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The 2023 NFL Schedule was released last Thursday and features five prime-time games for the Vikings (as of now), along with two late-season games at Cincinnati (Week 15) and at Detroit (Week 18) that are listed as to be determined. Minnesota will open the season at home again, this time hosting former NFC Central foe Tampa Bay. We listed out some intriguing non-division matchups involving players and took a broader look for takeaways.
Minnesota also announced four of six draft picks — Mekhi Blackmon, Jay Ward, Jaquelin Roy and Jaren Hall — signed their rookie contracts ahead of taking the field for the first time as Vikings and participants in this past weekend's rookie minicamp.
First-round selection Jordan Addison looked and felt the part, according to Vikings Head Coach Kevin O'Connell.
There was plenty of optimism and excitement to end a week that began with the somber news that Vikings Legend Joe Kapp — the creator of the "40 for 60" rallying cry — had passed away at age 85. We wrote about Kapp’s legacy, and the Vikings Entertainment Network put together this tribute video.
Kapp's fiery grit paired nicely with Minnesota's defense as the Purple People Eaters became one of the most dominant defenses all-time and helped the Vikings win the 1969 NFL Championship and appear in Super Bowl IV to conclude the franchise's first decade of football. Although Kapp departed the following season in a contract dispute now credited with helping establish free agency for players, his impact on the team continued.
As for this week's questions, we'll start things off with a player who took his first steps in a Vikings helmet and No. 3 practice jersey this weekend.
What did you see in Jordan Addison that made you want to pick him at 23 and not trade back. And is there any possibility that we could see him reunited with his college QB Caleb Williams next year?
— Will Kearin in Blaine, Minnesota
Let me humbly say I wasn't involved in the selection, but I can relay what O'Connell and General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah have said about Addison so far.
A phrase we've heard reverberating this offseason about receivers is they have two jobs: get open and catch the ball. O'Connell attributes that to Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick, who had O'Connell as a QB at rookie minicamp 15 years ago.
Vikings analyst Pete Bercich broke down Addison's college film, featuring clips where he routinely — and "naturally" — creates separation from defenders through precise routes and his high football IQ.
Although rookie minicamp is a bit lowkey, there were plenty of moments where Addison passed the eyeball test from what you want to see from a first-round receiver — and that was in his first reps of action with brand new teammates.
I'm not too much in the outright predictions business, but I'll venture to say fans are going to have fun watching Addison play in O'Connell's system.
While his physical dimensions don't jump off the page, he's got a strong understanding of how to maximize his talents. Those dimensions might have been a factor in Addison lasting until 23, but it's likely he might not have remained on the board much longer had the Vikings traded down.
As for Williams, many project him to be the No. 1 overall pick in 2024. Much can happen between now and then, but the Vikings aren't planning to finish 2023 as the 32nd team. A trade would not be impossible — just ask Carolina and Chicago from earlier this year — but it's way too early in the process. Let's allow the 2023 college and pro seasons to shake out a bit.
Why is K.J. Osborn being so disrespected? He has been the third WR the last two years and posted over 500 yards. That's good.
In all honesty, I don't know.
He's recorded 110 catches for 1,305 yards and 12 touchdowns over the past two seasons as Minnesota's third option at receiver behind Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen. Even though the Vikings opted to use their first-round pick on Addison, Osborn is poised for as much or even a larger role in 2023 than he's had so far in Minnesota.
View the best photos of Vikings WR K.J. Osborn from the 2022 season.
He's caught a walk-off winner at Carolina in 2021, and his grab in Week 3 last season gave Minnesota its first lead of the day against Detroit with 45 seconds remaining. He also correctly applied the jumper cables on the Vikings battery in last season's historic comeback against the Colts.
Osborn's 60 receptions last season tied for 41st among receivers with Allen Lazard, who was targeted 100 times. Osborn was targeted 90 times, and five-time Pro Bowler Keenan Allen was the only receiver (66 catches on 89 targets) to catch more passes than Osborn on fewer targets in 2022.
I can confidently tell you teammates and coaches respect Osborn and are looking forward to his fourth pro season.
Since so many of your readers use the Mailbag to vent their frustrations, why should I be any different?
