Here are three moves the Vikings could still make this offseason to boost their Super Bowl chances
The offseason isn't over yet and the Vikings could boost their Super Bowl chances by making these three moves
Although Minnesota's year got off to a promising start, things started to crash-and-burn in November after they went 1-3 coming out of their Week 10 bye, which is a big reason why they finished their season at 8-7-1 and out of the playoffs.
Despite the disappointment, the Vikings should once again have high hopes this year and that's because they have one of the deepest rosters in the NFL, but will that be enough to get them over the hump and back into the postseason after a year away?
Great question, glad you asked.
For the month of May, we'll be taking a look at three potential moves that teams can still make this offseason to turn themselves from playoff contenders into Super Bowl contenders. Although the Vikings have a talented roster, there are three small things they can do to put themselves in a position to return to the Super Bowl for the first time since the 1976 season.
Let's get to the list.
1. Trade Kyle Rudolph
The Vikings don't really have any money to spend right now, so the only way we can make the other two moves on this list happen is by freeing up some salary cap space, which is exactly what trading Rudolph will do. According to Spotrac, the Vikings are only going have about $870,000 in cap space after they get all their rookies under contract, which isn't a lot to work with.
The Vikings rank dead last in cap space, despite the fact that they've spent all offseason trying to free up money. Not only did they decline Andrew Sendejo's option, which freed up $5.5 million, but they also released offensive lineman Mike Remmers (saving $2.7 million) and had Everson Griffen restructure his contract, which gave them roughly $4.3 million more in cap space.
If the Vikings want to free up more money, there's only one good option and that option is to trade Rudolph. The Vikings tight end has a cap hit of $7.625 million in 2019 and all of that would become free if Rudolph gets dealt. On one hand, you don't necessarily want to trade a productive player like Rudolph, who caught 64 passes for 634 yards and four touchdowns last season. However, there is a lot of upside: Not only do you save money, but Rudolph actually has some trade value since he still produces at a pretty impressive rate. Not to mention, the Vikings already have a potential replacement in place in the form of Irv Smith, Jr., who they selected in the second round of this year's draft.
The selection of Smith doesn't necessarily mean the Vikings are going to get rid of Rudolph, but the veteran tight end seems to be aware that a trade out of Minnesota is a possibility.
"Until it happens, I'm here in Minnesota," Rudolph said after the draft, via the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "My family is here in Minnesota. This is home for us. I have poured my heart and soul into this organization and given it everything that I had. I will continue to do that as long as I'm still wearing purple."
If the Vikings do end up getting rid of Rudolph in a trade, that will open up enough salary cap space to allow them to make the next two moves on this list. Of course, if these next two moves don't happen, then the freed up space would give the Vikings some breathing room in case they need to add an extra player in the event of an injury.
2. Add veteran depth on the offensive line
If Kirk Cousins knew how bad the Vikings offensive line was going to be last season, he probably would have thrown their $84 million back in their face and as the 29th worst line in the NFL last season)last March. The Vikings had one of the worst lines in the NFL in 2018, and it seems they've definitely realized that fact, because they've let multiple starters walk since the end of the season (Pro Football Focus ranked them
Not only did they let Nick Easton and Tom Compton leave in free agency, but they also cut Mike Remmers, which means three of Minnesota's starters from 2018 won't be returning in 2019. Although the Vikings have done a lot to beef up their offensive line this offseason -- they signed Josh Kline and they also drafted three linemen, including first rounder Garrett Bradbury -- there's still no guarantee that this line is going to be good. Kline has been known to struggle and there's no guarantee that any of their draft picks will pan out.
Although it's a near lock that Bradbury will be a starter in 2019, Vikings general manager Rick Spielman wouldn't commit to putting him at any certain position following the draft.
"I know right now just looking -- I know [Bradbury] can play center and guard, I know Pat Elflein can play center and guard, and I know Josh Kline has played guard and can also play some center," Spielman said. "So position flexibility is definitely a key trait that we're looking for."
