4 biggest Vikings draft needs after first wave of free agency in 2024

Minnesota Vikings offensive lineman Blake Brandel
Minnesota Vikings offensive lineman Blake Brandel / Stephen Maturen/GettyImages

The Minnesota Vikings have been quite busy in free agency. They've already signed more than 15 players, most are new faces, but there are a handful of returning players. Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has done a great job of finding players who fit the team's schemes, fill needs, and come at a team-friendly price.

Minnesota had a huge need at edge rusher this offseason, but they have solved it with their additions in free agency. Danielle Hunter got a big payday from the Houston Texans, and D.J. Wonnum signed with the Carolina Panthers. To replace them, the Vikings signed Jonathan Greenard from the Texans and Andrew Van Ginkel from the Dolphins.

Minnesota also recently added more depth to their edge rusher unit with Jihad Ward, formerly of the New York Giants. The Vikings got younger at the position and also improved the depth.

Cornerback was another need for Minnesota this offseason that was addressed with the recent signing of free-agent Shaquill Griffin. He provides the Vikings with another veteran in the team's cornerback room, and now they won't have to rely so heavily on developing players like Akayleb Evans and Andrew Booth Jr. in 2024.

Running back was also addressed by Minnesota this year with the signing of former enemy Aaron Jones. He will be a major upgrade over Alexander Mattison and he should bring the Vikings' rushing attack back to life.

The need for a new starting inside linebacker was also squashed in free agency by the Vikings, as Blake Cashman, a former Minnesota Golden Gopher, will be returning to play for his hometown team. The Vikings also signed an intriguing backup for Cashman in special teams ace Kamu Grugier-Hill, who will be an upgrade over Troy Dye.

Minnesota has already filled a bunch of holes on their roster in free agency and given themselves some flexibility in this year's NFL Draft. However, there are position groups that the Vikings still need to upgrade before next season.

So, what are Minnesota's four biggest remaining roster needs following the first two weeks of free agency?

4 biggest Minnesota Vikings draft needs after first wave of free agency


This one is obvious, and it has shot to the top of the Vikings' needs list. All the moves they've made in free agency point to the team moving up in the draft to secure their future signal caller.

The first domino to fall was Minnesota allowing Kirk Cousins to sign with the Atlanta Falcons. There was some belief they could bring him back, and both Adofo-Mensah and Kevin O'Connell publically expressed their desire to do just that.

The Vikings likely gave him an offer but were firm on their stance, and Cousins and his camp found a better deal with the Falcons.

To replace Cousins, Minnesota signed former first-round bust, Sam Darnold, in free agency. Darnold has been a disappointment since being the third overall pick back in 2018.

While he hasn't lived up to the expectations set by being the third overall choice, he has started a lot of games in his career. He was brought in for one reason, and that is to be the bridge quarterback until the young player that the Vikings draft is ready to roll.

Maybe Darnold will start 17 games for Minnesota in 2024, or maybe he will start zero. He was signed for one year for a reason, and his future beyond that is nonexistent.

The loss of Cousins and the signing of Darnold pushes quarterback to the top of the Vikings' list of needs.

To attempt to fill this need, Minnesota recently acquired extra firepower from the Texans to help them jump up to the top of the draft. That deal netted them the 23rd overall pick, and that, along with their own original selection at pick No. 11, will be used to get into the top five to get their guy.

The only debate at this time is about who the Vikings prefer. Will it be Drake Maye or will it be J.J. McCarthy? Those seem to be the two most likely options and both look like great fits in Kevin O'Connell's offense.

It's an exciting time for Minnesota and their fans, and in just a few weeks, they could do something that they've never done before, and that is draft a quarterback inside the top 10.

Interior Offensive Line

This seems to be a perennial need for the Vikings, but this year, the interior offensive line seems to be in worse shape than most.

Minnesota appears to be more than content starting Blake Brandel at left guard. The Vikings have yet to bring back Dalton Risner and gave Brandel a contract that would pay him like a low-level starter.

