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Monday Morning Mailbag: Top Offseason Priority?

Posted Jan 9, 2017

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What was your favorite part of the season and what is the most important part of the offseason for the Vikings?
-- Justin
Faribault, MN

In terms of a specific moment this season, my favorite was the Week 2 win over Green Bay in U.S. Bank Stadium home opener. The Vikings played a complete game, they opened the new stadium in style and they defeated a really good team and a division rival. Generally speaking, my favorite part about the 2016 season was the way Sam Bradford played. He joined the team only eight days in front of the season but quickly assimilated and wound up playing as if he’d been with the Vikings for years.

I believe the most important part of the offseason for the Vikings is developing their young players. I know the draft and free agency get all the headlines, but the Vikings have a roster full of talented young players and the team’s ability to develop those players will go a long way toward sustaining success.

Am I wrong or did rookie OT Rashod Hill have a near-flawless game in relief of T.J. Clemmings against the Bears? Could this young player, who was recently plucked from the Jaguars practice squad, be the answer to the Vikings left tackle question?
-- Brad Chisholm

Head Coach Mike Zimmer said Hill had a couple mental errors in the game, but other than that it seemed to be a solid debut for the rookie. As a group, the offensive line allowed zero sacks and blocked for runners to average 4.6 yards per carry against the Bears. Let’s not jump to conclusions on Hill after three-quarters of one game, but let’s also give him a chance to earn his spot. At this point, I would put Hill in the category of players who will have a chance to compete for a spot on the depth chart this offseason and, if all goes well, have a chance to earn a roster spot during training camp and the preseason. I wouldn’t pigeon hole him as a left tackle, either. Perhaps he’ll fit in at either tackle spot and/or develop into a swing tackle who can play or backup at both left tackle and right tackle.

What do you expect out of Taylor Heinicke in 2017? Will the Vikings depend on him as the No. 2 QB behind Bradford if Teddy isn’t able to play?
-- Joe Love

I expect he’ll compete for the No. 2 job this offseason but I do not assume the Vikings will hand it to him without having a competition for that spot. The Vikings could add another quarterback or two via free agency, the draft and/or undrafted free agency.

Can you explain the futures contracts that practice quad players were signed to last week? Is this is formality for all practice squad players? If they aren't signed to these futures contracts, do they become free agents at some point?
-- Kerry Watkins

Futures contracts are designed for players who weren’t on an active roster at the end of the previous season. Players who typically sign these deals were on practice squads. Since practice squad contracts expire at the end of the season, they are signed to futures contracts immediately after the season but aren’t technically on the active roster until the first day of the new League year. A regular player contract expires on the first day of the new League year, so that’s why those players can’t be re-signed or signed by another team before that day.

I get that we are playing the Redskins because we both finished in 3rd place in our divisions, but why are we going to Washington again after we played there in 2016?
-- Carlos Marti
@Marti_McFlyJr

The Vikings game at Washington in 2016 was part of the division rotation, where the Vikings played every team in the NFC East. The game against the Redskins in 2017 is a function of the corresponding finish component of the schedule, and in that rotation the Vikings last played the Redskins at home (2014).

Will the Vikings be aggressive in free agency since we don't have a 1st-round pick?
-- Terry V.
Hibbing, MN

Yes, I expect the Vikings to aggressively pursue the players they like in free agency. I don’t think that’s a function of not having a 1st-round pick, though. Being aggressive in free agency has more to do with your salary cap and budget to sign players and the strength of the available players in free agency and in the draft. If teams know that the upcoming draft class isn’t strong in a particular area, they may look toward free agency if they have a need at that position.