Thank you for submitting questions for this week’s Vikings mailbag. You can always send questions to @Andrew_Krammer on Twitter or [email protected], and listen for answers on the Access Vikings podcast or find them here on Friday mornings. Let’s get to it.
Q: Any chance Teddy Bridgewater finds his way back to the Vikings as a backup to Kirk? Or is there still a market for him as a starter? (Or would his salary just be too high?) – @pholland1966
AK: Carolina’s trade for quarterback Sam Darnold churned up chatter that Teddy Bridgewater could be available once again. And for the reasons you just stated – along with the Vikings’ salary cap issues and reluctance to allocate significant resources at backup quarterback – it’s pretty hard to see a reunion. Bridgewater’s trade value might not be much after throwing 15 touchdowns to 11 interceptions in a talented Panthers offense. But his $17 million base salary this season is low-level starter money, not backup money, making a reworked deal almost a necessity if he’s not traded to be another team’s starter. Carolina could also cut him if offers don’t materialize. There are a few teams (not drafting in the top three this month) that could give Bridgewater a chance to start, like Denver or even New England, and others with more cap space for a pricey backup, like Houston, Cincinnati, and San Francisco. Interestingly, the Vikings currently have zero career NFL passing attempts behind Cousins with only Jake Browning and Nate Stanley on the roster. However, it’s more likely the team re-signs Sean Mannion than trades for Bridgewater.
Q: Assuming we go offensive or defensive line at 14th overall, which group has better depth in the third/fourth rounds? — @1984_Sheepdawg
AK: The offensive line and pass rush are both glaring needs, making either an edge rusher or blocker the obvious projections for the Vikings’ top pick. It might be splitting hairs to say which has more depth, because both are considered among the best positions available in the 2021 NFL Draft. General manager Rick Spielman said as much in March, before pursuing other needs in free agency with cornerback Patrick Peterson and defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson. It might be pretty tempting to take Michigan defensive end Kwity Paye or Miami’s Jaelan Phillips if available at 14th overall, but can they afford to keep waiting on the offensive line? That’s really the more pressing need, with a hole at left tackle and an upgrade needed at guard. Spielman’s track record with Mike Zimmer and Andre Patterson also indicates they’re willing to wait on defensive linemen (they haven’t drafted one within the top 100 picks since Danielle Hunter in 2015). Maybe their recent lack of success drafting late-round projects will change the approach, but the guess here is their offensive line needs are too glaring to ignore. Another guess: without a second-round pick, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a trade down from No. 14 to acquire more picks and address the offensive line later in the first round, as there’s depth and little consensus on the top prospects behind Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater and Oregon’s Penei Sewell.
Q: Is the team really willing to let kicker Greg Joseph – 69.5% in college and only 20 NFL attempts – get the starting job? — @NSengbush
AK: If Spielman doesn’t draft a second kicker in four years, it seems likely the Vikings will add competition with an undrafted or veteran signing at some point. While Greg Joseph was given a little guaranteed money — $35,000 – on his Vikings contract after serving as Tampa Bay’s backup last season, that’s about all he’s guaranteed. His competition doesn’t necessarily have to be a rookie, that’s just how it’d work best financially. The Vikings tried to restructure kicker Dan Bailey‘s contract before cutting him in March, according to Bailey’s agent, and Bailey is still a free agent. Maybe a reunion is still possible, but it’s clear the Vikings aren’t going to guarantee the former Pro Bowler the job, either. Joseph could very well earn the starting job, having made 17 of 20 field goals for the Browns in 2018 during his only full season as a starter, but he’ll be competing with somebody this summer.
Q: The Vikings have more draft hits in the second round than in the first round over the last decade; bad luck or bad strategy? — @josh_henig
AK: Outside of the disastrous Christian Ponder and Laquon Treadwell selections in 2011 and 2016, it’s been mostly bad health from the knees of Matt Kalil, Sharrif Floyd and Bridgewater to the neck injury undercutting Mike Hughes’ career so far. Who knows how they would’ve performed or lasted in Minnesota if they’d stayed healthy, but the chances have unquestionably been limited by injuries. Justin Jefferson ended a four-year run from 2016-2019 of Spielman’s second selections looking better than his first, as you pointed out, with Mackensie Alexander, Dalvin Cook, Brian O’Neill and Irv Smith Jr. arriving from round 2; that’s counting Sam Bradford as the 2017 first-round pick, joining Treadwell, Hughes and center Garrett Bradbury as top picks in that span. Jefferson was Spielman’s first top pick since Anthony Barr in 2014 to make an All-Pro team in their career (Jefferson was a second-team pick in 2020).