A return to the playoffs — and a wild-card win over the Saints — helped the Vikings rebound from a disappointing 2018 season and put themselves among the NFC’s final four teams in 2019. Still, change could be in the air for a team facing decisions on a number of 30-something starters while trying to regroup for back-to-back playoff appearances for the first time in Mike Zimmer’s tenure. Here is a position-by-position, player-by-player breakdown of the 2019 roster, with beat writer Ben Goessling’s early predictions for how the roster will look in 2020.
Kirk Cousins: In
The starting QB isn’t going anywhere, not after his first playoff win, but few Vikings have more at stake in 2020 than Cousins, who will make $29.5 million in the final year of his fully-guaranteed deal and will be looking for a new contract to keep him in Minnesota.
Sean Mannion: In
Mannion, like Trevor Siemian a year before him, is headed for free agency after one season as Cousins’ backup. But the Vikings liked what he brought to their QB room, and if the price is right, they could keep him as part of their bid for continuity.
Jake Browning: In
The Vikings signed him as an undrafted free agent last spring and figure to keep him around as their developmental passer — though it wouldn’t be surprising if they brought in another young arm for more competition.
Dalvin Cook: In
After a season in which he posted 1,654 combined rushing and receiving yards, Cook is entering a contract year. It’s worth wondering if he’ll hold out in pursuit of a new deal before the start of the 2020 season, as part of a talented running back class from the 2017 draft that’s looking to cash in.
Alexander Mattison: In
The third-round pick was a pleasant surprise in his first season, running for 462 yards on 100 carries and showing he could be more explosive than some might have expected. The Vikings’ approach with Cook could hinge in part on whether they feel Mattison can take on a larger role.
Mike Boone: In
He produced in some opportunities to play at the end of the season and is signed for the season at $660,000; he’ll return as an affordable option in the backfield.
Ameer Abdullah: Out
Abdullah had a solid day as a kick returner during the Vikings’ playoff loss to the 49ers, and caught 15 passes for 88 yards and a touchdown this season. But as he hits free agency, the Vikings might look for cheaper ways to stock their backfield, while Abdullah seeks a larger role.
C.J. Ham: In
He’s also headed for free agency, but as the Vikings plan to keep the same system they used in 2019, they know how valuable Ham is to what they do on offense. They’ll likely look to work out a deal to keep the Duluth native in Minnesota.
Receivers and Tight Ends
Stefon Diggs, WR: In
While our prediction — for now — is that Diggs returns in 2020, it’s worth keeping an eye on his status through the offseason. The Vikings will say everything’s fine with Diggs now, but his discontentment with the direction of the offense was an open secret around the team as far back as last spring. With the Vikings keeping the same scheme, will they look to trade Diggs? Stay tuned.
Adam Thielen, WR: In
It was a frustrating season for Thielen after he signed a new contract last spring; he dealt with a hamstring injury that lingered longer than it should have and caught just 30 passes in the 10 regular-season games he played. He’ll be 30 in August, but his performance in the win over the Saints served as a reminder of how skilled a receiver he is.
Bisi Johnson, WR: In
The seventh-round pick caught 30 passes as a rookie and stepped into a larger-than-expected role with Thielen’s injuries. He’s a solid route-runner; can he turn into a bona fide No. 3 receiver in his second season?
Alexander Hollins, WR: In
Injuries helped Hollins onto the active roster late this season, and he impressed the Vikings in practice, as well. He’s got a chance to turn into a deep threat, and he’ll likely get a chance to play his way into a bigger role in 2020.
Chad Beebe, WR: In
Beebe is signed for just $660,000 in 2020, but he’s headed into a make-or-break year: The Vikings like his route-running skills and resourcefulness, but he needs to show he can stay healthy.
Laquon Treadwell, WR: Out
Treadwell’s 13-game return was an unexpected coda to his time with the Vikings after the team released the 2016 first-round pick at the end of training camp. Now that he’s headed into free agency again, after posting nine catches in his return to the Vikings, Treadwell figures to move on to a fresh start.
Kyle Rudolph, TE: In
Rudolph’s restructured deal carries a $9.45 million cap hit in 2020 but comes with no guaranteed money. That could mean another restructure is in store for the 30-year-old tight end — who started the year as a blocker and ended it as a red-zone threat who tied for the team lead with six touchdown receptions — if he wants to stay.
Irv Smith, TE: In
The second-round pick had a promising rookie season, catching 36 passes and working as the team’s de facto slot receiver during Thielen’s absence. Now that he’s a year into his career, he’ll be expected to turn into a bigger weapon in 2020.
David Morgan, TE: Out
Morgan’s knee injury cost him all of the 2019 season, and the Vikings felt his absence as a blocker. But he’s headed into free agency, and unless the team sees enough value to make a gamble on his health worthwhile, Morgan could be moving on.
Tyler Conklin, TE: In
Conklin caught only eight passes, though he played more frequently in three-tight end sets. He has room to grow as a receiving threat, but he might need a strong training camp to fend off competition for a roster spot.
