The Minnesota Vikings OTAs commence Tuesday, and the team has more than a few questions needing to be answered as they prepare for 2023. While the team isn’t entirely cap-strapped after trading Za’Darius Smith to the Cleveland Browns, the Vikings don’t have much room to work with to improve the roster more before September.
Before we find out whether Minnesota can replicate their surprising 13-win performance from a season ago, we must first know what the roster will look like once June hits. They’ve already traded veterans like Adam Thielen and Smith, and they’re likely not done moving money around just yet.
2023 Minnesota Vikings OTAs Preview
There will be a lot of pressure on Jordan Addison to produce early for the Vikings. Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Kevin Stefanski will have uncomfortable questions to answer surrounding Dalvin Cook’s future. Minnesota’s pass defense was troubling. Have they done enough in the offseason to fix that flaw?
Can Jordan Addison Step Into the No. 2 Role?
Thielen has averaged 70 catches, 789 yards, and 10 touchdowns over the past three seasons. That is not an insignificant amount of production over the past three seasons.
OTAs don’t tell that much of a story about what could become in September, but it will be interesting to see Addison’s rapport with Kirk Cousins early on. Addison has shown he can flourish in multiple roles, but his downfield receiving prowess made him a Biletnikoff awardee during his final season at Pittsburgh.
But downfield attempts are low-percentage throws. Additionally, they demand an innate understanding between QB and WR to be truly efficient, and that can only be accomplished on the field with hundreds of repetitions.
His addition should create a legitimate three-layer threat between Justin Jefferson, T.J. Hockenson, and himself. Hockenson helped take some of the pressure off of Jefferson and Thielen a season ago. But Addison’s addition could create even larger voids in the intermediate area that Jefferson feasts in as a route runner.
Dalvin Cook Questions Will Be Asked
Although trading Smith did change the math on Minnesota’s cap situation, it probably didn’t change the outcome for the Vikings regarding Cook’s future employment status.
Cook will almost certainly be away from the team facility during this time. He’s still recovering from a shoulder procedure to repair an injury that has bothered Cook for the past few seasons.
Cutting him after June 1 saves Minnesota $9 million against the cap in 2023. He holds a dead cap hit of $5.1 million in 2023 and $3.1 million in 2024, according to Spotrac and Over the Cap.
Among 42 qualifiers with 100 rushes, Cook had just the 36th-best DVOA. Meanwhile, Minnesota’s rushing offense ranked 29th in EPA. Although he posted the second-longest run of the season, an 81-yarder, Cook struggled to consistently make splashes, and he was only marginally good after contact a season ago.
With a significant amount of movement among Vikings veterans already in full swing, it appears Cook is next in line. Although OTAs won’t be open to the public, the local beat will have an opportunity to speak with higher-ups. They’ll ask about Cook’s future, and it will be fascinating to see how they handle the answers.
Did Minnesota Improve the Secondary Enough?
Brian Flores is a lot different than Ed Donatell. A Flores defense is much, much more aggressive. There will be more man coverage, even though his scheme is multiple.
“That has been one of the main messages that B-Flo has put on us,” assistant player personnel director Chisom Opara said Saturday. “He is built on being multiple and the idea of having an aggressive scheme, the idea of having a scheme that can dictate to the offense. Part of that is having players that can play multiple roles so you don’t develop tendencies; you don’t have certain guys that specialize at doing certain things.”
On the surface, adding Byron Murphy makes sense. He’s able to play on the outside or in the slot with success. However, he doesn’t have the high-end reaction athleticism that would allow him to recover if he’s outmanned on a particular rep. Murphy’s an intelligent defender, but he’s better suited to keep things in front of him so he can use his eyes.
The Vikings must rely on the ascensions of Andrew Booth Jr. and Lewis Cine. Harrison Smith is an elder at this point of his career. Having him play a more limited role alongside Cine and Camryn Bynum would probably be best for everyone involved.
One of Akayleb Evans, Mekhi Blackmon, or Jay Ward needs to prove themselves early in the offseason. Minnesota is banking on these young cornerbacks. While they’ve thrown darts at the position, if the Vikings miss the board on all of them, they’ll struggle to cover anybody.