The offseason brings change for every NFL team, even ones that exceed expectations by going 11-5 and winning the NFC North. The talented, young core of the Vikings will remain intact for 2016 (and beyond). But they have 17 free agents, including five starters, and a few veterans who are staring at the chopping block. So not everyone will be back.
The 2015 season just wrapped up a week ago, but it’s not too early to project which players from the final 53-man active roster and injured reserve the Vikings will bring back to compete for roster spots in spring workouts and training camp. So who will be in and who will be out?
Click the links to see specific position groups.
TEDDY BRIDGEWATER IN
Slow, subtle development in his second season. Vikings will be looking for a leap forward in Year 3.
TAYLOR HEINICKE IN
Rookie FA remained on active roster all season. Might have to compete with another young QB for a spot.
SHAUN HILL IN
36-year-old heads into second season of two-year deal. Has given no indication that he plans to retire.
MATT ASIATA, RB IN
Free agent can help in many ways and should come cheap. If he does re-sign, he’ll have to battle for spot.
ZACH LINE, FB IN
Blocking back showed promise in first season as starter; likely to be retained as a restricted free agent.
JERICK McKINNON, RB IN
He provided a spark late in 2015 season, especially in passing game. Must be more involved in 2016.
ADRIAN PETERSON, RB IN
$3M roster bonus decision looms on March 11, but the 2015 NFL rushing champion isn’t going anywhere.
JOE BERGER, C/G IN
Under contract through 2016, Berger performed well at center with John Sullivan out, but Vikings prefer him as a backup.
CARTER BYKOWSKI, OT IN
Eden Prairie native was frontrunner to be swing tackle in 2015 before injury. He’s an exclusive rights free agent.
T.J. CLEMMINGS, OT IN
Fourth-rounder forced into lineup and struggled after Phil Loadholt went to IR. Must earn a starting job in 2016.
NICK EASTON, C IN
Vikings added developmental center in Gerald Hodges trade. Rookie was a healthy scratch for every game here.
BRANDON FUSCO, G IN
Struggled mightily in first season at left guard. Has not lived up to contract extension signed before 2014 season.
MIKE HARRIS, G/T OUT
Free agent fared OK after moving to guard. But either a goner or a backup here in 2016 as Vikings retool line.
MATT KALIL, OT IN
Vikings picked up 2016 option before the season. Will get one more chance to convince team he’s a legit left tackle.
ZAC KERIN, C/G IN
Second-year player was top backup for interior of line on game days. Could be in the mix in camp competitions.
PHIL LOADHOLT, OT OUT
Turns 30 this week and is rehabbing troublesome Achilles’ tear. Cutting him frees up $6 million in cap space.
AUSTIN SHEPHERD, G/T IN
Seventh-rounder outlasted others to make team. Backup tackle got snaps in heavy sets. Could develop into starter.
JEREMIAH SIRLES, G IN
Acquired in September trade with Chargers to provide depth but was behind Kerin and did not receive playing time.
JOHN SULLIVAN, C IN
Major question mark after pair of back surgeries in 2015. Vikes will give him a chance to come back, but is he able?
Receivers and tight ends
STEFON DIGGS, WR IN
Fifth-round pick came out to nowhere to lead Vikings with 52 receptions and 720 yards but cooled after hot start.
RHETT ELLISON, TE IN
Vikings value his blocking. Has major knee injury but could be candidate for re-signing before hitting free agency.
CHARLES JOHNSON, WR IN
Lost his starting job to Diggs and was healthy scratch down the stretch. Will be battling for roster spot in camp.
CORDARRELLE PATTERSON, WR IN
Nonchalance as receiver still frustrates coaches but remains a top-notch kick returner. 2016 likely last year here.
MYCOLE PRUITT, TE IN
2015 fifth-round pick a favorite of OC Norv Turner. Will have expanded role in 2016, especially if Ellison walks.
KYLE RUDOLPH, TE IN
Accomplished goal of playing every game. Led team with five TD catches, but production does not match salary.
ADAM THIELEN, WR IN
Exclusive rights free agent has become valuable special-teamer while making plays on offense, too. He’ll be back.
MIKE WALLACE, WR OUT
One and done. Vikings won’t pay him $11.5 million after he caught 39 balls. He won’t take a pay cut to come back.
JARIUS WRIGHT, WR IN
GM Rick Spielman smartly locked up Teddy’s trusted third-down target last September before final year of rookie deal.
JEFF LOCKE, P IN
Fewer touchbacks and more punts inside the 20, but still 30th in net punting average. Competition needed.
KEVIN MCDERMOTT, LS IN
Edged out longtime LS Cullen Loeffler in camp competition. No glaring gaffes in first season in Minnesota.
