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An If/Then Off-Season Approaches

There are lots of options as the Vikings approach the off-season, and a fair amount of if/then situations.

Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

When you look at all the position groups on the Vikings, there are very few that are fairly settled. There are players on the roster that the Vikings could look to as potential answers to questions...but some of those questions could be also answered in the draft. Let's take a look at some of these groups, and see what the Vikings can or should do.

Quarterback: One of the few position groups that seem settled. Teddy Bridgewater is the starter, and if Matt Cassel is healthy, he'll be the backup. Christian Ponder won't return, but the third QB on the roster...if the Vikings even have one, is about problem 53 of 53. But if Cassel isn't going to be healthy (and we've seen nothing to indicate that, by the way, just speculating here), then the Vikings will need to address the position. I would think that if a backup is needed, they'll get an experienced guy in free agency and forego the draft.

Running Back: Here's our first if/then problem. I like Jerick McKinnon as the long term answer once Adrian Peterson is gone...but that's the if/then. You can make an argument that the Vikings need to address running back in free agency pr the draft if Peterson doesn't come back. But if Peterson does return, then the running back priority is a lot lower, at least for a season. If Peterson comes back, a backfield of Peterson, McKinnon, and Matt Asiata is one I'd be fine with. But if Peterson leaves, then McKinnon and Asiata is one that will need some help.

Wide Receiver: If/then problem number two shows up here. Cordarrelle Patterson's fall from grace was stunning and complete in 2014, ending up behind Charles Johnson and Adam Thielen by season's end. His failings created a playmaking void on the outside the Vikings were counting on in 2014, and it never really developed. So, it appears Minnesota needs a deep threat threat on the outside. There are some interesting option at wide receiver in free agency, depending on how franchise tags and such play out, and many mock drafts have the Vikings targeting a wide receiver in the first round.

But Mike Zimmer has given Patterson an off season rehabilitation plan, if you will, to get back to the level he was playing at at the end of 2013. If Patterson comes back in the right frame of mind, and lives up to his potential, though, then wide receiver just became a fairly low priority. A full up Patterson, along with Greg Jennings, Jarius Wright, Charles Johnson, and Adam Thielen, is a position group I'd have no problem rolling with in 2015. But if Patterson remains stuck in neutral, then yeah, WR becomes a position of pretty serious need.

Tight End: This isn't an immediate if/then situation, but it is one that we need to keep an eye on. I think Kyle Rudolph is a legitimate NFL talent, and can be a top tight end in the NFL. But Rudolph has missed significant time over the last two seasons due to injury (15 games), and if it occurs again in 2015, then the Vikings might need to look at another guy along the lines of Rudolph in the 2016 draft. I don't think they do anything this off-season--they signed him to a big contract extension in training camp, and he's still an integral part of the offense. But another injury plagues season in 2016, and this becomes an area the Vikes will need to address, I would think.

Offensive Line: This is a position of need, but we still have a couple of if/then situations here. The first one is Matt Kalil. And it's a what/if more for the fans than what I think management is feeling. As bad as Kalil was over portions of the 2014 season, he rallied at the end of the season, and is still owed over $6.2 million dollars in 2015, all guaranteed. He isn't getting cut, as the Vikings would absorb his entire salary with no cap relief, and he isn't getting traded. Could the Vikings draft his replacement? Sure, but now you're looking at a significant portion of the salary invested in a position that isn't QB, so I don't see that happening. If Kalil has a bad 2015, then the Vikings will part ways, but he's going to be around in 2015.

The other if/then situation is left guard. I don't see Charlie Johnson returning, so the Vikings have to make a decision about David Yankey. It was thought by many (myself included) that he would compete with Johnson for the starting LG position, but he never did. As a matter of fact, he was deactivated for all but one game in 2015. So if the Vikings think Yankey can develop into a starter in 2015, then they'll still need to draft guys along the offensive line for depth, but nabbing a starter early isn't a priority. But if Yankey can't, or the Vikings don't think he will, then it's a position that will have to be addressed early, possibly in the first round.

Defensive Line: Not a lot of what/if problems here. The starting four of Brian Robison, Linval Joseph, Shariff Floyd, and Everson Griffen are solid starters, but I do think depth will be addressed in free agency and/or the draft. Robison is a guy that only has a couple more years left, I think, so the Vikings need to start thinking about his replacement, but it's not a huge sense of urgency right now.

Linebackers: This is another big if/then position. If you're reading the writing on the wall, I think Chad Greenway is gone. He could be back for another year, but I'm just not seeing it right now. With Jasper Brinkley on a one year contract and a fairly pedestrian 2014, I don't see him being back either.  That means the only returning starter is Anthony Barr. Even if the Vikings think guys already on the roster like Gerald Hodges, Mike Mauti, and ZOMG AUDIE COLE WOOOOO AUDIE!!!!!!!11!!!!!!!! are guys that can step in and start, then they'll still need to draft or sign guys for depth. However, if they don't think the answer is currently on the roster, then you could make an argument that linebacker is the biggest position of need. I don't see linebacker necessarily being addressed in the first round, though, as linebackers as a whole seem to be a pretty deep draft group, so we'll see.

Secondary: The last if/then situation, at least as I see it, is at safety. I was down on Robert Blanton for most of 2014, and when the season first ended I thought safety was the biggest need heading in to the off-season. Then CCNorseman had to completely screw up my line of thinking with this piece defending him and his play, and I've had to re-think things. If the Vikings think Blanton can be league average, as CC pointed out, then safety is actually a pretty low priority. But if Blanton isn't the answer, then safety is a big problem and it needs to be addressed.

So as you can see, the Vikings have a lot of needs to address, but a lot of questions currently on the roster that might be able to address them.