My frustrations, however, are with those Vikings fans who always seem to see the dark side of everything. The Kirk Cousins haters are a good example. Cousins' numbers proved that he is an excellent QB by any objective measure. However, he continues to draw the ire of what I think is a small cadre of fans. I think those who hate Cousins do so for one of two reasons: One, he isn't Patrick Mahomes (and they would find fault with any Vikings QB who isn't Mahomes) or, two, they have no problem scoring 70 points playing Madden NFL and don't understand why the Vikings can do that, too.
I think the Vikings have a very good team as they are currently constituted. I have no problems with what Kwesi and O'Connell are doing. In fact, in my opinion, their only glaring mistake since taking over was hiring Ed Donatell as DC. They have since rectified that, so I'm excited about this team and looking forward to the upcoming season.
— Michael Weiser in Yuma, Arizona
It seems part of what's helped the relationship between Adofo-Mensah and O'Connell get off to such a strong start is they both start from a place of positivity. We've seen displays in public, but there are behind-the-scenes reinforcements to their relationship.
They don't have to agree 100 percent on everything, but when they do have differences of opinions, they both try to work toward solutions that give the team its best chance of delivering on goals.
There seems to be a bit of a leaguewide crossroad between the pure pocket passers, those who briefly look to pass but quickly pivot to runners and the rare improv artists who can repeatedly pull the rug out from under defenders by keeping a play alive yet maintaining the passing threat or knowing just when to tuck and run.
O'Connell has talked about the importance of accuracy, and Cousins is usually on his marks. He's also been able to play on the move with designed bootlegs and keeper pass plays.
He's up to 28th all-time on the career passing yards list (37,140) and 23rd on the career passing touchdowns list (252). His production has been consistent, despite numerous changes to scheme or coordinator over the course of his career.
Under ideal circumstances, we've seen the very best of Cousins multiple times.
Under duress, like most quarterbacks, we've seen some struggles along the way.
That's why there's been such an emphasis the past year plus on trying to enable Cousins to be at his best, and I believe that will be a core philosophy of O'Connell's for years to come.
Mahomes' talent is rare, and the Vikings are scheduled to face the two-time NFL and Super Bowl MVP in Week 5 for the first time. He is several years into the same offensive system, and Andy Reid has aligned his system to maximize Mahomes' attributes.
There's so much more nuance to evaluating Cousins and his game than easily fits in a tweet or a soundbite.
Hello from Germany,
With the International Games announced, I would love to see the Vikings playing in Germany. Do you think this will happen in the next two years? How important is the German market for the Vikings? The Vikings were the first team to draft a German player with [Moritz] Böhringer, and this is a special connection in my opinion.
Thanks for the support in Germany. The team appreciates tremendous widespread support, including from some very passionate fans in Germany.
This year's International Series includes the Dolphins and Chiefs playing in Frankfurt in Week 9 and the Colts and Patriots facing off in Week 10.
View home and away photos of the Vikings 2023 schedule.
Stateside home territory marketing rights with geographic boundaries have been agreements between teams for decades.
The league has expanded the idea of that policy to include international markets. Teams submitted marketing proposals and were awarded "rights" for marketing. The Vikings were awarded rights to the United Kingdom and Canada.
The Vikings efforts included a trip to the United Kingdom last year by K.J. Osborn and Danielle Hunter and the announcement of Minnesota's fourth-round pick (Jay Ward) by fan Clayton Jahn against the backdrop of Canada's Banff National Park. It also included the Vikings playing in London last season (we had some fans who could travel from Germany to the UK for the game).
More trips by Minnesota to the UK for additional games could be on the way. Same for the trips of the goodwill variety.
Other teams were awarded marketing rights to Germany. It's possible that the Vikings could one day be a guest of a team that is playing a contest from its home schedule in Germany, but I'm not sure of that.
Gratefully, the appetite for American football has increased mightily since the Vikings and Cardinals first played an exhibition game in London in 1983 (attendance of 32,847). Minnesota and Chicago then played an exhibition game in Sweden in 1988 (attendance of 33,115), and the Vikings and Bills played in Berlin in 1993 (attendance of 67,132).
View behind-the-scene photos from the Vikings 2023 schedule release video that was shot with a drone throughout the TCO Performance Center.
Thanks for being here to discuss all things Vikings.
People ask why [Alexander] Mattison stayed during free agency and for such a small amount of money. I say he stayed because he is a limited back that won't fit in most team's systems. He would probably do like most backs and play one year in a new scheme, and the new team would decide to move on. He is better where he is and will not be the featured back in Minnesota. If he was capable of being one, the team would not have invested in three years of drafting running backs. The Vikings took him back because he knows the system and they want to move on from [Dalvin] Cook, and this would give them a familiar back in their system until the other backs are ready.
