As the Minnesota Vikings reel from missing the playoffs this year, these three things have to be atop their list of issues to address this offseason.
After reaching the NFC Championship Game last year, and upgrading from Case Keenum to Kirk Cousins during the offseason, expectations were high for the Minnesota Vikings this year. A realistic look at a tough schedule would have tempered expectations though, even without foreseeing the rise of the division rival Chicago Bears.
The Vikings had a “win and you’re in” scenario at home Sunday against those Bears, and fell flat in a 24-10 loss. Coupled with the Philadelphia Eagles’ 24-0 shutout of the Washington Redskins, Minnesota will miss the playoffs with an 8-7-1 record.
It’s easy to put all the blame for this year’s failure at the feet of Cousins, as he played on the first year of a fully guaranteed three-year, $84 million deal (that’s called Joe Mauer syndrome here in the Twin Cities, where fans find it convenient to place all the blame on the highest-paid player). He clearly has shortcomings, and falling short as he has against good teams in critical/spotlight games won’t cut it. But the Vikings will have Cousins for two more seasons, and maybe more beyond that. So fans will have to deal with all he is as a quarterback, for better or worse.
With a few tweaks, the Vikings can easily elevate back to the playoffs and maybe even make a deep run next year.
On that note, these three things have to be atop the offseason checklist.
3. Find A Legitimate No. 3 Wide Receiver
Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen are one of the best wide receiver duos in the league. But Thielen faded badly after a record-setting streak of 100-yard games to start the season, as he routinely showed up on the injury report down the stretch. Diggs was up-and-down all season, but he finished with 102 catches and ended the season with a touchdown in three straight games.
As opposing defenses worked to shut Diggs and Thielen down, former first-round pick Laquon Treadwell fell so short (34 catches for 295 yards and one touchdown) that he was a healthy scratch in Week 16 and he’ll probably be cut in the offseason. Aldrick Robinson was signed early in the season, due at least in part to his familiarity with Cousins from their days together with the Redskins, but besides five touchdowns he made no real mark.
The Vikings are up against it financially, with just $7.39 million in cap space heading toward the offseason (via Over The Cap.com). But they don’t need to play in the deep end of the free agent pool to find a competent, consistent third fiddle to Thielen and Diggs, and one can probably be taken in the middle rounds of the draft if that’s the preferred route.