Working on the offensive line story for the magazine, I noticed an anomaly with the Minnesota Vikings. They're one of just two teams (New Orleans) that will start an entirely homegrown line of first- and second-round draft picks. Negative is that only one of Minnesota's guys has been to a Pro Bowl, and its performance metrics a year ago were disappointing.
Certainly the Vikings had a highly successful season, going 13-4 and running away with the NFC North. But there are some worrying trends, and questions entering this year.
Biggest among the questions is Dalvin Cook (pictured). Minnesota re-signed Alexander Mattison to a two-year contract worth $7 million, which is a lot for a backup. Cook's current contract calls for him to make over $10 million this season, but just $2 million of it is guaranteed. The team has reportedly quietly been shopping him; a trade, a release, or even a restructured contract to bring him back are all possible. Most likely one of those things will happen before training camp.
Whoever starts, Cook or Mattison, will be working behind a line that was a lesser group in multiple areas last year. It allowed 47 sacks, which was fewer than only seven teams, and also averaged just 4.1 yards per attempt rushing it, better than only six teams. It was just 28th in rushing yards per game.
Two teams ranked 25th or worse in all three of those areas last year: the Vikings, and the Rams.
|OFFENSIVE LINE PERFORMANCE, 2022|
Minnesota's aforementioned Pro Bowl representative, Brian O'Neill (who made it in 2021), is also coming off a major injury -- he tore his Achilles in Week 17. They're saying they expect him to be healthy for the start of the season, but we'll see.
Back to Cook, who remains a top fantasy performer for his three-down production and workhorse role. Doesn't seem to be much chance of him returning at his current contract. At 27 years old (28 in August), he's still an elite talent. The fact that he's still on the roster suggests the Vikings might like to have him back, but the fact they're paying Mattison what they're paying him suggests they're prepared not to have Cook.
If they do trade or release Cook, it doesn't seem likely that Mattison will be a top performer behind this line. If they do keep the starter around, it's probably because they realize that too.