Thank you for submitting questions for this week's Vikings mailbag. You can always send questions to @Andrew_Krammer on Twitter email@example.com, and find answers here or on the Access Vikings podcast. Let's get to it.
Q: Who are the offensive line targets remaining in free agency? — @steezo999
AK: There are a lot of recognizable names and effective blockers available, but they come with key questions that have likely kept them unsigned. Two injured but intriguing talents to monitor into this summer are ex-Chiefs tackles Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz, who are recovering from Achilles and back surgeries. The Vikings wanted to sign Russell Okung before landing on Riley Reiff during 2017 free agency. But Okung, now 32 years old, hasn't been able to stay on the field, appearing in just 13 games over the past two seasons. Atop the wish list should be Ravens tackle Orlando Brown Jr., who wants out of run-heavy Baltimore to play and be paid as a left tackle. Acquiring center/guard Mason Cole from the Cardinals for a sixth-round pick this week gives the Vikings another interior option, one coordinator Klint Kubiak could've learned plenty about from his former coworkers in Arizona's head coach, Kliff Kingsbury, and offensive line coach, Sean Kugler. The top interior free-agent options are also talented but coming off injuries, from Trai Turner and Kelechi Osemele to Lane Taylor and Nick Easton. The Vikings need two new starters, possibly a tackle and guard or two guards if Ezra Cleveland moves back to tackle, and they can still plug one of those holes before choosing from what's touted as a strong offensive line class in next month's draft.
Q: What is the biggest need to address in the draft after the offensive line? — @parma26
AK: Pass rushers. Defensive end Danielle Hunter's offseason workouts are a good sign he's returning to full strength from neck surgery, but he'll need some help. So far, general manager Rick Spielman hasn't really addressed that in free agency after seeing the defense register a franchise-low 23 sacks (since it became an official stat in 1982). Retaining linebacker Anthony Barr, who played just one full game last year, will return the canine tooth to Mike Zimmer's blitz packages, too. But it wouldn't be a surprise to see another promising defensive end added within the draft's first few rounds. One player for Vikings personnel evaluators to watch closely Friday at Michigan's pro day is defensive end Kwity Paye, whose combination of size and athletic traits could make him a first-round pick. "He's going to put on a show there," NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah said. "He's an absolute freak." They'll also need a new starter at safety.
Q: Have the Vikings gained any ground in the NFC North this offseason? – Evan
AK: Health on the roster will be the biggest ground gained. But while the Vikings added two potential impact defenders (and lost a left tackle), their divisional opponents haven't done a whole lot. The Lions' initial moves under the new regime don't inspire confidence. It looks like a major rebuild, with the new front office retaining only defensive end Romeo Okwara among their notable free agents. Shipping out Matthew Stafford and taking on quarterback Jared Goff's contract is another sign they're still not going to compete for a while. The Bears swapped Mitchell Trubisky for Andy Dalton, but their quarterback situation may be far from settled. Don't overlook Chicago cutting cornerback Kyle Fuller, who will rival the Vikings' decision with Reiff for the division's most impactful cost-cutting move. Fuller was the only Bears cornerback capable of covering Justin Jefferson or Adam Thielen. The Packers have been typically inactive, letting center Corey Linsley leave for a lucrative deal with the Chargers while re-signing running back Aaron Jones and cornerback Kevin King. If the Vikings can find a new (and effective) offensive tackle to replace Reiff, then Spielman's free-agent moves look better on paper. For now, there's another big hole up front.
Q: Who is your ideal third receiver on this team? — @chris_cordella
AK: Receiver Chad Beebe saw his playing time and targets increase as last season progressed, and the mutual interest was enough for him to return this month on a one-year, minimum salary contract after the Vikings declined a $2.1 million restricted offer. He's a logical fit if he can develop into a durable and reliable slot receiver, with Jefferson and Thielen moving around the formations and threatening defenses deep. The offense could really use another burner, though, to help open things up for the many shallow and intermediate options from tight ends Irv Smith Jr. and Tyler Conklin to Thielen and running back Dalvin Cook. Beebe is shifty, but he's not the fastest on the field. With another strong receiver draft class coming next month, I wouldn't be surprised to see a speedy addition. Also keep in mind: the Vikings deployed three receivers on an NFL-low 29% of plays, according to Sharp Football Stats, making that spot inherently less important. It's likely a group effort, from Beebe to Bisi Johnson and a newcomer, fills that role, while the tight ends and fullback C.J. Ham remain heavily involved.
Q: Is this free agency activity happening so Zimmer and Spielman keep their jobs through the season? — @studer_sci_nerd
AK: The moves indicate they're betting on an immediate turnaround in 2021, given the one-year commitments from cornerback Patrick Peterson to Barr's restructure, in which Spielman agreed to let him become a free agent after this season so the team could gain cap space (to sign one-year help like Peterson). Front offices and coaching staffs don't typically keep jobs with repeats of last year, which bottomed out with Alvin Kamara's NFL record-tying six touchdowns on Christmas Day and national television. Spielman and Zimmer are both believed to be under contract through 2023 after last summer's extensions, but that doesn't guarantee anything if the Wilfs see last season carry into this one. Consistent relevance and "knocking on the door" of a Super Bowl is the public standard in which Mark Wilf has said he's holding the team's leadership.