Minnesota is set, of course, with Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen as its No. 1 and No. 2 receivers. But who will be quarterback Kirk Cousins’ third option? Laquon Treadwell has unspectacularly filled that role for the past few seasons, and the Vikings confirmed their displeasure with the former first-round pick by declining his fifth-year option for 2020, meaning he’ll be an unrestricted free agent after this season. If he isn’t cut first, that is. Anyway, the Vikings have a few intriguing options outside of Treadwell to watch. Minnesota brought in free-agent receiver Jordan Taylor, who caught 29 passes for 351 yards and two touchdowns in Denver from 2016-17 before missing last season due to hip surgery. Brandon Zylstra and Chad Beebe return, two former undrafted free agents that saw limited time action in 2018 after impressing in the preseason. The Vikings reportedly gave Jeff Badet, a UDFA that spent his rookie year on the practice squad, a $75,000 signing bonus to re-sign with the organization, so he and his 4.27 40-yard dash have a decent chance at cracking the active roster. The Vikings also have four rookies up for the spot in seventh-round picks Olabisi Johnson and Dillon Mitchell, as well as UDFAs Alexander Hollins and Davion Davis. This question won’t be answered in OTAs, but it’ll be interesting to see if anyone exits this week as the favorite to win the job in training camp.
Brad RempelBrad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
What’s the deal at long snapper?
A battle at long snapper is certainly not the sexiest storyline to look out for, but it’s worth watching -- especially with the Vikings’ well-noted struggles in the kicking game. Despite having six-year veteran Kevin McDermott on the roster, who’s been the Vikings’ long snapper since 2015, general manager Rick Spielman took a flier on Air Force product Austin Cutting in the seventh round. It’s uncommon for a team to draft a long snapper, much less use a pick on a long snapper just to cut him months later. Perhaps Spielman figured it was worth a chance since he had a whopping four selections in the seventh round. Of course, Cutting might not be able to even suit up for the Vikings, pending his military status, but there’s a sliver of hope. Whatever the reasoning, McDermott and Cutting will battle all offseason long for the spot -- because there’s no room for two long snappers on a 53-man roster.
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Is the right guard position up for grabs?
On paper, Minnesota’s new-and-improved offensive line is just about set under new offensive line coach Rick Dennison. Riley Reiff and Brian O’Neill should be the starters at the two tackle positions, with new first-round pick Garrett Bradbury at center and Pat Elflein sliding over to left guard. Josh Kline was the favorite to start at right guard before the NFL draft, but the selection of Dru Samia in the fourth round gives Kline some competition. Samia, a 6-foot-5, 305-pound guard out of Oklahoma, is known for his aggressiveness and tenacity -- so much, in fact, that he got thrown out of a collegiate game against West Virginia for throwing a punch. He could provide an edge for this group of Vikings linemen that’s been missing for what seems like a decade.
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What’s up with Kyle Rudolph?
Entering the final season of a five-year deal signed in 2014, Rudolph is owed $7.6 million due in 2019. That number looks even bigger when considering the Vikings’ selection of the electric Irv Smith Jr. in the second round. Minnesota and Rudolph were reportedly looking into an extension to perhaps move some of that $7.6 million around to aid the cap-strapped team, but those talks have since halted. It would be a drastic move to trade or cut Rudolph, who has been a consistent presence on the Vikings’ offense for the past eight years and has served as team captain for the past two seasons. Every time we doubt the Vikings have cap space to make a move or extend a key player (see Thielen, Adam; Barr, Anthony; Kendricks, Eric; etc., etc.), they somehow make it work. Let’s see if both sides can agree on something before training camp rolls around.
Will we get an update on cornerback Mike Hughes?
Hughes, Minnesota’s first-round pick in 2018, tore the ACL in his left knee during the Vikings’ 27-17 win over Arizona on Oct. 14 and missed the remainder of the season. Will Hughes be back and ready to take part in OTAs? Or is he even on track to be ready for the 2019 opener? Minnesota hasn’t provided many specifics on the status of its young cornerback. It’s worth noting that Dalvin Cook, the Vikings’ top pick the prior season, tore his ACL on Oct. 1, 2017, and was cleared to participate OTAs a year ago.
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Is there another Latavius Murray on the roster?
Murray is off to fill Mark Ingram's role alongside Alvin Kamara, leaving the Vikings a little thin at running back. With Cook firmly installed as the starter, the rest of the group looks like this: Detroit Lions washout Ameer Abdullah and rookie third-round pick Alexander Mattison, alongside second-year runners Mike Boone and Roc Thomas, who was sentenced to three years of probation last month after pleading guilty to felony drug possession. That's a pretty shaky Plan B should Cook go down, and … well … he tends to do that. Cook, who turns 24 in August, had appeared in just 15 games over the past two seasons while recovering from a torn ACL and hamstring issues. It may not be a problem going forward -- Cook was fairly durable in college -- but the absence of Murray, who logged 356 carries over two seasons with the Vikings, is cause for concern. Mattison, a workhorse in his final two seasons at Boise State, could certainly fill that role, but the question of Cook's backup remains open.
Associated PressAndy Clayton-King
Who's backing up Kirk Cousins?
The answer is, ideally, who cares (?), as it's hard to see the Vikings doing much of anything in 2019 if their $84 million man is sidelined. Still, it's a matter of some intrigue following Trevor Siemian's departure. Like the rest of the league, the Vikings went out and got someone adjacent to Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay, landing quarterback Sean Mannion. Jared Goff's backup in each of the last three seasons, Mannion has appeared in just 10 career games. That's 10 more than Kyle Sloter, however, who signed with the Vikings after starting his career with the Denver Broncos. And then there's Jake Browning, who signed as an undrafted free agent for $140,000 -- reportedly a record for a UDFA -- after setting records in the Pac-12. Sloter, who has been here long enough to make the Mannion signing look curious, would appear to be the early front-runner, but the situation remains one to watch.