The 2023 season has been over for the Minnesota Vikings for just over four weeks and it’s about the time to really take a look and reflect on what was.
It wasn’t a great season for the Vikings, as they finished 7-10 but there were plenty of really enjoyable moments including the mania of Josh Dobbs.
2023 will be defined by both close games and injuries, as multiple Vikings starters missed a significant amount of time, including wide receiver Justin Jefferson and Kirk Cousins.
While things didn’t go their way in 2023, that doesn’t mean the future is any less bright. There are, however, multiple questions that need to be answered. Each position on the offensive side of the football is under the microscope as we take a look at the biggest question from each.
Quarterback: Who will start in 2024?
We’ve talked about the resolution to this question for some time. It will all boil down to the contract negotiations with Kirk Cousins. Will they be able to come to an agreement for both sides? The sticking point last March was the Vikings not wanting to guarantee money in 2025 where Cousins and his camp wanted that.
If Cousins doesn’t choose to sign any form of extension, where do the Vikings go? Would they look to sign a veteran to be a bridge guy? Could that bridge guy be Nick Mullens? Will they trade up to get the quarterback of the future? The final resolution is likely one of the three options.
Rookie first round pick
Running back: Will they invest major money in free agency?
The running game was a borderline disaster for most of the season for the Vikings in 2023. While they finished 14th in success rate, their EPA/play of -0.158 ranked 25th in the NFL. They couldn’t find a way to be successful with any form of consistency. Alexander Mattison doesn’t have any juice left despite having everything else at his disposal while Ty Chandler has all the juice but his inconsistencies in decision making and pass blocking.
What do they do here? They could end up targeting a high profile free agency target like Saquon Barkley. Is it worth the money it would cost for him, especially when that number could be upwards of $14-15 million. However, that money could be a justifiable expense just to balance out the offense and give them the running game that they so desperately need to keep defenses on their toes.
Wide receiver: What process will the Vikings use for WR3?
The Vikings do like to use three wide receivers with regularity. In 2023, they ran 11 personnel 693 times which was 15th in the league. However, they did run a league-high 543 passes from that formation which trends similarly to their 2022 totals.
WR3 is going to be a spot that needs to be filled but how that occurs is going to be fascinating. K.J. Osborn is set to be a free agent and might not be worth bringing back at his asking price. Brandon Powell is also a free agent and Jalen Nailor hasn’t shown anything to be trusted with the role. Getting a WR3 in free agency or the draft is something that should be a focus for the Vikings but how heavy of resources will they be willing to allocate to a fringe starter?
Tight end: Will T.J. Hockenson play in 2024?
When Hockenson tore his ACL and MCL against the Detroit Lions on Christmas Eve, there were numerous questions about his health and if he would miss time next season. It turns out that his surgery got delayed over a month due to his MCL needing to heal and that happened on January 29th.
The timetable from the surgery is usually nine months which would be the end of October. That could mean Hockenson would miss half the season at a minimum. If he doesn’t end up healing quickly, there could be a serious discussion about holding Hockenson out for the entire season. It’s too early to say anything with certainty but it’s a real concern.
Offensive tackle: Who will be the swing tackles?
The Vikings have their starting tackles in Christian Darrisaw and Brian O’Neill but neither of them has been able to stay healthy. Darrisaw continues to sustain minor injuries and O’Neill has suffered both serious and minor injuries over the last two years.
This position has seen plenty of injuries behind them as well, including Oli Udoh who is coming off of a torn quadriceps suffered against the Philadelphia Eagles. He, along with David Quessenberry and Hakeem Adeniji are all free agents so the room could look significantly different.
Interior offensive line: Who starts at left guard in 2024?
The interior offensive line has been a tough one for the Vikings over the past 10 years. You could argue it’s been an issue since Steve Hutchinson retired. Last season, it felt like the Vikings had relatively solved the issue. Ezra Cleveland and Dalton Risner were both capable at left guard along with Garrett Bradbury and Ed Ingram being solid at their spots.
Where do the Vikings go at left guard? Risner and Cleveland are both free agents but the Vikings sending the latter to Jacksonville at the trade deadline seems to signal that he isn’t an option for them long term. Risner has a good relationship with offensive line coach Chris Kuper but there might be more money out on the open market for him after a solid 2023 season. Risner will likely be the left guard on opening day but it’s worth monitoring.
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