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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Seven bold ideas for the Vikings offseason

By Matthew Coller

As the Minnesota Vikings watch this week’s NFC and AFC Championship games, they should be looking at the Saints, Rams, Chiefs and Patriots as the bar to reach.

While luck and bounces play a role in success or failure, this year each championship team ended with a point differential of more than plus-100, while the Vikings outscored opponents by just 19 points over 16 games.

Clearly improving the offensive line will be at the top of the Vikings’ list, but adding a guard might not be enough to close the gap between the best teams and Mike Zimmer’s club. The first move came in hiring Kevin Stefanski as offensive coordinator and the next as making Gary Kubiak assistant coach.

What’s next? Let’s have a look at some bold moves the Vikings could make to upgrade…

Tag and trade Anthony Barr

Head coach Mike Zimmer may be a big fan of Anthony Barr, but keeping him in the Twin Cities could be tough. There hasn’t appeared to be much movement on a long-term contract and franchise tagging Barr would cost somewhere in the range of $12-$14 million for 2019. With his history as a Pro Bowler and potential to grow as a pass rusher, it’s plausible that teams with more cap space would be interested in adding him. Two years ago the Patriots dealt away Jamie Collins to the Browns, who signed a long-term deal in Cleveland. The Dolphins pulled a tag-and-trade with the Browns for Jarvis Landry last year. The move would create cap space for the Vikings to spend on a replacement and other positions.

Trade the first-round pick for an offensive weapon

GM Rick Spielman has always preached having a long-term plan, but two years ago the Vikings pulled the trigger on a deal to bring Sam Bradford to Minnesota for a first-round pick when Teddy Bridgewater went down. In a win-now season in which pressure with be on Spielman and Zimmer to get back to the postseason, it might make sense to look to acquire a proven offensive player — whether it be a lineman, receiver or tight end — to improve Kirk Cousins’ chances of meeting his full potential. A quick study of the mid-to-late first round finds a mixed bag of immediate impact players, solid starters and busts. With the team pushing to win in the Kirk Cousins window, it might not be crazy to go all-in rather than rolling the dice on a draft pick.

Cut Everson Griffen

Following a down year, the assumption is that the Vikings will restructure Everson Griffen’s contract, which carries a $11.9 million cap number according to Releasing him would save the Vikings $10.7 million on the cap this offseason, which they could pour into the best possible offensive lineman or wide receiver on the market in order to improve the supporting cast for Cousins. Griffen has been an elite player at his position for years, but graded 68th of 98 defensive ends last year by Pro Football Focus. Stephen Weatherly flashed the potential to be a full-time defensive end this year and the Vikings could also afford to support Weatherly with situational pass rushers as the Patriots and Eagles have done in the last few years.

Trade a cornerback for a draft pick

It’s tough to disagree with Zimmer when he says “you can never have too many” defensive backs, but the Vikings now have Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes, Mike Hughes, Holton Hill and Mackensie Alexander at corner. Considering Rhodes set to make $13.4 million on the cap and Waynes $9.1 million and PFF ranked Rhodes 72nd of 77 corners and Waynes 34th and Hill allowed just a 51.6 percent completion percentage into his coverage, there could be a case for moving one of them to create extra cap space. Despite the down play from the starting corners, the Vikings were able to combine scheme and pressure to hold opposing quarterbacks to a 83.3 rating, fourth best in the NFL.

As far as the return, the Rams gave up a fourth-round pick in 2018 and a second-round pick in 2019 in their deal with the Chiefs for Marcus Peters. But in that case, Kansas City was in a bad spot since Peters had become problematic. The same can’t be said for Waynes or Rhodes, so they would presumably have more trade value.

Double down on defense

Yes, the top four teams in the NFL rank either No. 1 or 2 in scoring, but it’s unlikely the Vikings are going to be able to reach that level of offensive dominance without a top-five quarterback. So the best chance they have might be attempting to get to the Bears’ level and hoping their kicker doesn’t doink a game-winning kick in the playoffs. The free agent crop of defensive players is pretty impressive. Tyrann Mathieu, Landon Collins or LaMarcus Joyner, for example, alongside Harrison Smith might be death for opposing offenses. How about Ndamukong Suh or Jadaveon Clowney on the defensive line? Maybe bring Terrell Suggs home for one year as a situational rusher? The Vikings are one or two players away from being the most terrifying defense in the NFL. It would certainly be bold to double down on stopping the league’s best offenses.

Draft a quarterback in the second round

The Vikings haven’t been the type of team to draft a developmental quarterback. They haven’t picked one outside of the first round since John David Booty in 2008. Recent second-round quarterbacks like DeShone Kizer and Christian Hackenberg have gone belly up pretty quickly, but every so often there’s a gem in the bunch a la Jimmy Garoppolo or Derek Carr. Or if you go back to 2012, Russell Wilson, Nick Foles and Kirk Cousins were picked in the third and fourth. Andy Dalton and Colin Kaepernick were second rounders the year before. It would be on the bold side, but there’s an argument for selecting a quality QB if they drop as a just-in-case for 2021. Plus if said QB has a solid few games in relief, they can be traded to the highest bidder like Jimmy G was.

Naturally the biggest problem with picking a quarterback is that it will be a sign to Cousins that his time in Minnesota might not last past three years in total and it would take away from the team’s ability to take a playmaker or offensive lineman. But remember the Seahawks were given lots of D’s and F’s when they picked Wilson because they had Matt Flynn in place.

Do anything possible to upgrade left tackle

Riley Reiff is a good NFL player. But with a quarterback like Cousins, there isn’t a more important position on the field than his left tackle and the down games Reiff did have correlated with Cousins’ worst performances. Against Buffalo he allowed 12 pressure while battling a foot injury. The Vikings lost and Cousins fumbled twice. His lowest grade came at Chicago in a loss. He gave up five pressures in the finale — another loss to the Bears.

Last year Seattle changed the trajectory of their line by trading for Duane Brown, who ranked fourth in pass blocking by PFF. Andrew Whitworth was a franchise-altering signing for the Rams. Joe Staley is going into the final year of his contract with the 49ers. Or the Vikings could attempt a big swing trade at the draft to go up to the top and get Alabama’s Jonah Williams. There aren’t a ton of options because teams don’t let left tackles walk but the Lions drafted Taylor Decker and moved Reiff to right tackle in 2016. Last year Decker ranked 13th in pass blocking, Reiff 36th.

The post Seven bold ideas for the Vikings offseason appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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