Next, do you think the Vikings should trade for Chase Young and [Patrick] Queen from Baltimore? Offer Dalvin Cook for Chase and fifth- and seventh-round selections from next year's draft to obtain Queen. Doing this would allow us to get them at a good price, using the money saved from Dalvin Cook to pay their salaries. This would solidify the defense for a few years. Dalvin might be out anyway, and a player on Queen's level is worth late-round picks. These players are proven, and the price is low for the reward.
I see that there are so many good quarterbacks coming out in next year's draft. Could this be a precursor to the Vikings not risking draft capital to move up in the 2023 draft? No matter where the Vikings finish next year, there seems to be only a few teams that have future quarterback needs. Vikings, Bucs, the Jets, Rams and the Washington team. The Rams and Jets are by default. Rodgers and Stafford will soon need to be replaced. Neither the Rams nor Jets will find it necessary to select a quarterback early in the first round. So, the quarterback chase will be Bucs, Vikings and the Washington team. Which of the top five quarterbacks do you see the Vikings selecting? With our weak division and continuity of our offense we could end up being in the playoffs and maybe Super Bowl. This would make our selection late. Most likely, the earlier picks will be the Washington team, Bucs and Rams. This would leave us third, maybe fourth in line to select a quarterback. I'm thinking the Vikings want USC quarterback.
— Rodger from Sacramento (Yea Aaron's gone)
Three different topics here from Rodger, but I'm happy to give all three a run.
Mattison became a free agent for the first time this offseason but signed a two-year deal to remain in Minnesota. It was an incredibly saturated market at running back, but it seemed like the financials were not too different from some of the other contracts I saw reported.
He's rushed 404 times for 1,670 yards and 11 touchdowns while adding 70 receptions for 526 yards and three scores through the air as a backup to Cook, a four-time Pro Bowler.
View the best photos of Vikings RB Alexander Mattison from the 2022 season.
One of the compliments bestowed on Mattison, who wasn't used as much last year as in 2021, was that he kept the entire offensive scheme on the table. Minnesota could call anything from its playbook with Cook or Mattison in the game.
The physical toil on the position remains true, so it's smart for teams to continue to keep their pipeline open at the position, and Minnesota has been able to receive significant contributions from Kene Nwangwu on special teams. If Cook is somehow not back with the team in the fall, that's a strong stable of players at the position to try to fill the void.
Per NFL rules, I can't weigh-in on the trade valuation of Young or Queen, but both of those players are entering the final years of their rookie deals. Washington declined to pick up its fifth-year option on Young, and Baltimore took the same approach with Queen. Even so, I don't know what value the Commanders or Ravens would place on either of those players.
As for the third question, teams should always keep in mind what the following year's draft class might offer, especially at premium positions.
After the Vikings started so well last year, the team was likely going to be late in the draft order. That location would necessitate using considerable draft capital to move up from a late-round pick or identifying a player Minnesota wanted to develop and exercising targeted patience, which resulted in the fifth-round selection of Jaren Hall.
View photos of the Vikings 2023 coaching staff.
I'm 61 and a Vikings fan since first grade (I'm a Virginia native and live in North Carolina, but that's another story). Season Ticket Holder and fly up for games as often as I can. I'm just wondering how much of your incoming email is from people (supposedly fans) complaining about the team/organization.
I've always been a "glass half full" fan (for example, I think we can win it with Cousins but not BECAUSE of Cousins). We are only starting Year 2 of Kwesi and Kevin and have had a hell of a transition. There are so many positives from the new regime. It's a process to winning, and we are on the way!
SKOL Vikings forever!
— Phil Landes
Never underestimate the power of positivity. That's awesome that you've continued to fly up for games. Hopefully you received Vikings home dates that lined up nicely for you during last week's schedule release.
Your phrasing of "can win it with Cousins" was interesting to me because if the Vikings are to break their curse in the big game this year, chances are it will be with Cousins, whose contract is expiring after the season.
That also means that the entire team is playing well.
Last season's 13-4 mark was quite a place to start from heading into this season. It will be tough to replicate or exceed, but the Vikings put together a strong foundation in 2022.
Reading [last week's Mailbag] spurred some ideas I'd love to air.
First, what's the status of Everson Griffin? I love that guy and wish nothing but the best for him and his family. I also miss him on the team.
