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Packers Enemy Needs: Minnesota Vikings

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Packers Enemy Needs: Minnesota Vikings

*Leading up to the free agency period and the NFL draft, we’ll take a look at the Green Bay Packers NFC North rival’s needs and where we don’t want to see them go in free agency and the draft.

Coming off of a great 13-3 season where they were just one flopped game from the Super Bowl, the Vikings enter the 2018 season as the reigning NFC North Champion and the team for the Packers to dethrone from that position.  The Vikings 2017 campaign featured a dominant defense that led them to many wins under coach Mike Zimmer and a young quarterback in Case Keenum that performed well in leading the team to the NFC Championship game. 

But oh how things can change, especially at the quarterback position.  As has been rumored for weeks now leading into free agency, at the time of penning this article, all signs point to the Vikings signing hyped free agent quarterback Kirk Cousins to a record deal.  (We’ll get to my thoughts on this later)  With the quarterback looking set now for the near future, the Vikings appear to be built to win now next season with a defense that will continue to be one of the best in the league.

Needs

The main need of the Vikings leading up to today has been where they will go with the quarterback position.  With that problem now looking solved with the signing of Kirk Cousins, the Vikings, biggest needs are on their offensive line, particularly at the guard position.  Prior to the 2017 season, the team was a mess on their offensive line.  But, the team added two solid tackles in Reiff and Remmers and drafted a great center in Elflein last year.  The team will be looking to round out their offensive line with a pair of guards for their future.

Other potential needs that the Vikings will be looking at in free agency and the draft are at defensive line, defensive back, running back depth and their kicker and punter positions.  Though impressive already, Zimmer will surely look to bolster defensive line depth through the draft with his penchant for finding tackles that know how to rush the passer.  Tom Johnson is a free agent and the team will be looking for depth to stand next to Linval Joseph on the line. 

With Terence Newman likely going elsewhere in free agency, the Vikings will look to bolster their secondary as well as running back depth behind Dalvin Cook with some free agents from the team about to hit the market.  The kicker position is always a soft spot in Vikings fans hearts and Kai Forbath is a free agent.  The team may look to bring him back or may choose to look elsewhere as the kicker, while accurate, just doesn’t have the long range leg a dome team should have.

In the 2018 NFL draft, the Vikings hold seven total picks with selections in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th and three total picks in the 6th round. 

Free Agents

As the Vikings enter the official start of free agency today, they don’t have any high profile free agents on the market.  Some of their bigger names that are looming on the market are cornerback Terence Newman, defensive tackle Tom Johnson, guard Joe Berger, cornerback Marcus Sherels, wide receiver Michael Floyd, running back Jerick McKinnon, running back Bishop Sankey and kicker Kai Forbath.

With free agency starting, the only obvious talk about the team was at the quarterback position.  As the jockeying moves forward in a weak free agent class, only time will tell if the Vikings make any further moves.

Looking Ahead

In this guy’s eyes, the playing field is now leveled in the NFC North moving forward with the signing of Cousins as the Vikings new quarterback.  Now the highest paid player in the NFL without having one playoff victory under his wing, I have no problems whatsoever with his deal with the Vikings.  With what’s soon sure to be near equivalent salaries at the quarterback position and the advantage at that position going to Rodgers and the Packers, the rest of the roster will be left up to the GM’s of each team to duke it out over the next few years.  Paying a quarterback that high of a salary certainly handcuffs other positions on the roster, we as Packers fans should know that well.  Only when that money is truly justified on the field does it become worth the risk of the money paid.  How that works out for the Vikings will remain to be seen, but I like the chances that it works out for the worse for them.

So with the quarterback position being near equal in salary with the edge being with the Packers, here’s to the Vikings erring on the rest of their needs in free agency and the pending draft.  The defense and the rest of the team will remain solid in 2018, but next offseason for the Vikings will see many big names like Robison, Barr, Floyd, Kendricks, and Diggs become free agents.  Other than probably Robison, most names on that list will get substantial money on the free agent market coming off their rookie deals and the Vikings won’t be able to pay them all. 

________________________

Ryan Brunner is an avid Packers fan hailing from Chippewa Falls, WI.  He is a firm believer that punters are NFL players too!  Follow him on Twitter @brunwardo

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (37) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Off topic:

Brees signed for a $24M cap hit apparently with NO.