BLAIR WALSH, K IN
Shocking playoff miss overshadowed bounce-back 2015 season. He will be back, but can he recover mentally?
ROBERT BLANTON, S OUT
Starter in 2014 lost his job in 2015. Unlikely to be back in 2016. Perhaps he will fit better in another scheme.
ANTONE EXUM, S IN
Second-year safety waited for turn to start, then got injured late in season. Should get a chance to earn stating job.
ANTHONY HARRIS, S IN
Undrafted rookie spent most of season on practice squad before late call-up. Impressed in two December spot starts.
CAPTAIN MUNNERLYN, CB IN
Bounced back from rocky first season in Minnesota to hold it down in slot. Will be back for final year of contract.
TERENCE NEWMAN, CB IN
37-year-old refused to give up starting spot in 2015. Free agent would likely be welcomed back, perhaps as a safety.
JABARI PRICE, CB IN
Started the season on suspended list. Ended it on IR. Will be there for camp, but can he stick around another year?
XAVIER RHODES, CB IN
Grabby starting corner got off to shaky start, stabilized in season’s second half but did not take proverbial next step.
JOSH ROBINSON, CB OUT
Coach Mike Zimmer not a fan of short cornerbacks and Robinson is 5-foot-9. Free agent will be signing elsewhere.
ANDREW SENDEJO, S OUT
Free agent started by default in 2015. Vikings must upgrade next to Harrison Smith. Sendejo is NFL backup at best.
MARCUS SHERELS, CB IN
Reliable punt returner, valuable cover guy on special teams will be free agent, but reunion makes too much sense.
HARRISON SMITH, S IN
Another strong season for NFL’s most underrated safety. Time to open wallet to sign him to big contract extension.
TRAE WAYNES, CB IN
2015 first-rounder couldn’t overtake Newman for starting job but showed progress in playoff loss to Seahawks.
SCOTT CRICHTON, DE IN
2014 third-round pick is officially a disappointment. Used sparingly again in 2015. Still chasing first NFL sack.
B.J. DuBOSE, DT/DE IN
Sixth-round pick spent entire regular season on practice squad. Got practice reps at both defensive end and tackle.
KENRICK ELLIS, NT OUT
Midseason signee only played handful of snaps per game when active. Free agent is not expected to be back.
SHARRIF FLOYD, DT IN
Same old story for Floyd in 2015. He flashed top-end talent when healthy, but injuries were again an issue.
EVERSON GRIFFEN, DE IN
Two straight years with double-digit sacks for Griffen, who is going to first Pro Bowl. Stepped up as a leader, too.
DANIELLE HUNTER, DE IN
The NFL’s youngest player surprised as a rookie with six sacks. Could seize Brian Robison’s starting spot in 2016.
TOM JOHNSON, DT IN
Pass-rushing reserve ended up making eight starts because of injuries to others. More dangerous in lesser role.
LINVAL JOSEPH, NT IN
Arguably the best nose tackle in the NFL before a toe injury kept him out of lineup for four of final six games.
ZACH MOORE, DE IN
Concordia (St. Paul) product suited up for one game late in the season. An interesting prospect to watch in 2016.
BRIAN ROBISON, DE IN
Age, emergence of Hunter, $5.1 million cap hit could make him a cap casualty. Bet here is he restructures to stay.
JUSTIN TRATTOU, DE OUT
Somehow picked off two passes in 22 snaps in 2015. He’s just a guy, though, and will not be a free-agent priority.
SHAMAR STEPHEN, NT IN
Knee and toe injuries torpedoed the second-year nose tackle’s season. Will compete to remain backup at position.
ANTHONY BARR, OLB IN
Unique playmaker is major weapon in Zimmer’s scheme. Can blitz, tackle and cover. But can he stay healthy?
AUDIE COLE, MLB OUT
Unable to win starting MLB job in camp, was relegated to backup duty before going on IR. He gone.
CHAD GREENWAY, OLB OUT
33-year-old accepted pay cuts past two seasons to stay with team. Now a FA, time with Vikings maybe up.
ERIC KENDRICKS, MLB IN
Promising three-down defender had up-and-down rookie campaign. Could slide over to Greenway’s OLB spot.
CASEY MATTHEWS, OLB OUT
Roster hopeful and brother of Packers star LB Clay suffered season-ending injury in spring workouts.
EDMOND ROBINSON, OLB IN
Rookie started two games in place of Barr and held his own. Small-school product has size and some potential.
JASON TRUSNIK, OLB OUT
Veteran was acquired midseason to provide depth. 31-year-old FA likely will be looking for work again.
BRANDON WATTS, OLB IN
Played mostly on special teams. Was inactive in four of final five games. Will have to compete for backup spot.