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Vikings made big moves this offseason to build on last season’s success

There are a lot of changes to talk about

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports

Since their playoff loss to the New York Giants last January, the Minnesota Vikings have undergone some significant roster changes, as a lot of players who had become household names have moved on to new opportunities. As the 64th season of Vikings football begins and the quest for the first Super Bowl title continues, we’re going to take a brief look back at all of those changes and what they might mean for the team this coming season.

Key Departures

  • RB Dalvin Cook
  • DC Ed Donatell
  • CB Cameron Dantzler
  • LB Eric Kendricks (Chargers)
  • CB Patrick Peterson (Steelers)
  • CB Duke Shelley (Raiders)
  • Edge Za’Darius Smith (Browns)
  • TE Irv Smith Jr. (Bengals)
  • CB Chandon Sullivan
  • WR Adam Thielen (Panthers)
  • DT Dalvin Tomlinson (Browns)

Yes, that’s quite the list of departures that the Vikings have compiled over the past few months. Many of the departures came on the defensive side of the ball, where the Vikings had their share of struggles last season. Donatell was fired after just one season in Minnesota after running a defense with personnel that wasn’t suited for his scheme and basically refusing to change, but we’ll get deeper into that transition here shortly.

The Vikings also parted ways with the four players who logged the most snaps at cornerback for them last season, all of whom are listed above. That means they’re going to be relying on a lot of youth at that spot and guys who had trouble staying healthy last year.

Kendricks, while solid, had clearly lost a step from what he had displayed a couple of seasons ago, and departed for an opportunity to play closer to home. The biggest loss for the Vikings will most likely be Tomlinson, who was one of the bright spots on the defense this past season but proved too expensive for the Vikings to afford. The loss of Za’Darius Smith could prove significant as well, even though he sort of disappeared in the second half of the 2022 season and decided he didn’t want to be back in Minnesota, getting shipped to Cleveland for a couple of draft-pick swaps.

A few significant players on offense moved on, too. The story of Adam Thielen and his $500 scholarship will now be told during games in Carolina, while Irv Smith Jr. moved on to Cincinnati after a couple of injury-riddled seasons, never quite fulfilling the promise he came with as a second-round pick. The big one, however, was running back Dalvin Cook, who was released in June after refusing to take a pay cut to either stay in Minnesota or facilitate a trade to another team. As of the time this article was written, he remains unsigned.

Key Additions (including draft picks)

  • WR Jordan Addison (Southern Cal)
  • CB Mekhi Blackmon (Southern Cal)
  • EDGE Marcus Davenport (Saints)
  • DC Brian Flores
  • QB Jaren Hall (Brigham Young)
  • DL Dean Lowry (Packers)
  • RB Dwayne McBride (Alabama-Birmingham)
  • CB Byron Murphy (Cardinals)
  • TE Josh Oliver (Ravens)
  • WR Brandon Powell (Rams)
  • LB Troy Reeder (Rams)
  • DT Jaquelin Roy (Louisiana State)
  • S Jay Ward (Louisiana State)
  • CB Joejuan Williams (Patriots)

The biggest addition to this group is, undoubtedly, Brian Flores coming in as the new defensive coordinator. After watching Donatell’s passive defense in 2022, the Vikings went out and got someone who should prove to be his polar opposite. Flores’ defenses have always been among the NFL’s most aggressive and could help to spark a turnaround for one of the NFL’s most disappointing units last season.

Offensively, the Vikings drafted Addison to ostensibly replace Thielen, as the former Biletnikoff Award winner should get every opportunity to win the No. 2 WR spot across from Justin Jefferson. Oliver, known primarily for his blocking, will get an opportunity to be the second tight end, and the Vikings could take advantage of his athleticism in ways that his previous employer did not. The Vikings drafted Hall as a developmental arm, though the odds of him being a long-term replacement for Kirk Cousins seem to be remote. McBride was one of the most explosive rushers in college football last year and could be part of the new running back-by-committee approach the team will employ in the wake of Cook’s departure.

Defensively, the Vikings took a gamble on Davenport, who had just half a sack last season in New Orleans, but has a world of potential. Hopefully, for the sake of the Vikings defense, he’ll “prove it” on his one-year deal. Murphy was brought in to lead the cornerback room, and even though he’s been in the league for just four seasons he’s already the senior player of the group. Lowry should be able to provide some solid snaps as part of the defensive line rotation, and Blackmon, Ward, and Roy will get early opportunities to contribute on defense as well.

These additions and subtractions didn’t really do a lot to move the proverbial needle for the Vikings as far as their odds of winning the division. According to our friends at the DraftKings Sportsbook, the Vikings were at +250 to win the NFC North when the offseason began, +275 after the first week of free agency in mid-March, and +260 on 1 May. Overall, it appears as though the bookmakers see all of the Vikings’ moves this offseason as a wash.

This offseason, transition has been the name of the game for the Minnesota Vikings. A lot of faces fans have gotten familiar with over the past few years are in different places, and there are plenty of new names who have come in to replace them.

After nearly seven months of waiting, we’re finally going to get an opportunity to see how it all fits for Kevin O’Connell and company in his second year at the helm.