Second, and somewhat related, it seems to me that the core of our problems for the last few years has been small, inconsistent offensive and defensive lines. We were way more dominant when they had guys like Linval Joseph and Griff' lining up on defense, and when the pocket doesn't start from a collapsed state on offense.
The Kirk hate is crazy to me: he's been consistently one of the best passing QBs, and if he had a Brady-like pass protection, he'd get more Brady-like results. Sure, there have been a couple goofy moments, but there have also been goofy people in his ear, and goofy pictures down field. Our O-line last year was the best we've seen in a while, and the results show it, but it was still improvable. I'm excited to see year two, with familiarity, more pro-sized Ed Ingram, and the opportunity for the well-oiled machine that the offensive organism gets to be. If our lines can't hold up, it doesn't matter how good our corners and wide receivers are … and that was the story of the past three to four years. Emphasize protecting Captain Kirk so he can work at capacity.
I loved this year's draft class, and especially the UDFA roster we've been bringing in. These aren't accidental picks, and I'm excited to see the vision, whatever it is, come to life in the next few months. Kwesi and Co's ability to find and attract under-the-radar talent is truly something to behold. I'm also excited for the first and second rounders they manage to snag from other teams who can't figure out their development. I wish we kept Duke [Shelley].
— Adam Davis, PDX/ATL
Love starting with the kind sentiments about Everson. I think Vikings fans have done a solid job over the years of showing him their love. I'll echo wanting nothing but the best for him. Really loved hearing his laugh from across the locker room when he got going on something.
He was able to put together such an impressive run after starting just one game in his first four pro seasons and was incredibly important to the defensive successes of Minnesota's squads after he became a starter in 2014. "The Sack Daddy" has been on dad mode, supporting his children in their activities. If you do have Instagram, his account is just @eversongriffen. If not, here's hoping we can start having him come out for Vikings Legends events so he can continue to enjoy the purple love, which he gives back strongly to fans as well.
Joseph might be one of the better examples of "don't know what you've got til it's gone." Miss him around the locker room, too, even if he was more lowkey than boisterous. Was happy that he got to start in Super Bowl LVII last February.
Vikings right tackle Brian O'Neill recently talked about how much better prepared he felt he was for his second pro season, and Minnesota hopes that will be the case for Ingram, who started all 17 games as a rookie. Cousins being able to have confidence and rhythm with the offensive line will be important for the Vikings optimizing their offensive output.
The Vikings saw and projected value in Shelley last season that other teams did not. That keenness can be transferred to other players and positions.
Reginald reached out on Twitter to asked about the chances of undrafted free agent receiver Malik Knowles making the final roster or practice squad.
Appreciate the inquiry, but it's way too early to know about that. So many factors can come into play like depth at a position group, roster needs across the board and the impression that a player has been able to make.
Knowles was on the field with the group but did not participate in drills this past weekend during the session that was open to media members.
What we do know about Knowles so far is he made 40 starts in 51 games at Kansas State from 2018-22 and recorded 127 receptions for 1,867 yards (14.7 yards per catch) and 14 touchdowns; 36 rushes for 440 yards (12.2 yards per carry) and 4 TD; 61 kickoff returns for 1,691 yards (27.7 yards per return) and 3 TD.
I'm sure he'll have his opportunity to show what he can do at the next level as the offseason program progresses.
Reserve your tickets for Bud Grant Celebration
The free, public celebration of life service in honor of Hall of Fame Head Coach Bud Grant is scheduled for noon (CT) on May 21 at U.S. Bank Stadium. The event is free, but digital tickets are required for entry. Reserving tickets — and making sure to use them if you claim them! — will help my colleagues on the event-planning side of things.
Send your own Letter to Bud
In tribute to Bud Grant and his legacy, and in continuing the "Letters to Bud" theme, we invite fans to mail in letters sharing the impact Coach Grant had on your Vikings fandom, your personal life, your childhood and so on.
Letters received may be published through Vikings content platforms in a future special edition of "Letters to Bud." We also will pass along the letters to Coach Grant's family.
If you would like to participate, please send letters to the below address.
Lindsey Young, Vikings Entertainment Network
Re: Letters to Bud
2600 Vikings Circle
Eagan, MN 55121
Here are the links to the previous content series in case you'd like some inspiration (chapter explanations are on the left, and the Adobe Spark features are on the right).