Monday Morning Mailbag: Backup QB and RB Spots, Secondary Depth, More

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It's been such a pleasure to listen to you over the years. Keep up the good work! I have a question I’d like to ask you. Out of all the ways the Vikings can and should improve during the offseason, which has you the most worried, and why? Skol!
Basil Manolakos
Livingston, NJ

For my tastes, free agency is always a tricky avenue when trying to generate improvement. This doesn’t mean it’s not a good way to do it (Linval Joseph was a free agent signing, after all!), it just means it can be difficult. There is a lot of fool’s gold in the free agent market and there are also a lot of undervalued players in the second and third tiers of free agency. I look at a guy like Tom Johnson, who signed with the Vikings as a free agent in 2014, and see someone who signed with almost no fanfare yet has been quite productive. We can all name players signed with significant fanfare who went on to be less productive. Drafting players and re-signing players seem to be much lower-risk methods of building a talented roster, whereas free agency carries a high degree of risk, in my view.

Do you think the defensive backfield needs a lot of help? It seems to me that's where the Vikings get hurt.
-- Troy Peckenpaugh
Hayti, SD

I’m never against attempting to improve an area of the team, even if it’s already a strength. So if the Vikings want to invest resources in acquiring additional defensive backs, then I’m all for it. With that being said, I can’t agree that this is a part of the team that hurt the Vikings much in 2018. The Vikings ranked No. 1 in fewest passing touchdowns allowed, No. 4 in passer rating allowed, No. 3 in passing yards allowed and No. 6 in completion percent allowed and yards per attempt allowed.

Who will be the backup quarterback in 2019? Will it be somebody who is already on the roster or are we going to fill that position with a free agent or a draft pick?
-- Nathan

Last year’s backup was Trevor Siemian. He’s scheduled to become a free agent later this month. So unless he is re-signed, which is certainly possible, it’s fair to say there will be a competition for the backup quarterback spot in 2019. One candidate is Kyle Sloter. He’s been with the team and is also under contract for 2019. While he’s flashed the ability to rise to the challenge, one couldn’t blame the Vikings for wanting to add more talent to this position group to ensure the backup job is in capable hands. That leaves a very good chance that the team will use the draft and/or free agency to add talent for this offseason competition.

Assuming the Vikings don’t draft or sign a running back and assuming Latavius Murray departs via free agency, who on the roster has the skill set to be a complementary and three-down running back with Dalvin Cook? My hope is Murray will stay with the Vikings. Just my humble opinion, but he and Dalvin seem to pair up well because both are top-tier three-down backs. Skol!
-- Noel Hong
Bayfield, WI

Those are both big assumptions, but I can get past that because it’s always fun to deal with hypotheticals during this point of the football calendar. To be clear, I agree with Noel that Murray was a good fit with Cook last year and there’s no doubt Murray stepped up big time when Cook was injured in 2017. The cupboard is not bare behind Cook and Murray, though. Ameer Abdullah, Mike Boone and Roc Thomas are the other backs on the roster and they’ve all shown the ability to be three-down backs. Boone and Thomas showed that ability last summer during training camp and the preseason, and Abdullah has shown that ability when he was with the Detroit Lions. So, since all three players have already put plenty of positive tape out there for the team to study, it will come down to which of these backs fit best in the offensive scheme devised by Kevin Stefanski and which of those backs performs best during the offseason program.

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