Seven potential openings on the Minnesota Vikings next season
The Minnesota Vikings have reached an important point in their history.
The Vikings still seem right in the middle of a playoff window, despite a postseason berth was all but out of reach in 2020. Will the Vikings try to rebuild on the fly while they are still competing? Or will the team say goodbye to a few too many veterans and race down the street?
In 2021, Minnesota will have to decide which players to run and which to keep.
Here are seven possible openings for the Vikings in the 2021 NFL season:
Defensive device with three techniques
Photo: Trevor Ruszkowski / USA TODAY Sport
Armon Watts and Jaleel Johnson didn't look convincing in big roles. Shamar Stephen was able to move from the nasal device to the three-way technique with Michael Pierce on the team, but Stephen was not outstanding this year either. I could see the three-technique pitch being occupied by a young player, maybe even a newbie.
AP Photo / David Berding)
Dakota Dozier didn't make it as a starter this season. Dru Samia looked quite inconsistent in his short stint as the starting guard. Brett Jones looked workable, but I think the most likely option for the Vikings is to get a new player to fill this seat - be it by draft or through a free agency.
Photo: Brace Hemmelgarn / USA TODAY Sport
Sure, Danielle Hunter is coming back, but neither Jalyn Holmes nor Ifeadi Odenigbo turned out to be long term starters at the other defensive endpoint. Maybe Odenigbo is improving, but I think the Vikings should look for someone else at this point.
Photo: Brad Rempel / USA TODAY Sport
Kyle Rudolph has a big contract and the Vikings will depend on cash in 2021. It makes sense to go ahead and let Irv Smith Jr. and Tyler Conklin become the tight ends one and two, respectively. Maybe Conklin doesn't play that big a role, but he looked good in 2020 when he has more playing time.
Photo: Elsa / Getty Images
The Vikings have a difficult financial decision to make safely. Will the team re-sign Anthony Harris? He could have a big contract. Minnesota may have to get rid of Harrison Smith too. He will make more than $ 9.8 million in 2021 if the Vikings keep him and don't restructure him. There is no dead money on his contract if the team cuts him pro over the cap. Of course, Smith could still have high trade value so ideally they can find a trade for the Vikings that works rather than just let it go. But given Minnesota's situation next season, the Vikings may have to say goodbye to Smith or Harris, despite these two being some of the best players on defense.
Photo: AP Photo / David Berding
Much like Smith and Harris, the Vikings moving on from Riley Reiff would have nothing to do with his skill. Reiff played well in 2020. The left tackle will raise a little more than $ 6.6 million in 2021. This isn't even a bad treaty, but the Vikings have reached a point where they need to find cap-saving solutions. If the team thinks Ezra Cleveland is ready for the left guard, they may want to move on from Reiff.
Three wide receiver
Photo: Stephen Maturen / Getty Images
Adam Thielen is still Adam Thielen. Justin Jefferson emerged as a star. But after that the Vikings could use a decent wideout. Bisi Johnson and Chad Beebe looked inconsistent. The Tajae Sharpe experiment didn't work out because the team did without it this year. Minnesota has played two sets of wide receivers quite often, but could some of that be helping Thielen and Jefferson not have good depth? We'll have to see if the Vikings run out and find new wideouts.
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