As the excitement of the 2017 free agent period has come and gone, the Minnesota Vikings have made a number moves with the expressed intent of improving an inconsistent offense. After a season of dealing with underperformance and injuries, the team zeroed in on the two primary positions that were a direct reason for the team’s regression and a disappointing 8-8 finish last season; offensive line and running back.
Already gone were guard, Brandon Fusco and tackle, Andre Smith, before free agency even began. Wide receivers, Cordarrelle Patterson and Charles Johnson, tackle, Matt Kalil and tight end, Rhett Ellison, were among the names fans saw signed with new teams during the first two weeks of the free agency period. The two biggest losses to the Vikings’ roster were nickel cornerback, Captain Munnerlyn and longtime running back, Adrian Peterson.
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Despite the losses, Vikings’ fans were given reasons for optimism with the signings the team made in free agency. Minnesota signed tackles, Riley Reiff from the Detroit Lions — five years, $58.75 million — and Mike Remmers from the Carolina Panthers — five years, $30 million. Though not known as elite talents, one can argue that they’ll provide an upgrade over the personnel they had at the positions this past season and will likely provide a boost in 2017.
The Vikings also added running back, Latavius Murray, on a three-year $15 million contract, to replace Peterson as the team’s feature back. Though not the back that Peterson was, Murray is a capable runner who will provide a needed upgrade at the position in the passing game as both a receiver out of the backfield as well as a pass blocker.
With the future of quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater, still in question, the Vikings signed former Rams quarterback, Case Keenum, on Friday to a one-year deal to be the backup to starter, Sam Bradford. Given the recent video of Bridgewater moving around while wearing a brace and throwing the football, fans may look at this signing as simply precautionary.
Despite the personnel losses outnumbering the additions, most of the players allowed to walk, either played minor roles or did not meet expectations set forth by coaches and team management. Despite the loss of Peterson, the Vikings may be trending in the right direction with the moves made so far to improve a rushing attack that finished last in the league in 2016.
The loss of Munnerlyn may be the most questionable move up to this point. Despite re-signing cornerback, Terence Newman, letting Munnerlyn go could come back to haunt the Vikings if age finally does catch up to Newman (who will be 39-years-old as he heads into the 2017 season) and second-year cornerback, Mackensie Alexander, isn’t ready to handle the nickel duties.
Even with the moves Minnesota has made so far, the Vikings still have a number of questions to answer as they head towards the upcoming NFL Draft. Who will fill the opening at right guard? There’s also the ongoing health issues with defensive tackle, Sharrif Floyd; do they stick with him, or does the team draft someone early to possibly replace him? Who steps in to replace Cordarrelle Patterson on kickoff returns? This is just a short list of the questions the team has to answer between now and the opening of training camp.