Minnesota Vikings: 5 Offseason moves to improve in 2021

(Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images) /
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Minnesota Vikings
Minnesota Vikings (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images) /

The Minnesota Vikings have a lot of room to improve in the 2021 offseason and there are moves they can make to accomplish that, one way or another. 

To say the 2020 NFL season didn’t go as planned for the Minnesota Vikings would be an understatement. A year after they reached the Divisional Round of the playoffs, the Vikings failed to return to the postseason this season while now watching the rest of the playoff bracket play itself out and see who will hold up the Lombardi Trophy in Tampa Bay.

Minnesota, which had a chance to reach the playoffs in the final few weeks of the regular seasons, finished the 2020 campaign with a record of 7-9 overall, remaining in the postseason pictures up until Week 16 of the year.

With just a few games remaining in the season, the Vikings jumped up as high as the No. 7 seed in the NFC Playoffs, sitting in the third and final Wild Card spot with only a handful of games left to play in the regular-season schedule.

Unfortunately for Minnesota, the final few games of the year ended with a record of 1-3 over the last four weeks and ultimately getting bounced out of the playoff picture.

Along with that 7-9 record, the Vikings finished in third place in the NFC North standings, trailing the Green Bay Packers (13-3) and Chicago Bears (8-8) atop the standings, while sitting in front of the last-place Detroit Lions (5-11) in the division. Minnesota also rounded out the year with a record of 3-5 overall at home and 4-4 on the road in 2020.

There was a mixture of positives and negatives the Vikings could take away from the season. From holding one of the top offensive units to experiencing struggles on defense and special teams, Minnesota now shifts its focus to 2021 and improving upon what happened this year in order to improve when the new season kicks off.

The tough situation the Vikings find themselves early on in the offseason is their current salary cap situation. Minnesota, which also sat in a tough spot last offseason and that resulted in some key players on both sides of the ball departing, currently sits as the ninth-worst team in the NFL in terms of salary cap situations.

That will likely result in the Vikings being forced to make some more tough decisions with player personnel throughout the course of this offseason, shedding some unnecessary and large contracts to make room for additions to fill holes throughout the depth chart.

With the offseason in full swing for Minnesota, here are five moves that need to be made by the purple and gold to try and improve and bounce back in 2021.

5. Draft or sign a quarterback to back up Kirk Cousins

Since Kirk Cousins arrived in Minnesota as a free agent prior to the start of the 2018 season, the veteran quarterback has been about as reliable as it can come health-wise.

With the exception of sitting out the regular-season finale in 2019 after wrapping up a postseason berth and therefore the Vikings rested their starters in Week 17, Cousins has played in every game he could in three seasons dawning the purple and gold.

Even though Cousins has had a history of staying healthy with the Vikings to this point, Minnesota will need to address the hole left at the backup quarterback position currently as a safety net for if or when Cousins isn’t ultimately able to take the field.

Sean Mannion, who was on the backup quarterback in 2020, will be a free agent this offseason and it’s unclear if the Vikings end up bringing him back for the 2021 season.

Behind Mannion on the depth chart is Jake Browning, who went undrafted a few years ago and signed with the Vikings as a free agent, and Nate Stanley, who was selected by the Vikings in the seventh round of the 2020 NFL Draft.

Browning and Stanley are not likely to emerge as backup quality players in 2021, meaning if Minnesota doesn’t end up retaining Mannion as the backup for a cheap price, it will have to look to either the upcoming draft or free agency to address that need.

The most likely option, given the Vikings’ salary cap situation, would be to draft a quarterback at some point in the NFL Draft, allowing the team to control that player on a relatively cheap contract for the next few seasons.

Regardless of who Minnesota would bring in to serve as the backup quarterback, we’ve oftentimes seen those players play a key role in taking things over under center if the starter were to miss some time due to injury or other reasons.

Although Cousins has been reliable in being able to stay healthy the last few years, you never know what could happen. That means the Vikings need to be serious when figuring out who will fill that spot behind Cousins on the depth chart.