It’s been a long offseason for fans of the Minnesota Vikings, as a disappointing 2021 season gave way to significant changes and renewed optimism for 2022. As a part of our preview of the 2022 edition of the Vikings, let’s take a look back at everything that happened to the team this offseason and how we got to where we are now.
It’s a new day, yes it is
The day after the season-ending victory over the Chicago Bears at U.S. Bank Stadium, Vikings’ ownership relieved both head coach Mike Zimmer and general manager Rick Spielman of their duties.
Spielman had been with the team in some capacity since 2006, while Zimmer had been the head coach of the team for eight seasons — the third-longest coaching tenure in team history. The Wilf family decided that changes were needed, and they wasted no time making those changes.
On Jan. 26, after an extensive search process, the Vikings hired former Cleveland Browns assistant GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah as their new general manager. Adofo-Mensah is now one of the youngest GMs in the National Football League and, perhaps more significantly, comes from more of an analytics background after working in business prior to starting his NFL career. He should bring a vastly different approach to how the Vikings construct the roster going forward.
The coaching search brought a little bit of drama with it. After a very public flirtation with Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh, Harbaugh officially decided to return to Ann Arbor after it seemed that the job was his for the taking. With Harbaugh out of the picture, the Vikings turned to Los Angeles Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell to be the 10th head coach in franchise history. The Vikings are hoping that O’Connell can “unlock” quarterback Kirk Cousins and take the offense to the next level after eight seasons under the defensive-minded Zimmer.
O’Connell brought tight ends coach Wes Phillips — grandson of Bum and son of Wade — along with him to be the team’s offensive coordinator, while nabbing longtime defensive coach Ed Donatell to run the defense on the Vikings’ sideline.
Comings and Goings
While free agency was expected to be relatively uneventful for the Vikings, the team did make a couple of significant splashes in the free agent pool. Their first signing of the offseason was former Buffalo Bills nose tackle Harrison Phillips. Phillips will look to shore up the Vikings’ porous run defense along with Dalvin Tomlinson.
They also took steps to help their pass rush, signing former Green Bay Packers’ outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith to a three-year deal. Smith, who played just one game in 2021 because of injuries, had originally signed a deal with the Baltimore Ravens but changed his mind and came to Minnesota instead. If he can remain healthy, he will team up with Danielle Hunter to bring heat from the outside in the Vikings’ new 3-4 scheme.
Other notable additions in free agency for the Vikings were linebacker Jordan Hicks, who came over from the Arizona Cardinals, cornerback Chandon Sullivan, who arrived from Green Bay, and tight end Johnny Mundt, who joined O’Connell in coming over from the Rams.
There were some significant free agency departures for the Vikings as well. The team released nose tackle Michael Pierce, who had problems staying healthy for the Vikings. After signing a three-year deal with the Vikings in March of 2020, Pierce played in just eight games for the Vikings after opting out of the 2020 season because of COVID and dealing with myriad injuries in 2021.
The team also bid farewell to longtime linebacker Anthony Barr, who signed a one-year deal with the Dallas Cowboys. The first draft pick of the Mike Zimmer era, Barr spent eight seasons in Minnesota but saw his play decline a little bit over the past couple of seasons.
Among the team’s other departures were offensive lineman Mason Cole, who signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers, and tight end Tyler Conklin, who signed a big deal with the New York Jets after a very good 2021 season in place of the injured Irv Smith Jr.
Feeling a draft
The 2022 NFL Draft was a pretty eventful one for Adofo-Mensah, who was running the show on his own for the first time. He made a move that many considered strange early in the proceedings as he made a trade with the Vikings’ division rivals, the Detroit Lions, to move down 20 spots in the first round. The Lions took Alabama wide receiver Jameson Williams at No. 12 overall, while the Vikings selected Georgia safety Lewis Cine with the final selection in the first round.
Adofo-Mensah then made another deal with another division rival, this time making a trade with Green Bay involving one of the picks they received from Detroit to move down again. Green Bay took North Dakota State wide receiver Christian Watson with pick No. 34, while the Vikings made a move back up later in the second round to select Clemson cornerback Andrew Booth Jr.
When it was all said and done, the Vikings drafted ten players this past April.
- Round 1, No. 32 overall - Lewis Cine, S, Georgia
- Round 2, No. 42 overall - Andrew Booth Jr., S, Clemson
- Round 2, No. 59 overall - Ed Ingram, G, Louisiana State
- Round 3, No. 66 overall - Brian Asamoah, LB, Oklahoma
- Round 4, No. 118 overall - Akayleb Evans, CB, Missouri
- Round 5, No. 165 overall - Esezi Otomewo, Edge, Minnesota
- Round 5, No. 169 overall - Ty Chandler, RB, North Carolina
- Round 6, No. 184 overall - Vederian Lowe, OT, Illinois
- Round 6, No. 189 overall - Jalen Nailor, WR, Michigan State
- Round 7, No. 227 overall - Nick Muse, TE, South Carolina (practice squad)
That’s a brief look back at how the offseason went for the Minnesota Vikings. In the second part of our preview, we’ll take a look at how we expect all of these changes to impact the Vikings in 2022 and give an ultimate record prediction for the team this season.