Spielman loves flexibility and adding another linemen would give the Vikings even more flexibility, which is why they should look to add a veteran. If I'm Spielman, the first person I'd call is Donald Penn. Although the former Raiders lineman has been dealing with injuries, the upside to that is that he should be available at a reasonable price. Yes, Penn missed 14 games in 2018, but it's also worth noting that he only missed two games in the 11 seasons before that. A healthy Penn would be an instant upgrade at the tackle position in Minnesota.
If they could get him for $5 million or less -- he made $4.6 million in 2018 -- there would really be no downside for Minnesota to add him on a one-year deal. If he's healthy and he plays well, then the Vikings get an anchor for their offensive line. If he struggles with injuries, then he can help mentor the three young linemen who were just drafted.
If the Vikings can't work out a deal with Penn, they could also think about calling former Falcons tackle Ryan Schraeder, and we know they already have his number, because they showed interest in him earlier this offseason. The Vikings could also take a look at Jermey Parnell, who started 57 out of 64 games for the Jaguars over the past four seasons. Jared Veldheeer would have also made some sense, but it looks like he's . If the Vikings can't find someone to sign, then they could look to land a lineman in a potential Rudolph trade.
3. Sign a kicker to compete with and/or replace Dan Bailey
The Bears aren't the only team in the NFC North with a nightmare kicking situation. Vikings fans basically had to hold their breath and pray every time the team attempted a field goal last season as their two kickers (Daniel Carlson and Dan Bailey) combined to hit just 68.8 percent of their field goals (22 of 32).
The problem for the Vikings is that Carlson was supposed to be their kicker of the future, but that future only lasted for two games. The Vikings selected Carlson in the fifth round of the NFL Draft, but that decision blew up in their face and they were forced to cut him after he missed three field goals over the first two weeks of the season (1-for-4). After releasing Carlson, the Vikings added Bailey, who only added to the team's kicking drama.
Although Bailey was the second most accurate kicker of all-time when he signed with the Vikings last September, he quickly tumbled down that list during his time in Minnesota. Over 14 games, Bailey made just 75 percent of his field goals (21 of 28), which was the second worst percentage for any kicker in the NFL who attempted more than 20 kicks.
The one thing that makes Bailey's numbers even worse is that he arguably has it easier than most kickers, because he plays indoors. Out of the players who kick in a dome, Bailey was the only one who didn't make at least 85 percent of his field goals, and he was a full 10 percentage points worse.
Bailey used to be one of the most reliable kickers in the NFL, but that's just not the case anymore. When the Cowboys , it was a total shock, but the fact of the matter is that they saw in training camp what everyone else saw during the 2018 season: Bailey seems to have lost his touch.
Basically, Bailey hasn't really been the same since mid-2017, when he missed four games due to a groin injury. All five of Bailey's misses during the 2017 season came after he returned from the injury. Overall, Bailey is just 29 of 41 (70.7 percent) in the 18 months since returning from that 2017 injury. To put that in perspective, Bailey was 178 of 198 (89.9 percent) before the injury hit.
The Vikings have an ugly history with kickers missing big kicks -- COUGH Gary Anderson COUGH Blair Walsh COUGH -- and the last thing they need is to be sweating out every kick that's being attempted in 2019.
The free agent market isn't littered with kickers right now, but if they're smart, they'll at least call Matt Bryant. Although he'll be 44 on May 29, he should still have plenty of leg to kick in a dome. During his final three seasons with the Falcons -- which all came when he was in his 40s -- he went 88 of 97 on field goal attempts (90.7 percent).
The Vikings could also call Cody Parkey. Although that might sound crazy, the fact of that matter is that he'll likely be extra motivated to prove the Bears wrong for cutting him, and it's a lot easier to prove a team wrong when you play them twice a year.
The one thing the Vikings can't do is nothing. Giving Bailey some competition will add some serious pressure to every kick in the preseason, and that's exactly what the Vikings need to do to make sure he's ready to handle the mental rigors of the regular season if he wins the job.
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