The Vikings' offseason additions, including prominent free-agent signings, a trade for offensive line depth, and a league-high 11 draft picks, created some crowded position rooms on the summer's 90-man roster. Here's a look at five likely roster battles to watch this summer.
Offensive linemen Mason Cole vs. Dru Samia
Samia, the 2019 fourth-round pick, faces an uphill battle to keep his roster spot after the Vikings re-signed Dakota Dozier, last year's starting left guard, traded for G/C Mason Cole, and drafted G Wyatt Davis in the third round. The team has typically kept five interior offensive linemen on the 53-man roster, and they've now got five with starting experience plus a valuable rookie in Davis.
Samia made his first four NFL starts at right guard in 2020, replacing an injured Pat Elflein by Week 2, but was relegated to the bench and replaced by rookie Ezra Cleveland for the rest of the season. The third-year pro faces new competition in Davis, the draft pick, and Cole, whom the Vikings acquired for a sixth-round pick from the Cardinals in March.
Cole has made 30 of his 32 NFL starts at center, including all 16 games as a rookie third-round pick in 2018, with two starts at guard. He brings a similar versatility as Dozier, who can also play all three interior spots, which is highly valued by coaching staffs.
Quarterbacks Jake Browning vs. Nate Stanley
The Vikings kept four quarterbacks last season, including Browning and Stanley on the practice squad, to bolster depth amid the pandemic. They could do so again in 2021 behind Kirk Cousins and third-round rookie Kellen Mond.
But with the significant draft pick in Mond, and practice reps not abundant for backups, the two reserves could be pitted against each other for the No. 3 job. Neither Browning nor Stanley have attempted a pass in an NFL regular season game. Only Browning, a top 2019 undrafted signing out of Washington, has played in the preseason. That was two years ago when he completed 10 of 13 passes for 64 yards and an interception in a couple appearances.
Stanley, the 2020 seventh-round pick out of Iowa, didn't get a chance to show his game chops with exhibitions canceled last summer. Now the preseason has been shortened to three games.
Kickers Greg Joseph vs. Riley Patterson
A new kicker competition has arrived in Minnesota after the Vikings released veteran Dan Bailey in a cost-cutting move this spring. Joseph, last year's Bucs practice squad kicker, hasn't kicked in an NFL game since 2019 when he made all nine extra-point attempts for the Titans. Head coach Mike Vrabel then replaced him with Stephen Gostkowski in a reunion of former Patriots.
Joseph's only NFL field goal attempts came in 2018 as the Browns' midseason replacement for a struggling Zane Gonzalez. He made 17 of 20 attempts, with a long of 51 yards, and 25 of 29 extra points for Cleveland. The Vikings' options are open after guaranteeing just $35,000 to sign Joseph this offseason.
Patterson joined this month as an undrafted signing out of Memphis for $20,000 guaranteed. He'll compete with Joseph after being one of college football's best kickers in 2019, converting 23 of 25 field goals. But he made 15 of 22 tries last year.
Receivers K.J. Osborn vs. Dan Chisena
The returner jobs on kickoff and punt teams will be among the top competitions to watch this summer with two fast rookies – fourth-round running back Kene Nwangwu and fifth-round receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette – possibly shaking up the special teams depth chart.
Special teams are where Osborn, the 2020 fifth-round pick, and Chisena, a second-year undrafted pro, will need to earn their spots again this year. The Vikings returned six receivers, and added Smith-Marsette. Unless they keep seven again – a rarity last year as they held onto Chisena, the former Penn St. track sprinter – the sixth spot could come down to who shows best on coverage and return phases between Osborn and Chisena.
Both rookies last year were healthy inactives due to inconsistent play. Osborn appeared in nine games, returning 14 kickoffs (21.6-yard average) and seven punts (3.9-yard average). Chisena made 14 appearances and finished second on the team in special teams snaps.
Defensive linemen Jalyn Holmes vs. Hercules Mata'afa
Five offseason additions to the defensive line – two free agents in DE Stephen Weatherly and DT Dalvin Tomlinson, and three draft picks in DE Patrick Jones II, DE Janarius Robinson, and DT Jaylen Twyman – create plentiful competition for Andre Patterson, the co-head coach, coordinator, and D-line guru.
Holmes, the 2018 fourth-round pick, made his first nine NFL starts last year at defensive end, but did not have a sack. Pro Football Focus credited him with as many QB pressures (19) as Mata'afa, but Holmes had nearly 200 more pass-rush attempts. Holmes has bounced between defensive tackle and end for the Vikings, which is a similar role as Mata'afa.
Mata'afa, the fourth-year pro, had 2.5 sacks in 13 games, making his first NFL start in the season finale against Detroit.