Vikings offseason checklist: What the team needs to do for 2021 to go smoothly

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Minnesota is just one year removed from postseason berth and a victory in the playoffs. However, the team took a step back in 2020.

The Vikings defense struggled to get stops. The special teams unit was inconsistent in basically every facet of the game. The silver lining was the offense, which was great after an up-and-down start to the season.

Now, the Vikings have some work to do if they want to get back to the playoffs. It’s not as much as some of the worst teams in the NFL, but there are still some boxes this team has to check. Here they are:

Solidify special teams

Tennessee Titans kicker Greg Joseph (7) reacts to his successful point-after kick during the first quarter at Nissan Stadium Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019 in Nashville, Tenn.
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Minnesota had a chaotic special teams unit a season ago. This offseason, the Vikings did not renew the contract of their special teams coordinator. Instead, the team promoted Ryan Ficken to that role. Ficken has a tough job ahead of him: find the team's starting kicker, punter, punt returner, kick returner and long snapper for 2021. Minnesota needs to go into the season with defined starters at all those positions. If one of the special teams players currently in that role won't do, then the Vikings have to be aggressive in finding a starter before the season begins. If Minnesota heads into the year with problem areas on special teams, it could be in for another year where that unit costs it games.

Find another player in free agency

Nov 4, 2018; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman looks on prior to the game against the Detroit Lions at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Now that the Vikings have some cap space to work with, the team can go out and find another free agent. The Vikings could use another player at defensive end, cornerback, wide receiver, maybe even tight end. It will be interesting to see what the team does.

Make sure there is a good defensive end opposite Danielle Hunter

Minnesota Vikings defensive end Stephen Weatherly (91) and teammate Everson Griffen (97) celebrate after sacking Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) during the second half of an NFL football game, Monday, Dec. 23, 2019, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)

Hunter has become a great NFL player. The Vikings probably have to bank on him returning to his past production level after suffering a season-ending injury in 2020. But in 2018 and 2019 when Hunter had 14.5 sacks, he was oftentimes playing across from another edge rusher that commanded attention in Everson Griffen. Granted, Hunter outplayed Griffen a lot of the time, but still, teams took Griffen seriously when he was on the field. If there is a player at the other defensive end spot who isn't getting pressure, then opposing offenses can double team Hunter more often. With Minnesota's extra cap space, it might make sense to go out and land another defensive end.

Keep Danielle Hunter happy

Minnesota Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter warms up before an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears, Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)

This one is very important. Hunter is reportedly unhappy with his contract situation. If the team isn't going to trade him — which they probably shouldn't — then they have to make sure their star defensive end remains happy and productive. The Vikings have revamped their defense this offseason, but there are some risky bets the team is making for the group to improve them. One of those bets is not only that Hunter returns, but he is the same player he once was in 2018 and 2019. If he is, the defense could be hard to beat.

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