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Expert Takes from Orlando on Vikings Offseason Additions

Perhaps the biggest talking point around the NFL entering the 2018 offseason was who the Vikings would end up with as their quarterback.

Experts and talking heads clamored about it everywhere, including the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.

But now that the dust has settled and Kirk Cousins and the Vikings have tied the knot, those in the know at the Annual League Meeting in Florida offered their thoughts on Minnesota's new quarterback. 

"There doesn't need to be much Vikings news because you signed a quarterback," NFL Network's Ian Rapoport told Vikings.com. "We spent a lot of time in the offseason talking about Kirk Cousins and, 'What's it going to be?' And, 'Are they going to get him?' And it sounded like a done deal as soon as he walked in the door. It was a big story, and it was interesting, but I feel like the Vikings kind of had it the whole way.

"The contract's good. It's a lot, but it's responsible. It's structured nicely, so it's not going to kill the salary cap, for instance," Rapoport added. "A lot of teams view that as the missing piece. So it's not like the Vikings needed much more than they had last year, but if it's a little more, I think that will help."

The Vikings signed Cousins almost two weeks ago after the quarterback spent the past three seasons in Washington. He threw for 13,176 yards and 81 touchdowns while compiling a passer rating of 97.6 in the past three seasons as Washington's starter.

ESPN writer Kevin Seifert lauded the move for the Vikings, saying that "from a football perspective, they're better than they were." Minnesota has had three different quarterbacks start at least 14 games in each of the past three seasons.

"I mean, they had a need at the position, in terms of not having anyone signed for next year, and they went out and got the best guy available," Seifert said. "One of the great parts of the NFL and the salary cap is that you can always debate whether the highest-paid player is the best player, or if he was just the guy who was available at the right time at the right spot for the right team. And that's probably, the latter is probably where the Vikings are."

SiriusXM Radio's Adam Caplan said he wasn't surprised that Cousins and the Vikings ended up with each other. He also noted that solidifying that position for the long-term will allow Minnesota to address other areas of its roster.

"It's what we thought would happen. Both guys wanted to do business with each other. They are for at least three years," Caplan said of the Cousins' signing. "Now that that situation is taken care of, they can look to other positions, which they've done in free agency and obviously [can do] in the draft, so free agency is generally where you hit your needs — you can't hit all of them, but then you restock with the draft.

"The good thing with the Vikings is they already had a great roster, but they wanted to resolve the quarterback situation and fortify the defensive line," Caplan added. "They've done that. They now can look at a couple things in the draft, but this roster is loaded going forward."

That roster now includes defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, whom the Vikings signed one day after Cousins.

Richardson was the 13th overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft out of the University of Missouri. He has started 70 of 73 career games played in five seasons, including 15 with Seattle in 2017 when he had 44 tackles (27 solo), a sack, one pass defensed, two fumble recoveries and his first career interception.

Tom Pelissero of NFL Network spoke to Vikings.com and said there was some surprise around the league when Richardson landed with Minnesota.

"There was a feeling within the league that ultimately he was going to go back to Seattle. But what happened was, the Vikings were able to make a strong financial offer … to get a really good player, a guy who was productive with the Jets and productive with Seattle," Pelissero said. "They really wanted to upgrade the 3-technique, that was a big deal for Mike Zimmer. 

"He talked about that, too, wanting a guy who was going to be able to make an impact from that position," Pelissero added. "Now, if you're stacking up the best defensive fronts in the NFL, or at least the most talented, the Vikings are there with the best of them." 

But now that Richardson is a key piece on the Vikings defensive line, Rapoport and Caplan agreed that he could make Minnesota's stout defense even tougher.

"Part of the thing about joining the Vikings defense is that there's not enough attention to go around," Rapoport said. "So how are you going to spend sort of your blocking capital on? You need to make sure Anthony Barr doesn't get to the quarterback, OK, you can do that, or [Danielle] Hunter, or [Everson] Griffen, whoever. It's like, where are you going to send your blockers? Because there's only so many.

"And I think that's why Sheldon's such a good [signing]. I don't know what his stats are going to be; they weren't great last year in Seattle, but he played really well," Rapoport added. "And I would expect him to be the same this year – where he plays well and whether he gets the stats or a teammate does, he's still going to be wreaking havoc on the offensive line."

Added Caplan: "He signs with a team that has a chance, a very good chance, of going to the Super Bowl, and he's playing a position that takes advantage of his athleticism, that 3-technique and he gets upfield. He's got that rare athleticism for that position. It's a great signing by Rick Spielman and George Paton."

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