John Kirk's picture

I think that's pretty good for a 39 year old. Aaron shouldn't get too much more when he's 39 but if we give him the moon here soon, he will. I think Brees should be a measuring stick for any later years in Aaron's deal. The Aaron window is 3 or 4 to make the huge money.

Are you thinking Brees will carry weight in negotiations as much or more than Cousins who is 29 and was a FA, where Aaron has years left? I think Brees should lower Aaron's numbers. Perhaps, Aaron waits for Matt Ryan, now?

jeremyjjbrown's picture

Vikings might be Cousins a lot, but they're not overpaying anyone else really either...

Bearmeat's picture

Yet is your key word here. By 2020, their salary cap will be hell or they're going to have to completely reload on defense. Good luck getting that lucky with 2nd-4th round picks again....

Razer's picture

You gotta hand it to Vikes - they walked a precarious line with their QB future. They had Case Keenum in the hand and they rolled the dice for 'the man' to take them to the dance. If Cousins had signed elsewhere they could have been in big trouble. Ballsy.

With their defense, they will be tough. If they don't fix their O-line, we will have a clean line back to the division title.

Overall, Spielman has done a good job with that team. If Cousins keeps developing, they will be contender for the years to come .

Christopher Gennaro's picture

Sadly I agree and the worse part for me is I like the make up of that team as a fan of football. Ugh the division going to be a dog fight the next few years, especially if the bears ever get their [email protected] together. Black and Blue division

Razer's picture

Yeah - the NFC Central - the black and blue division

Bearmeat's picture

Yeah, they have a good defense. Full of players who are going to want a second contract who they now won't be able to afford within the next two years. They have a very short window. They're going to find out how hard it is to pay a defense top dollar and a QB at the same time.

One quibble: The Vikings OL was not much better last year than in 2017. They were just healthier. Rieff was actually worse than what they had at LT in 2017. And like you said, their OG position is a big mess.

There were two reasons the Vikings offense worked so well last year - unbelievable health (which isn't likely to occur again) and Case Keenum's mobility. Case's best asset is to make something out of nothing. Kirk doesn't have that.

I actually think that the Vikings downgraded at QB, and paid more to do it. Typical Vikings move.

PS: When is the last time the Vikings made the playoffs in back to back seasons? 08-09. Before that, it was the 90s.

We hear EVERY DAMN year how that ugly ass purple team is going to win it all. ESPECIALLY when they've had a good year the year prior. And EVERY DAMN TIME they claim this, they suck.

I personally would not be shocked to see Minny's "dream team" suck it up this year.

dobber's picture

"I actually think that the Vikings downgraded at QB, and paid more to do it. Typical Vikings move."

The bottom line is that Keenum played way above his level for most of last season. He had some poorer performances, but by and large I just don't see him playing at that level for any length of time: the stars were in alignment for him (good luck, Denver, you'd better still be at least THINKING about a rd. 1 QB). You point to health, and the Vikes took what we would perceive to be big hits at QB and RB, but really no place else. Keenum's lightning-in-a-bottle season saved their gravy, because a Christian Ponder type season would have damned them to .500 play.

The question is, can anyone reasonably expect that another QB will play BETTER in 2018 or 2019 than Keenum did on a weekly basis in 2017? Likely not...so, at best, Cousins is probably a push in terms of production. The wild card is at RB where a healthy Dalvin Cook for 16 games could really make Cousins look better (read: more efficient) than Keenum. The pre-draft Vikes are thin on the OL, they're thin at WR, and they're thin at RB (especially if they cut Murray as some predict and lose McKinnon in FA). They will continue to ride their defense. They need to look very carefully at the NFC West, where the Rams are building in their image....

Bearmeat's picture

I agree the wild card is Cook.

Christopher Gennaro's picture

Man everything you said the in fan in me wants to believe, but I see next year as being their best shot. The team motivated from this year flop and they just signed the best fa qb IMO out there. They only lost McKinnon on offence the defense is all back. I don't see Cousins turning into Cutler 2.0, but who knows. Its going to a fun to watch 2018 in NFC North.

Bearmeat's picture

Oh, 2018 is their shot. No doubt.

But you have to look at everything that went right for them last year. Those types of seasons don't happen often. One injury of note (and no, Bradford and Teddy don't count). That was Cook.