Riley Reiff, T: Out
The Vikings have a big decision to make with their left tackle, who might be better served at a different position as he heads toward age 32: He’s due to make $10.9 million in 2020, and another attempt at an offensive line overhaul might lead the Vikings to look for another left tackle while recouping $8.8 million in cap space by cutting Reiff.
Pat Elflein, G: Out
Elflein struggled in his first season at left guard, and he’s headed into the final year of his rookie contract. The Vikings could look to upgrade at Elflein’s spot, and he might want to start somewhere else (possibly as a center) rather than trying to battle for a role with the Vikings.
Garrett Bradbury, C: In
Bradbury struggled in his rookie season against some of the more dynamic defensive tackles he faced, but the Vikings are hoping for a solid second year for the 18th overall pick in the 2019 draft (particularly if they’re able to secure some upgrades next to him).
Josh Kline, G: In
Kline’s first season in Minnesota wasn’t great, but he’s a serviceable veteran who has $1.8 million guaranteed as part of his $4.45 million base salary in 2020. That could keep him on the roster for next season, especially if the Vikings aren’t confident they can make a sweeping overhaul of their line in one offseason.
Brian O’Neill, T: In
The second-round pick in the 2018 draft has turned into a strong right tackle who seems to be the most solid piece of the Vikings’ long-term line picture. The team could think about moving him to left tackle, but it’d seem to make as much sense to leave O’Neill where he is, given how many teams move their best pass rushers to different sides of the line.
Rashod Hill, T: Out
He’s a valuable swing tackle, but he’s also heading into free agency, where he might find enough of a market to price him out of the Vikings’ plans. If Hill leaves, replacing him will be an important (if not oft-discussed) item on the offseason to-do list.
Dru Samia, G: In
The Vikings are high on the 2019 fourth-round pick, who has shown a nasty edge in practice and could get a chance to push for a bigger role in 2020.
Dakota Dozier, G: Out
Retaining the veteran could be tricky as he heads into free agency. He’s another versatile veteran who stepped in to start four games when injuries affected the Vikings’ line in 2019; the Vikings will likely have interest in bringing him back, but Dozier might price himself out of the picture for a team that could be tight on cap space.
Aviante Collins, G: In
Collins stayed healthy in 2019 after a spate of injuries his first two seasons with the Vikings, and he’s making only $660,000 in 2020. He’ll likely get a chance to step into a bigger role as a swing candidate on the line.
Oli Udoh, T: In
The big tackle remains a project, but the Vikings are optimistic about what he could become if he can refine his technique and pair it with his impressive physical skills in Year 2.
Brett Jones, G: Out
He will be a free agent in the spring, and though he can play both guard and center, it’s possible the veteran will find another team that values his contributions more than the Vikings have seemed to in the past two years.
Danielle Hunter, DE: In
He is in the prime of a career that could be headed to stratospheric heights; Hunter became the youngest player in NFL history to reach 50 career sacks and had 14 ½ sacks for the second consecutive season.
Everson Griffen, DE: Out
Griffen can void the final three years of his deal next month, and whether he’s back could depend on whether he wants to test the open market after an impressive season, or whether he’s willing to accept another discount from the team, especially with Ifeadi Odenigbo and Stephen Weatherly taking on larger roles this season.
Linval Joseph, DT: In
Joseph, who had knee surgery in November, is due to make $11.15 million in 2020 and could be asked to take a pay cut before he turns 32 in October. He’s another player whose future in Minnesota could hinge on his willingness to accept less money.
Shamar Stephen, DT: In
If Stephen is on the roster by March 20, $1.1 million of his $3.6 million base salary for 2020 becomes guaranteed. The Vikings might want an upgrade at three-technique tackle, but that could come through the draft while they keep Stephen on the roster.
Stephen Weatherly, DE: In
Weatherly will become a free agent in March, and though he put together a solid season, he posted only three sacks and saw his role diminish as Ifeadi Odenigbo grew this year. The Vikings will likely have interest in bringing him back, though, and Weatherly has hinted strongly he wants to stay in Minnesota.
Ifeadi Odenigbo, DE: In
If the Vikings end up moving on from Griffen, Odenigbo could be one of the big reasons why they feel confident enough to do so. He finished with seven sacks in an impressive season in which he saw time at tackle and end, and he is signed for just $660,000 this season.
Jaleel Johnson, DT: In
Johnson heads into the final year of his contract and will need a big year in 2020 to secure a second contract for himself. He has played only in a rotational capacity to this point, though he did work his way to 3 ½ sacks this season.
Jalyn Holmes, DE: Out
Holmes, heading into Year 3, could find himself as the odd man out in a deep defensive line group, especially as the Vikings figure to continue to fortify the position through the draft. He was active for only six games this season.
Eddie Yarbrough, DE: Out
Signed to the active roster off the Bills’ practice squad at the end of the season, Yarbrough didn’t get a chance to play and doesn’t figure to return.
Armon Watts, DT: In
The rookie came on toward the end of the season and could find himself with a chance for more playing time in his second year. He had 1 ½ sacks and one forced fumble in seven games.
