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Vikings position-by-position offseason primer: the quarterbacks

Teddy Bridgewater was far from spectacular in his second NFL season. But the Vikings, with the league’s leading rusher in Adrian Peterson and coach Mike Zimmer’s top-10 defense, usually didn’t need him to be.

After the Vikings leaned heavily on Bridgewater in the second half of the 2014 season, he attempted more than 30 passes in just six games.

While Zimmer scoffed at the “game manager” label for Bridgewater, he was exactly that in 2015. He attempted a ton of high-percentage throws and was hyper-conscious of avoiding turnovers at the request of the coaching staff.

That allowed the Vikings to grind out low-scoring wins, and team success surely helped Bridgewater make the Pro Bowl as an injury replacement.

Overall, Bridgewater completed 65.3 percent of his throws for 3,231 yards and 14 touchdowns. He threw nine interceptions and lost three of his eight fumbles. He added 192 yards and three touchdowns on the ground.

Those passing numbers are pretty respectable considering the Vikings ranked last in the NFL in passing attempts. But expectations are high for the 2014 first-round pick, and the hope is he will take a leap forward this upcoming season after displaying slow, subtle progress in 2015.

Vikings free agents: All three quarterbacks are under contract for 2016.

Level of need: Low. The Vikings must produce a long-term backup behind Bridgewater and are receptive to taking a developmental prospect later in the draft. But Shaun Hill should be a suitable No. 2 for another season.

Stat that stands out:37.5 — Bridgewater’s accuracy percentage on passes thrown 20 or more yards downfield in 2015, according to Pro Football Focus. That percentage ranked 23rd in the league. Deep-ball accuracy has arguably been Bridgewater’s biggest weakness in his first two seasons.

Burning question: Will the Vikings utilize the shotgun more and put more back on Bridgewater’s plate? They favored a shotgun spread attack in the first four weeks of the season, but after Peterson struggled to run out of the shotgun, the Vikings operated under center more often after their bye week. Peterson said after the season that he needs to become a better fit in the offense, which suggests they could be shotgun-heavy in 2016.

Check out the Access Vikings blog tomorrow for a look at the running backs.

Decision looms for Vikings on tackle Matt Kalil

Of the many decisions the NFC North champions must make this offseason, one of the more interesting ones centers on left tackle Matt Kalil.

Last offseason, the Vikings exercised their fifth-year option on Kalil, the fourth overall pick in the 2012 draft. That gave them contractual control of Kalil for 2016, which will be the final year of his rookie deal.

Because Kalil was a top-10 pick at a premium position, his option figure is an $11.1 million base salary, which would make him one of the NFL’s highest-paid left tackles in 2016. That salary is only guaranteed for injury, though, and Kalil survived the 2015 season relatively unscathed.

So if the Vikings want, they can cut Kalil by the start of the league year on March 9 without any cap penalties and free up $11.1 million in space.

Now if you are rushing out the door to help Kalil pack his things, not so fast, my friend. The Vikings have good reason to keep him around.

Kalil rebounded from his abysmal 2014 season to play much better in 2015. He was still subpar, especially compared to the guy who made the Pro Bowl as a rookie. But his play is trending in the right direction, and maybe new offensive line coach Tony Sparano can coax quality play out of him.

Plus, the fact that he was such a high draft selection, not to mention the first pick general manager Rick Spielman made as the final say on draft day, means that Spielman probably won’t bail on Kalil before he has to.

Besides, the Vikings don’t have a better option on their roster at the moment, and it would be a gamble for them to give up on Kalil now and hope that they find a suitable replacement in free agency or the draft.

Last night’s Super Bowl, with Broncos pass rushers Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware taking over the game, was yet another reminder of what can happen if you don’t have solid pass protectors at both tackle positions.

The Vikings have pledged to get better up front after neglecting that need last offseason. And they would be wise to invest in the tackle position no matter what. But we will see if they think cutting Kalil is part of the solution.

Super Bowl 50
Final, 2/7
1 2 3 4 F
Carolina 0 7 0 3 10
Denver 10 3 3 8 24

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