Cook does make them more dangerous on offense, but Cousins is not mobile. He's not a statue, but he's not elusive either. Their OG position is a mess. Their OT position is NFL average at best. And they have no depth. 2-3 injuries on the OL, and Cousins will be sacked 50 times. They have no depth at WR or TE (though admittedly the starters are quality).

They're going to butter their bread on defense again. Where (sense a theme here) they were remarkably healthy in 2017. What happens if Rhodes misses time or Smith? Or Barr or Kendricks? They're in trouble, that's what.

Look, I'm not saying that they are a shitty team. They're a very good team. But they are certainly beatable by a HOF QB led team. If we can get NFL average defensive play next year - which is going to require some help at CB and OLB, then we're going to give them a pretty good scare.

And long term? They're in trouble with the cap. When you overpay a QB, you're screwed. Look at Baltimore and New York since they last won it all....

John Kirk's picture

Bear...Everything didn't go right for Minnesota last year. They were playing with their 3rd string QB for the majority of the season. They lost their star RB early in the season. Losing your starting QB and star RB is everything going wrong and they still managed to get to the 'chip.

I don't understand the talk about how they're screwed now because they spent too much on a QB when we're about to do the same thing but pay more. If they're screwed, we're really really screwed. They have the better roster and more cap space and added a franchise QB. I'm not sure this is a positive development for us.

Yes, like you, I will count on Minnesota being Minnesota. However, it's foolish to look on paper and think we're just better than they are. Their roster is much better. Defense is much better. Aaron's equalization for us was cut into by Cousins. The gap at QB is narrower now. Now, it's on us to improve the roster. We added Graham and Mo and lost DR and Jordy. We have work to do.

Bearmeat's picture

JK, I usually agree with much of what you say, but not here.

Outside of losing Cook, the Vikings absolutely had an injury free year. Keenum was better than Bradford or Teddy had EVER played last year. Yeah, losing QB1 and 2 is awful. But they won the lottery with QB3. You can't call that not-lucky. They lucked into Keenum's play. Which just happened to fit their crap-tastic OL's play hand-in-glove.

Regarding your comment: "I don't understand the talk about how they're screwed now because they spent too much on a QB when we're about to do the same thing but pay more. If they're screwed, we're really really screwed."

No no no. It's about the quality of a player you are getting for the money. Cousins is not even a top 10 QB, but he's got a HOF contract. If Rodgers signs for 5 years, 150 million, with say, 100 guaranteed, that is STILL a far superior contract than Cousins 3 year, 84 million fully guaranteed contract. Even if we're paying more, we'll be getting better play.

I did not say that their roster isn't better than ours. It absolutely is right now. What I said was that they're not unbeatable with our trump card of a HOF QB. IF we can get a top 12-15 defense (and we both know there is personnel work to be done there and it may not be possible), then we can win the division this year.

I also said that signing Cousins puts the Vikings in a 2 year window to cap hell. If they don't win it all in the next 2 years, they're going to have to let many or most of their core players on defense walk if they want to keep the QB. It is not possible to have a top 5 QB salary and pay a top 5 defense. See the reasoning above.

John Kirk's picture

I understand that you don't agree but I'm not sure on the why? Oh, and I wasn't the downvote.

Cousins numbers in his first 3 years as a starter are right there with Rodgers first 3 as a starter. Cousins now is backed by the Top D in the NFL. Plus, he has a RB he never had in Washington. The arsenal he has at WR is comparable to what he had the first couple of seasons. Now, he's indoor for 8 games a season which always helps.

Natural ability is heavily in Aaron's favor, but the numbers aren't. The numbers over the first 3 years are a wash. I posted them somewhere. It is impossible to say Rodgers is statistically much better than Cousins over their first 3 years as starters. I think that is being glossed over or outright ignored. Cousins has played all 48 games over the last 3 seasons and is 5 years younger. Look at those numbers and tell me Aaron is statistically better by more than just a fraction or two. You can't. Our trump card is not the trump card it used to be. That advantage is much narrower than the wide it once was.

Kirk Cousins: 13,176 yards passing - 81TDs - 36INTs - 67% completion - 97.5 passer rating

Aaron Rodgers: 12,394 yards passing - 86TDs - 31INTs - 64.6% completion - 99.4 passer rating

Bearmeat's picture

We are going just have to agree to disagree here, JK.