Players develop over time and can earn the chance to be a starter, but Brandel has primarily been an offensive tackle in his time in the league. He did move to guard last year and now it appears he's been handed the starting reigns on the left side despite his lack of experience at the position.

Maybe he'll make the most of the opportunity and play lights out, and that would be great. Even if that does happen, the depth behind him is horrifying.

Behind Brandel on the depth chart is Henry Byrd. On the right side, the backup is Tyrese Robinson. Another player on the roster who is the backup center and can also provide depth at guard is Dan Feeney. He's got a cool look, but he hasn't been very good on the football field.

There's a huge lack of talent and depth here, and it's a major concern.

This is a huge need for the Vikings. They would be wise to grab a player who can compete with Brandel to be the starting left guard. They also need to improve their depth at center, both guard spots, and they could even use another tackle.

With an inexperienced starter and a lack of depth, offensive guard could be the first position Minnesota address when they finally go back on the clock early on Day 3 of the draft if they make a big trade for a quarterback on Day 1.

Defensive Line

The Vikings have done a great job this offseason filling out their defensive line depth, as they've re-signed Jonathan Bullard, brought in Jerry Tillery, and also signed Jonah Williams.

These players all have starting experience and are quality backups. That's the issue, though. Minnesota doesn't have a quality starter on this unit besides Harrison Phillips.

Tillery has been a disappointment ever since he was drafted in the first round by the Los Angeles Chargers in 2019, and they gave up on him after 3.5 seasons. He's shown some flashes but hasn't been able to be a consistent contributor.

Jonathan Bullard is good against the run but doesn't provide a ton of pass rush. Jonah Williams started 16 games for the Los Angeles Rams last year, and while he had 49 tackles, he didn't grade out real well with PFF and managed just two sacks.

The Vikings need to find a dude in the draft. That could be at nose tackle in the form of a McKinnley Jackson or Gabe Hall. That could kick Phillips to one of the end positions, killing two birds with one stone.

They could also find a guy who could be a solid end, maybe that is in the form of LSU's Maason Smith or Mekhi Wingo, or maybe later they get a guy like Keith Randolph Jr.. Whoever they end up with, this is a big area of need and one where it wouldn't be shocking to see the Vikings invest multiple picks to upgrade.

Wide Receiver

The Vikings did add to their wide receiver depth chart in free agency. They re-signed slot receiver Brandon Powell, which was a move that many fans approved of.

Powell was excellent when called upon in 2023. He caught just about every target that came his way, showed toughness after the catch, and provided a spark when Minnesota's receiving corps needed it the most when Justin Jefferson was out with an injury.

They also added veteran Trent Sherfield, who isn't going to wow anyone with his career numbers, but he's a good blocker, a solid special teamer, and a reliable pass catcher who is rarely injured. He can be a quality WR4 or WR5 on the depth chart, and that is a role he's accustomed to.

Those were good signings, but one can't deny that going from K.J. Osborn to Sherfield is a downgrade, so this unit, as a whole, got worse.

The Vikings can remedy that by adding another pass catcher in the draft. They won't be doing that early, but the team has two fourth-round picks and one of them could be used on a new pass-catcher.

Malik Washington from Virginia is a compact but muscular pass catcher who is extremely quick-twitched, great after the catch, and precise in his routes. He'd be an excellent option.

They could also look at a Javon Baker from UCF or go with a crispy route runner like Jacob Cowing from Arizona. Any of these prospects would be solid additions.

The team could wait and address the need in the fifth round or later. Some intriguing options at that point could potentially be Rice's Luke McCaffarey or UTSA's Josh Cephus.

Cephus is a bigger-bodied receiver that the team met with at the East-West Shrine Bowl. His size would bring something new to the Vikings' receiving corps.

Whatever they decide to do, Minnesota should look to bolster this unit with a rookie pass-catcher sometime on Day 3 of the draft.

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