The Vikings began the 2023 draft by adding a receiver for Kirk Cousins, and closed it out with a developmental quarterback and a running back. In between, they spent three picks on defenders they hope can contribute to a series of defensive changes under new coordinator Brian Flores.
As they prepare to add their six-player draft class to the rest of their roster for organized team activities later this month, here is a look at five questions still facing the 2023 Vikings.
1. What's the future of Kirk Cousins?
Though they did extensive work on the rookie quarterback class and were believed to be considering one in the first round of the draft, the Vikings passed on Kentucky's Will Levis and Tennessee's Hendon Hooker with the 23rd pick after their top three QB targets — Alabama's Bryce Young, Ohio State's C.J. Stroud and Florida's Anthony Richardson — went in the first four picks. The Vikings added Brigham Young's Jaren Hall in the fifth round, taking a 25-year-old developmental quarterback they had grown to like during the pre-draft process, but there's no immediate challenge to Cousins, who will be a free agent after the season.
Even though they added two void years to his contract after talks on a long-term deal proved unsuccessful, the Vikings had not ruled out the idea of completing a deal with Cousins at a later date that could keep him with the team beyond 2023. General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah confirmed as much Saturday, saying "every option is open to us going forward." The Vikings have already watched Southern California's Caleb Williams and North Carolina's Drake Maye, who are projected to be the top two quarterbacks in the 2024 draft. But if Cousins produces a strong second season in coach Kevin O'Connell's offense, his stated goal of retiring in Minnesota doesn't seem out of the question.
2. Will Za'Darius Smith and Dalvin Cook stay?
The Vikings did not trade either player during the draft, though the fact both have contracts that seem ripe for restructuring might have complicated trade talks. If Smith or Cook is dealt before the season, the Vikings would likely receive 2024 draft picks in return. Adofo-Mensah said Saturday the Vikings will continue to have conversations with both players. Alexander Mattison is in line to play a larger role in the offense this season after getting a new deal, so if Cook — whose $14.1 million cap hit is scheduled to be the fourth-largest among NFL running backs this season — is going to return, it might have to be on a restructured deal. Smith, who had posted his goodbye to Minnesota before free agency, could return in theory, but the pass rusher's desire for a larger contract could also affect that possibility. In any case, the futures of both veteran players still seem uncertain in Minnesota, especially when the Vikings still only have $2.1 million of available cap space.
3. How will the team structure its cornerback group?
In selecting wide receiver Jordan Addison in the first round, the Vikings passed on the chance to take corners like Maryland's Deonte Banks or Penn State's Joey Porter Jr. that might have fit Brian Flores' emphasis on man coverage. They took USC's Mekhi Blackmon in the third round, and previously added a pair of veteran free agents in the Cardinals' Byron Murphy and Patriots' Joejuan Williams. It's worth watching how the Vikings line up in their offseason program, though things could change as second-year corners Andrew Booth and Akayleb Evans come back from injury. Murphy, at the moment, seems like the No. 1 corner, with roles up for grabs in a number of spots around him. For the group to improve in 2023, the Vikings will likely need big jumps from a number of young players.
4. How significant a role will Jordan Addison play in the offense?
The Vikings will spend enough time in three-receiver sets that both Addison and K.J. Osborn will get plenty of opportunities. They became the ninth team in NFL history to have four players catch at least 60 passes last season, and will throw plenty again this season, though T.J. Hockenson will get plenty of chances and fellow tight end Josh Oliver could play a significant role in the offense. Osborn figures to start the offseason in two-receiver sets with Justin Jefferson, but Addison — whom O'Connell called a "Day 1 starter" — will play a large role once he gets time to learn the offense and build chemistry with Cousins.
5. Without any major help, will the offensive line succeed?
The 2023 draft was the first since 2017 where the Vikings didn't select an offensive lineman in the first two rounds. It was the first since 2016 where they didn't take one in the first three rounds and the first since 2007 where they didn't select one at all. They weren't going to meet all their needs with only six picks in this draft, but the fact the Vikings didn't take a lineman showed some faith in their current five starters to play well and stay healthy. O'Connell expects right tackle Brian O'Neill will be ready for training camp after suffering an avulsion fracture in his right heel, and the Vikings brought center Garrett Bradbury back on a new deal. They have got some depth options with Chris Reed, Blake Brandel and Vederian Lowe if a player such as second-year right guard Ed Ingram struggles, and left tackle Christian Darrisaw could continue to become one of the game's best. But the Vikings will need their group to protect Cousins, particularly against the kind of interior pressure they saw in the wild-card round loss to the Giants. With Ezra Cleveland scheduled to be a free agent after the season and Bradbury effectively only on a one-year deal, it's a big year for the Vikings' group of five draft picks to play well.