Hercules Mata’afa, DT: In
Mata’afa didn’t play much after a strong training camp that delivered signs he could be a pass-rushing force at three-technique tackle. He is signed for 2020 at $660,000, though, so the Vikings will likely give him another chance to develop.
Eric Kendricks, ILB: In
The linebacker was snubbed for a Pro Bowl spot but was named a first-team All-Pro by the media after a season in which he excelled in pass coverage especially. His 12 pass breakups led the team — one ahead of both Harrison Smith and Anthony Harris.
Anthony Barr, OLB: In
Barr’s first year of his new contract was somewhat underwhelming, and he’ll have to do more in 2020 to play into the later years of the deal. He has a $10 million base salary that becomes fully guaranteed on March 20.
Eric Wilson, OLB: In
Wilson will be a free agent in March, but the Vikings could bring him back on a new deal to be their third linebacker. He posted three sacks and a fumble recovery in 2019 after stepping into the lineup for Ben Gedeon.
Ben Gedeon, ILB: Out
Concussions ended Gedeon’s season and put his status for the final year of his rookie contract in some doubt. He’s set to make $735,000, but he’d have to return and compete with Wilson, who has been better in pass coverage and might make his case as a more complete player.
Kentrell Brothers, ILB: Out
As valuable as Brothers has been on special teams, the Vikings could look in a different direction here instead of bringing the linebacker back on a second contract (given the fact Brothers is set to be a free agent this spring).
Cameron Smith, LB: In
The fifth-round pick wound up on the active roster toward the end of the season, and his presence could help the Vikings move on from previous third-day picks like Gedeon and Brothers.
Xavier Rhodes, CB: Out
Set to turn 30 before next season, Rhodes might benefit from a fresh start as much as anyone on the roster; he’s due to make $9.9 million in 2020, but given that the Vikings can save $8.1 million by releasing him, they could turn Rhodes loose before the start of free agency.
Trae Waynes, CB: Out
Of the Vikings’ three free-agent cornerbacks, Waynes might be the most likely to return. He’s also the most likely to command a big deal in free agency, as a 27-year-old corner who has started for three seasons in one of the league’s best defenses. His athletic ability might entice another team to give him the kind of contract that prices him out of the Vikings’ market.
Harrison Smith, S: In
He’ll be 31 in February, but he remains one of the game’s very best, as capable of blitzing off the edge of the formation as he is making a play in coverage. Smith signed a five-year extension in the summer of 2016; he is two seasons away from playing through the entire deal.
Anthony Harris, S: In
Harris is an unrestricted free agent, and he’ll be expensive to keep after a Pro Bowl-caliber season. The fact he’ll be 29 this summer, though, could keep his contract in a range that allows the Vikings to retain the services of the safety, who’s well-liked in the locker room and a key component of the defense.
Mackensie Alexander, CB: Out
Sources have said Alexander is looking forward to testing the open market, and his knee injury at the end of the season — the cornerback tore his meniscus after playing in a meaningless Week 17 game when he was already hurt — doesn’t figure to whet his appetite to return.
Mike Hughes, CB: In
Headed into Year 3, Hughes could step into a starting role if Waynes, Rhodes or Alexander departs. He’ll have to return from a broken vertebra in his neck at the end of the season, though Mike Zimmer said Hughes should be ready in time for the team’s offseason program.
Holton Hill, CB: In
If the Vikings feel confident with Hill — who was suspended for eight games in 2019 — he could get a chance to compete for a bigger role in the defense. He had some issues in coverage when he played this season, and earning Zimmer’s trust will be important for Hill.
Kris Boyd, CB: In
The 2019 seventh-round pick turned into a valuable contributor on special teams, especially as a gunner in punt coverage. He’ll be back in that capacity, at least, as he continues to develop in coverage.
Nate Meadors, S: In
The Vikings added Meadors back to their active roster before the divisional playoffs, and he’ll get another chance to push for playing time in his second NFL season, when he’s scheduled to make only $510,000.
Marcus Sherels, CB: Out
Sherels’ long run with the Vikings included a couple of extra chapters when the team twice brought him back in 2019, but his fumbled punt in the divisional playoffs might have been his final significant moment in a Vikings uniform. He’ll be 33 in September.
Jayron Kearse, S: Out
Injuries and a diminishing role led Kearse to make no secret of his discontentment with his situation on social media this season, and now that he heads into free agency, he’ll almost certainly look for a better situation elsewhere.
Andrew Sendejo, S: Out
It was surprising to see Sendejo return after the Eagles released him, and it was equally surprising to see him turn in a solid performance as a nickel corner in the wild-card win over the Saints. The Vikings likely won’t plan a larger role for him, though, before he turns 33 in September.
Dan Bailey, K: In
Bailey will be a free agent, but a strong season should earn him a new deal for a team that has had its fair share of kicking issues in recent years. He hit 27 of his 29 field-goal attempts in 2019.
Britton Colquitt, P: In
A strong season as a punter, and a solid year as a holder, should have Colquitt back on a new deal for 2020, which would be his 11th season in the NFL.
Austin Cutting, LS: In
The seventh-round pick did a solid job in his rookie season, and it figures the Vikings will look to keep him as their long snapper for several years, at least.