After a disappointing 8-8 season kept them out of the playoffs last season, the Vikings went into the offseason with a set mission: fix the offense. Despite having an elite-level defense, their 2016 season was largely undone by a one-dimensional offensive with a leaky front line. From the free agency period all the way through the draft, the Vikings aggressively focused on building up an offense that was largely responsible for the team squandering away a 5-0 start to 2016.
Free agency saw the arrivals of tackles Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers, running back Latavius Murray, and wide receiver Michael Floyd, while the team invested their first two draft selections in another running back in Dalvin Cook and center/guard Pat Elflein. They also drafted receivers Rodney Adams and Stacy Coley, tight end Bucky Hodges and lineman Danny Isidora.
The defense also welcomed a few additions as they attempt to either repeat or better their 2016 performance. They brought in Datone Jones, formerly of the rival Green Bay Packers, in March while adding defensive linemen Jaleel Johnson and Ifeadi Odenigbo, linebackers Ben Gedeon and Elijah Lee, and cornerback Jack Tocho.
Even after all the personnel additions, the Vikings will enter 2017 with some questions that will need to be answered at some point in time, whether it be in training camp or during the course the season.
Around the NFL: Which five offensive players have the the most to prove in 2017
What’s Trending: Eric Mangini hoping to mend relationship with Bill Belichick
2017 Season: Week 1 odds for each game of 2017 NFL season
Vikings’ Weekly: Vikings’ 2017 NFL Draft grades and review
Vikes’ Bite: Could 2017 be the Vikings’ year
Purple Update: Vikings give troubled WR Michael Floyd a second chance
5. Will Latavius Murray, Dalvin Cook and Jerick McKinnon be enough to effectively replace Adrian Peterson?
The team added Murray and Cook in the hopes that one or both can replace the production Peterson was known for. Murray may not have the explosive abilities that AP had in his prime, but he provides upgrades in pass catching and pass blocking, areas that neither Peterson nor McKinnon were well known for. McKinnon provides speed and pass catching ability as well, but isn’t as reliable running between the tackles. Cook may be the most talented of the three as the rookie brings explosive playmaking ability to the group.
4. When will Sharif Floyd return?
Injuries have been a part of the talented lineman’s history in his four years in the NFL. He missed all but one game last season and now there are questions about his latest injury affecting his career going forward, possibly ending it. The team reinforced the defensive tackle position by adding Jones and Johnson as precautions. If and when he returns, this could be one of the deepest interior lines in the league.
3. What should the Vikings do if Teddy Bridgewater is ready to play in 2017?
This is question that can have a variety of answers, many of them favorable to the team. The simple choice is they keep him as the back-up to current starting quarterback, Sam Bradford in the event that he struggles or is sidelined with (another) injury. However, there is also the chance to accumulate assets via trade to continue building a championship team. Both Bridgewater and Bradford are free agents after the season, so could the team make a move to get something for one of them rather than let them both potentially walk for nothing?
2. Can Sam Bradford finally reach the potential that made him the no.#1 pick in the 2010 draft?
Even after having a career year, it still wasn’t enough to silence his critics. Despite being among the most accurate deep ball passers in the league last season, he more often than not kept to short throws and screen passes. Much of that can be attributed to the woeful offensive line play. However going back further in his career, he’s also dealt with injuries as well as subpar play at times. With more talent around him than at any point in his NFL career and a full offseason in the system, this could be the best chance to see if Bradford can be “that guy.”
1. Have the Vikings solved their offensive line issues?
Even before last season, this line had struggled in years past, primarily in pass protection. It was long past time to invest in upgrades to this group. The team invested free agent funds and multiple draft picks into rebuilding an offensive line that had finally bottomed out in 2016. However, neither the free agent market nor this year’s draft was regarded as having great offensive line talent. It’s possible the Vikings may strike enough gold with their acquisitions, but also just as likely that they may see only a minimum return on their investments. One thing is certain: aside from the quarterback position, this group will have more impact than any other on the success of this offense in 2017.