I do not think Cousins is even in the ballpark of Aaron Rodgers, and resultingly, I do not think that an 86 million dollar guaranteed contract will be good for team Purple.

We are both entitled to our opinions. I look forward to telling you "see, I told you so" in January of 2019. :P

Bearmeat's picture

Oh, and I seriously don't care about being downvoted. What I want to see is who downvotes and upvotes on things. If someone is downvoting an argument, it would be helpful to the discussion to ask them why and what they'd do differently.

John Kirk's picture

I agree on the downvote thing. It should be public who is doing what. Very easy to run around not being confronted for your constant downvoting...we know there are those who are out there downvoting every single post because they don't like someone. I'll upvote anyone and downvote anyone but I'm much less likely to downvote anybody.

Want to ask one last time...how do you say Cousins isn't worth it when his numbers are basically the same as Aaron's? I don't care if you disagree but I'd like to know your thoughts on the actual numbers of the two QB's but you haven't commented on that part a couple of times now.

Finwiz's picture

Cousins is a pretty damn good QB.
I think people don't want to give credit because he's now a ViQueen.
He's pretty accurate and makes good decisions.
You don't give QB's that aren't any good, that kind of money.
Meanwhile they passed on Bradford, Keenum and Bridgewater to sign a different guy. I'd say they like him.
Vikings will be the favorites to win the division.
Packers are in chase mode in 2018.

dobber's picture

And if you're Washington, you don't let QBs who are that good get away. Several years of tangoing in DC, and the Redskins would never pony up the money he wanted.

John Kirk's picture

Maybe, they believe that you can't field the roster needed to win if you pay a guy close to 30 million a season? Smith is 23.5 AAV. Cousins is now 28. Also, maybe Cousins wanted the guarantee that Washington didn't want too? One of the guys who covers the Skins is a friend of mine. He's crushed Kirk is gone. He was a huge fan.

Here was one of his tweets on the departure:

https://twitter.com/Russellmania621/status/973933204649410562

dobber's picture

You might be very right...still, with all the hubbub around teams getting that elite signal caller, it was surprising that they continued to drag things out (pushing his value higher and higher) rather than getting something done when it would have likely been less costly.

...or they just didn't believe he was the guy, and didn't have a viable alternative (until now).

Bearmeat's picture

I think it's clear that Washington screwed the pooch here. Minnesota got a good QB. Cousins is a top 15 QB, and you don't let those guys get away. What I object to is the amount of money given to a top 15 signal caller. He's given top bill money, and he won't ever be a top bill QB. That's what's out of whack here.

Regarding his numbers his first three years compared to Rodgers - Rodgers has always had a much higher ceiling. There is a reason that Rodgers was drafted in the first round and Cousins wasn't. Cousins doesn't have the arm that Rodgers does. He can't carry a team like Rodgers can (and frankly, has for Green Bay). THOSE are the guys you pay top 5 money to.

It's not that you CAN'T win with a QB making 35 million a year (19% of the cap). It's that that guy had better be able to carry the team, because you're not going to be able to pay 10 other guys to be blue chip players. Maybe 3-4.

That's all I'm saying.

John Kirk's picture

I think the fact that Washington hitched their wagon to Alex Smith, after not with Kirk, tells you everything you need to know. Who would you want? Alex Smith or Kirk Cousins? Vikings could've gone and got Alex Smith. If Rodgers retired, today, I'd much rather have Cousins. I'd bet the theme of most posts would swing wildly the other direction if he was our guy. Alex, too. :)

This was a money deal. Washington wasn't comfortable paying what it would take and we can only speculate whether it was because they didn't think he was good enough or they felt he would cripple them cap wise.

Bearmeat's picture

...or they were stupid in firing McCloughan who wanted to sign Cousins to a long term deal before he was franchised 2x and ridiculously, stupidly, expensive. Bruce Allen won the "fight" with McCloughan in the eyes of their moronic owner, and that team has been on the downslope ever since.

And I think it's pretty clear they didn't think Cousins was worth a HOF QB, or they'd have paid him that fee. He's better than Alex Smith. But not 5 million AAV better....

Nick Perry's picture

John...Your leaving OUT the most important stat...Wins & Losses. I don't think you can forget Cousins is 26-30-1 as a starter.

Rodgers first 57 games as a STARTER he was 37-20.

Rodgers playoff record his first 3 years starting....4-1 with a SB WIN.

