Lunch Break

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Lunchbreak: Vikings Could Add Depth on Offensive, Defensive Lines

Posted Feb 13, 2018

The league’s annual free agency frenzy kicks off a month from Wednesday, and the 2018 NFL Draft is on the docket for late April.

Those are two of the biggest events each offseason, primarily because they are the best chances for teams to add talent to their rosters.

While it remains to be seen what the Vikings will do going forward, Matthew Coller of 1500ESPN.com recently noted that Minnesota could look to add depth up front over the next few months.

Coller wrote that the Vikings could look at adding another defensive tackle down the road.

Tom Johnson did an admirable job stepping into a full-time role this season. He didn’t put up huge numbers, but created pressure and performed well against the run despite being undersized for an every-down player. If the Vikings move on from Johnson, who is a free agent, they could chase a big fish in the form of top UFA DTs Sheldon Richardson or Dontari Poe. Minnesota might also consider defensive tackle toward the top of their draft needs.

Bringing Johnson back is a possibility. After all, he played nearly 70 percent of downs on the No. 1 defense in the NFL. But the Vikings would still need to add another player at the position, whether that’s a draft pick or re-signing Shamar Stephen.

Coller also noted that, depending on whether or not Vikings right guard Joe Berger returns for another season, Minnesota could be looking for a starter on the offensive line.

While starting right guard Joe Berger hasn’t officially announced his retirement, he mentioned multiple times that 2017 would be his last year in the NFL, so that [would leave] the Vikings with an opening on the offensive line. This year’s draft is expected to have a group of very good guards, and the free agent market has a handful of proven starters as well.

The low-key possibility here is the Vikings drafting a right tackle in the first round and moving Mike Remmers to right guard. Remmers had a strong game at right guard in Week 17 and played on the left side during the Vikings’ two playoff games.

Berger led all Vikings offensive players with 1,114 snaps, which meant he was on the field for 99.82 percent of the time during 2017 regular season.

Keenum-Thielen connection ranked among NFL’s best

Adam Thielen and Case Keenum each had career years in 2017.

The Vikings wide receiver was a first-time Pro Bowler and Second Team All-Pro selection, hauling in 91 catches (seventh-most in team history) for 1,276 yards, a mark that ranks as the ninth-best for a single season by a Vikings wide receiver. The Minnesota native also had four touchdowns.

The Vikings quarterback finished his first season in Minnesota by throwing for 3,547 yards with 22 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Keenum also posted a season-long quarterback rating of 98.3, which was the seventh-best in the NFL in 2017 and is the fifth-highest by a Vikings QB. He had eight games in which he had a rating of 100 or better.

The duo couldn’t have had the success without the other, as NFL.com Matt Harmon recently ranked the Keenum-Thielen connection as the fourth-best in the league in 2017.

Harmon wrote:

Case Keenum was, without question, one of the top stories of the 2017 NFL season, legitimately fantastic by almost any measure. Keenum was a top-three tight-window passer and posted the best adjusted yards per attempt (9.8) on throws coming outside the tackle box. His burden was light in his first season with the Vikings, playing alongside one of the best wide receiver duos in the game. Minnesota hero Stefon Diggs, of course, deserves mention, but Adam Thielen was the passing game's metronome all year. Thielen played fantastic football in all phases, averaging 2.9 yards of separation at the quarterback's release point and securing 50 percent of his targets when he had less than a yard of separation. While Keenum might hit the open market, both Thielen and Diggs will return to make the life of whomever takes snaps for the Vikings quite a bit easier.

Thielen caught all four of his touchdowns from Keenum, and had 79 catches for 1,099 yards when Keenum was at quarterback for Minnesota.