They will still have a chance to pick up a free agent or two, and they will continue to explore ways to improve various spots on their roster, of course. But the most significant player acquisition events on the league calendar — free agency and the draft — are done, and the 2018 Vikings, for the most part, are going to be what they are now.
“This is the last chance during the offseason that you have an opportunity to really make a significant change to your roster,” General Manager Rick Spielman said last week. “We were able to be aggressive in free agency. We got a key extension done so far with Eric Kendricks and now this is truly the last piece of the puzzle where you can make some significant changes to your roster.”
A team that went 13-3 last season has Super Bowl aspirations again this year, but the Vikings, like every other NFL team, have some questions to answer if they want to make another deep playoff run. Here are the five biggest questions still facing the 2018 Vikings:
1. How is the offensive line going to look?
The Vikings opted for cornerback Mike Hughes after a run on interior linemen in Round 1, and watched three guards go in the first five picks of the second round Friday. They drafted Pittsburgh offensive tackle Brian O’Neill in Round 2, but they will have to decide if he’s ready to play as a rookie. They will also need to sort through their options to replace the retired Joe Berger at right guard, whether that means starting a free-agent pickup like Tom Compton or Josh Andrews, or moving Mike Remmers permanently to guard after he played there in the playoffs.
2. What will happen at nickel corner?
The Vikings believe Hughes can play inside or outside, but they have typically taken a patient approach with their rookie cornerbacks. If they do the same with Hughes, they will likely need to count heavily on Mackensie Alexander in his third season. The Vikings continue to leave the door open for Terence Newman to return at age 40, but he remains unsigned as the team heads into the second week of its offseason workout program. Alexander showed progress last season but would need to take a step forward after splitting the nickel role with Newman, while the Vikings get to work on developing Hughes.
3. Will Daniel Carlson stick as the kicker?
After making Auburn’s Daniel Carlson the highest-drafted kicker in franchise history, the Vikings said they will have competition at the spot through the spring between Carlson and Kai Forbath. They are not in any hurry to release Forbath to recoup cap space, since Forbath’s deal counts for just $630,000 against the salary cap, but after drafting rookie specialists in 2012 and 2013, the Vikings quickly moved on from veterans Ryan Longwell and Chris Kluwe, to give those players a chance to catch on elsewhere.
4. Is there enough depth at linebacker?
The Vikings will add more players at the position through their rookie free-agent class, but they have got only six on the roster after the draft. One of them, Kentrell Brothers, will be suspended for the first four games of the year, and another — seventh-round pick Devante Downs — is coming off a knee injury that could limit him for part of the spring program. The Vikings were optimistic about rookie Eric Wilson last year and could look for more from him in Year 2 behind Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks and Ben Gedeon.
5. Who will fill McKinnon’s role at running back?
With Dalvin Cook making solid progress in his return from a torn ACL, the Vikings have a solid 1-2 combo with Cook and Latavius Murray. Especially if they exercise some caution with Cook’s workload, though, the Vikings could need another back to help replace Jerick McKinnon after he signed with the 49ers. That could be Mack Brown, Kirk Cousins’ former teammate in Washington, or a rookie free agent such as Auburn’s Kamryn Pettway, a bruiser who could thrive in short-yardage situations.