Cousins is 0-1 and lost THAT game to Rodgers who BTW didn't have any of his receivers in the game. Nelson out... Adams out...TE they still didn't have one. Matter of fact didn't Cobb get hurt in that game too?

Rodgers first season starting was 2008 and he was replacing a 3 time MVP, SB Champion, a first ballot HOF QB who was probably the most loved Packer in GB history. He replaced the guy who in many's opinion was the reason the Packers were no longer that team of the 70's and 80's. What he went through his first year starting with PACKERS FANS was unreal. Death threats, hate mail, people blaming him as the reason Farve was no longer on the team. 2008 was a CRAZY year John.

ricky's picture

The vikes needed a literal miracle to beat the Saints. Then they got crushed by Philly, playing with a backup QB. Cousins is a "stats QB" who doesn't seem to have the "it factor" that helps elevate the players around him. Also, the fully guaranteed contract means trouble for teams with elite QBs. If this wannabe franchise QB can get all his money fully guaranteed, why shouldn't Rodgers, or some of the other top tier QBs? How far down will this demand go? I could easily see Bell in Pittsburgh asking for a contract like Cousins.

kevgk's picture

I dont know why people after watching the entire vikings defense give up after being down two scores in the nfccg think that adding a notorious stat padding choker will make them a top dog in the nfc. Their whole season looks different without knocking rodgers out of the race. Imagine them going into NO for a playoff game. Now imagine they have the qb that crumbled in his 3 most important games. Now remember that theyre the vikings and have the hardest schedule in the league next year. I'm just waiting for the season with some popcorn!

Bert's picture

I gotta hand it to the Vikings for going "all in". Keenum, Bridgewater or Bradford just weren't going to get them over the top. Cousins could very well give them the QB they need to produce a legitimate SB contender for the next three years. Good move on their part.

jww061356's picture

I think it is interesting that they got Cousins and I think we are definitely going to have to work our asses off and get a couple of lucky breaks to be a contender in the north next year.

That said, all that glitters is not gold. A couple of things about Cousins from some analysis i have read:
1) Terrible record against teams with a record better than 500.
2) He does not throw with anticipation, or throw people open. He waits for someone to come open and then delivers. Sounds like a small thing, but it is one of the subtle differences that account for why so many good college QBs don't make it in the pros. You can't wait for them to get open, you have to throw to where they're supposed to be and trust that your guy gets there first.

dobber's picture

An interesting development...

https://www.profootballrumors.com/2018/03/broncos-to-trade-trevor-siemia...

I think this might point to Denver still looking QB in round 1? I'd read earlier that they're not happy with Paxton Lynch...

John Kirk's picture

For Minnesota: Smart on their part. They learned they might need 3 QB's from last season and the one before. Smart to pay now rather than have to panic and give up a 1st and a 4th, again. OR...they could have just ridden Sloter like MM would've. :) Vikes like Denver guys...took Sloter from Broncos last year and now traded for Siemian this year.

For Denver: Keenum is just a 2 year deal. I read they weren't out of getting a QB in the draft. I hope it's still up high in Round 1 so they leave one more spot for us to get a non QB.

dobber's picture

I'll be curious to find out what they paid for him.

As for Denver still being in the hunt for a round 1 QB: my fingers are crossed.

Samson's picture

Cousins isn't really all that good.
The Vikings cap situation is on a path to hell.
The Vikings were injury free and lucky in season 2017.

Pure BS.

The Vikings have more talent and are obviously the team to beat in the North Division. --- The Pack have to have an injury free season in 2018 (esp. AR) and some notable career years from a few defensive players to compete with the Vikes. --- Some of you need to try REALITY.

Bert's picture

I tend to agree. Lots of wishful thinking and "if-if-if" going on, but the reality is that the Vikings with Cousins have a better overall roster than the Packers right now. Still have time to catch up but it will take some pretty shrewd moves to make it happen in 2018.

Bearmeat's picture

Kind of like the Vikings had an injury free season in 2017 and career years from their QB, WRs and defense as a whole??

lol. The NFL is a high-variance sport. Anything can and will happen.

John Kirk's picture

Vikings might sign Mo WIlkerson's old running mate. Sheldon Richardson is in Minnesota on a visit. That DL of theirs is already very good. Perhaps, trying a little tit for tat seeing we got Wilkerson. I do think that org gets off on one upping the Packers.

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