We are now four weeks away from Kevin O’Connell sending his players out onto the gridiron for the first time as the Minnesota Vikings head coach in a preseason game in Vegas against the Raiders.
It feels a good time to look at what is the Vikings best offseason move. There is still time for other moves to be made. Former Vikings Anthony Barr and Kyle Rudolph are names that continue to be linked. JC Tretter is still a free agent, and the center has been a popular name among the Vikings fanbase this offseason. However, I don’t expect the Vikings to make any significant moves at this point. So, let’s look at the candidates for the Vikings best offseason move.
The Vikings made moves in this year’s draft including some significant trading, landing Lewis Cine and Andrew Booth with the team. Drafting Cine and the whole scenario around that with the trades that saw them grab Cine at the end of the first round and Booth in Round 2. It’s what Pro Football Focus believes to be the Vikings best offseason move.
DRAFTING S LEWIS CINE
The Vikings had a tough offseason to gauge, in many ways pulling in two different directions as they once again look to make a deep playoff run with quarterback Kirk Cousins despite shaking up a longtime front office and coaching staff. Their 2022 NFL Draft process was also a bit of a see-saw, beginning with their controversial decision to trade way down to the No. 32 pick from the No. 12 spot, ignoring old school draft value charts in favor of mathematically driven charts that still believe they gained value by moving down. While the entire point of these newer charts is about the process and not the results, the result appeared to be a good one for Minnesota when they landed Georgia safety Lewis Cine with the No. 32 overall pick.
– Pro Football Focus
I’m inclined to agree. Whatever you think about trade value, if Cine and Booth both turn into star players and transform the Vikings secondary, it will prove to be a fantastic move. There is never a guarantee when it comes to rookies coming into the pro game, but I like what I see with both players. As PFF also pointed out, Cine was highly regarded in many NFL buildings and could prove to be a steal at 32.
Thanks to some top-notch detective work from Jon Machota at The Athletic, we know the Cowboys had Cine as their No. 13-ranked player on their draft board. We also heard from Cine himself on the Richard Sherman podcast that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers promised to take him with the No. 27 overall pick before ultimately trading down to pick No. 33. All told, the Vikings landed a player we know was highly regarded in several buildings while adding more draft capital in the process, eventually enabling them to also select Clemson cornerback Andrew Booth Jr. in the second round.
– Pro Football Focus
Za’Darius Smith also deservedly gets a mention from PFF and is the biggest free agent move of the offseason.
Signing edge defender Za’Darius Smith to a team-friendly three-year deal, at least from a structure perspective given how the cash is paid out, was deserving of a mention here as well.
Pro Football Focus
A top-level player who comes from the Vikings biggest rival is an exciting move. Smith and Danielle Hunter will be amongst the most dangerous edge-rushing duos in the league if both can get over their recent injury troubles — something Forbes agrees with as they pick out the signing of the former Packer as their key move of the offseason.
Their overall talent and abilities will play out over the next 3-5 years. However, the key move of the offseason is the signing of ex-Packer Za’Darius Smith (three years, $42 million) to man an outside linebacker position opposite Danielle Hunter. If both men can stay healthy – and that’s a big if considering their recent history – the Vikings could have one of the most dangerous pass-rush teams in the league. Smith had 13.5 sacks in the 2019 season and followed that up with 12.5 the following season. He missed all but one game last year with a back injury, but the Vikings have made a commitment to him and he has a chance to become a game-changing player for them.
The move deserving mention with these two is Hunter himself still being happily in Minnesota. There was speculation early in the offseason that Hunter was unhappy and rumors of a possible trade. Thankfully, that talk went away, and his contract situation was resolved for this season. Hunter’s impact on the Vikings defense has been massive, and his absence through injury has left a gaping hole the last two seasons. When he was available last season, the Vikings defense just looked better.
Now with several reinforcements like Smith, Cine, Booth, Harrison Phillips, and Jordan Hicks added to the roster, the Vikings defense should be stronger, but for me, Hunter is still the most talented player on the Vikings roster. His ability to stay healthy will have a huge say in how far the Vikings go this season.