick in April’s draft and have a total of nine selections in this year’s proceedings. The team has its own second-round pick, but no third-round choice. General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has a pair of picks in the fourth, fifth and sixth rounds, as well as a seventh-rounder. This is before the conditional draft choices, as well as the awarding of the compensatory selections.

A year after giving up the second-most passing yards in the NFL, the Vikings ranked 24th in the league in passing yards allowed. The club allowed 23 scores through the air and picked off only 11 passes. Byron Murphy Jr. led the way with three interceptions, but it’s also noteworthy that 12-year standout Harrison Smith did not pick off a pass for the first time in his stellar career

Gideon Canice

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