Several free agency signings have received significant time in the spotlight, including the Vikings addition of quarterback Kirk Cousins.
But other moves that likely will be heavily influential have flown a little more under the radar.
Bleacher Report's Gary Davenport delved into transactions across the league and ranked the 10 most underrated signings. Topping his list was defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson signing with the Vikings.
Davenport said that Richardson's signing "may not have generated the headlines" that occurred when Ndamukong Suh signed with the Rams but opined that it could be "every bit as impactful – or perhaps even more so" than Suh's deal. Davenport wrote:
Richardson, who had 44 tackles and one sack for the Seattle Seahawks in 2017, isn't a huge numbers guy. He piled up eight sacks and made the Pro Bowl with the Jets in 2014, but he has just 7.5 sacks in the three seasons since.
However, the numbers don't tell the whole story. In his first year in a four-man front last season, Richardson showed the potential to be a disruptive 3-technique in the mold of, well, Suh.
The Vikings, who had the NFL's No. 1 defense in 2017, now sport a front four that features a pair of ends with 15-sack ceilings in Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffen, one of the league's better nose tackles in Linval Joseph (who has topped 65 tackles two years running) and Richardson.
That's going to be a hard unit to beat in the trenches.
And teams that win in the trenches win on the scoreboard.
Behind Richardson's inked deal with Minnesota, Davenport identified the second- and third-most underrated free agency moves as former Bengals quarterback AJ McCarron signing with the Bills and former Packers safety Morgan Burnett signing with the Steelers, respectively.
Vikings could benefit from number of first-round QBs drafted in 2018
As the 2018 NFL Draft approaches, a number of questions continue to swirl around which teams will trade up or down and the order in which players will go off the board.
What doesn't seem to be questioned, however, is the strong class of quarterbacks coming out this year.
Matthew Coller of 1500ESPN.com pointed out that a majority of mock drafts project five quarterbacks as first-round selections: Josh Allen (Wyoming), Sam Darnold (USC), Lamar Jackson (Louisville), Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma) and Josh Rosen (UCLA). Coller said Mason Rudolph "also has a possibility" of being snagged in Round 1. He wrote:
The last time five QBs were drafted in the first round was 1999, when Tim Couch, Donavan McNabb and Akili Smith went one, two, three and the Vikings scooped up Daunte Culpepper with the 11th pick and Cade McNown went the Bears with the 12th selection.
So what happens when so many quarterbacks are taken in the first round? And how does that affect the Vikings, who added a starter and a backup quarterback in Cousins and Trevor Siemian?
Coller explained that in 1999, the 30th overall pick – the spot Minnesota is slated for this year – went to the Falcons, who drafted Patrick Kerney. The pass rusher went on to have an 11-season career and totaled 82.5 sacks with Atlanta and Seattle.
*The Vikings should have a good chance to repeat history – only instead of an edge rusher, they will likely be focusing on an interior offensive lineman or possibly a tight end, cornerback or three-technique defensive tackle. *
If things go as expected, the available prospects at positions of need for the Vikings could be stronger than usual.
Coller said the same trend could be true of other positions, as well, if the Vikings don't go offensive lineman with their first pick.
Trading down also becomes a possibility. If one of the QBs drops – as we've seen in the past from players like Teddy Bridgewater or Jimmy Clausen – there is likely to be a team behind the Vikings who wants to take a swing at a future franchise QB.
Minnesota native Zylstra hopes to capitalize on opportunity with Vikings
Brandon Zylstra, who signed a reserve/futures deal with the Vikings in January, is a "long shot" to make a splash with the Vikings – but he's OK with that. He has his sights set on proving people wrong.
The native of Spicer, Minnesota, played Division II football at Augustana University before transferring to Division III Concordia-Moorhead. He was undrafted in 2016 and signed with the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League, for whom he caught 100 passes for a league-best 1,687 yards during the 2017 season.
Zylstra has drawn some comparisons to Adam Thielen, also a Minnesota native who started his career as an undrafted rookie. Chris Tomasson of the *Pioneer Press *spoke with Zylstra about the opportunity with his home-state team.
"It's super exciting," Zylstra told Tomasson. "It's definitely a dream come true. [Playing for the Vikings is] something I've wished for since I was in kindergarten."