We’re now halfway through the month of February, and the celebration in Philadelphia has finally died down. The 2017 season ended only a few weeks ago, but front offices throughout the league are already preparing for next season.
Organizations are frantically trying to free up cap space and lock down their key players with long-term contracts. An important part of this preparation process is to identify any major weaknesses on the team’s roster.
For the Minnesota Vikings, this means evaluating every single position from top to bottom. So far, we have discussed the Vikings’ needs at the quarterback and running back positions, and now we move on to assess their deep group of pass catchers.
Stefon Diggs quietly enjoyed another productive season despite being outshined by fellow receiver Adam Thielen. Last season, Diggs caught 64 passes for 849 yards and eight touchdowns. Those numbers don’t jump off of the page, but Diggs did just enough to keep the Vikings’ offense clicking. Diggs averaged over 13 yards per catch, displaying impressive speed and quickness.
Diggs ended his season with an exclamation point with the “Minneapolis Miracle” in a playoff matchup against the New Orleans Saints. The former fifth-round pick will only be under contract through the 2018 season. This likely means that Diggs is due for a big payday this time next year.
Aside from quarterback Case Keenum, wide receiver Adam Thielen was the talk of the town in Minnesota during the 2017 season. After spending his first two years in Minnesota on special teams, Thielen impressed many in 2016.
To follow up his impressive third season, Thielen caught 91 passes for 1,276 yards, earning himself a Pro Bowl nod. Thielen demonstrated his shifty route running ability, allowing himself to consistently get open, as well as relieving pressure from Diggs.
The Vikings’ front office is extremely fortunate to have re-signed him prior to his career year in 2017. Thielen and the Vikings agreed to a three-year, $27 million deal last March, allowing him to stay in his home state through the 2020 season.
Along with Thielen, Kyle Rudolph was the Minnesota Vikings’ second Pro Bowler from the offensive side of the ball. Rudolph has consistently been a solid starting tight end for the Vikings throughout his seven years in the league. The tight end out of Notre Dame has started every game in the last three seasons for the Vikings. During that span, Rudolph also has gained over 500 receiving yards twice.
Rudolph is currently under contract through the 2019 season and will earn nearly $8 million throughout those seasons.
If there is one thing that the Vikings’ offense struggled with in 2017, it would be spreading the ball. Diggs, Thielen and Rudolph accounted for 77 percent of the Vikings’ receptions by wide receivers or tight ends.
Not including these three, the Vikings’ top pass catcher would have been Laquon Treadwell. Treadwell was a first-round pick in the 2016 Draft who has struggled to find playing time so far in his career. In 2017, Treadwell only caught 20 passes for a meager 200 yards and no touchdowns.
Also on the depth chart are wide receivers Jarius Wright and Michael Floyd, as well as tight end David Morgan. These three combined for 38 receptions and 371 yards.
Floyd is the only one of these four players that will not return to the Vikings in 2018, and will be an unrestricted free agent in March.
What to Expect
The Minnesota Vikings have one of the most underrated receiving corps in the NFL. Although they don’t have a true No. 1 wide receiver, it is unlikely that the Vikings will target a wide receiver in either free agency or high in the draft.
The one-two punch of Thielen and Diggs is one of the best duos in the NFL. This, along with Rudolph as a safety blanket, forms a very solid group of pass catchers.
If the Vikings do decide to make a change with this position, they will most likely release Wright. Releasing Wright would save the Minnesota Vikings over $4 million in cap space.
Featured image by Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
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