How are the Vikings going to use their new tight end in 2023?

Josh Oliver could emerge as another weapon for Minnesota
Minnesota Vikings tight end Josh Oliver
Minnesota Vikings tight end Josh Oliver / Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Successful as a blocking tight end with the Baltimore Ravens, could Josh Oliver actually emerge as another receiving weapon for the Minnesota Vikings?

When it came to predicting which players were going to sign with the Minnesota Vikings before free agency began last March, former Baltimore Ravens tight end Josh Oliver certainly wasn't among some of the most obvious choices.

But Oliver ended up being the first player from outside of the organization that the Vikings signed during free agency this year, as Minnesota and the veteran tight end were able to agree to a three-year contract worth $21 million.

It was a deal that definitely raised a lot of eyebrows, given Oliver's lack of production in the NFL since entering the league in 2019 (just 26 career catches). But the Vikings clearly believe the 6-foot-5, 259-pound tight end is capable of a lot more than what he's been able to do in the NFL so far.

Could former Baltimore Ravens TE Josh Oliver emerge as a receiving threat for the Minnesota Vikings?

Before entering the NFL in 2019, Oliver was much more of a receiving factor during his college career at San Jose State. In his final season at the school, he finished with 56 catches for 709 yards and four touchdowns in 12 games.

That year, he averaged almost five receptions and 60 yards per contest. If he maintained these averages in a 17-game NFL season, he would finish the year with around 80 catches and 1,000 receiving yards.

So the skills as a pass-catcher are certainly there for Oliver, and we already know he's developed a strength as a blocker since entering the league. "Versatile" is how Minnesota's new tight end described himself earlier this year, and it sounds like the team wants to give him a chance to prove this in 2023.

As PFF's highest run-blocker tight end last season, Oliver is obviously going to help the Vikings in their goal to become more efficient when running the ball in 2022. But Minnesota also told the former Ravens tight end that they want him to come in and "compliment" T.J. Hockenson and Justin Jefferson in the passing game next season.

Is Oliver about to emerge as the Vikings' top receiving tight end in 2023? Probably not, but don't be surprised if, at the very least, he emerges as someone Minnesota quarterback Kirk Cousins consistently turns to in critical situations on third down or during trips inside the red zone.