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Monday Morning Mailbag: Offseason Changes So Far & D-Line Questions

Do you have a comment or question? Send it to the Mailbag! Every Monday we'll post several comments and/or questions as part of the Monday Morning Mailbag. Although we can't post every comment or question, we will reply to every question submitted.

Click here to submit a comment or question to the Mailbag. Remember to include your name and town on the email. The questions below have been edited for clarity.

You can also send Eric a Mailbag question via Twitter.

So we've got a new kicker [Greg Joseph] to push Dan Bailey … let's see what he's got. The offensive scheme stays the same with the Klint Kubiak promotion to OC, a pretty safe move. Adding a few coaches can't hurt.

And although we could be in a position to get a QB like Mac Jones of Alabama, we'll probably draft another fast edge rusher in case Anthony Barr doesn't return. I don't see how these moves get us in the hunt for a championship … I hope something else happens soon.

— Nicholas Balkou

Fair points, Nicholas, but I'd point out that there is still a long, long way to go this offseason. I'm not sure any team has ever made moves in February and then packed it in for the rest of the spring.

The start of the 2021 league year kicks off on March 17, and that's when things will start to heat up. The 2021 NFL Draft is in late April, and that's always a flurry of activity for the Vikings.

View the best special team photos of the 2020 season from Vikings photographers.

Are the Vikings in a position to add a half-dozen, big-name free agent signings? Probably not, especially with the recent report that the 2021 salary cap floor will be at $180 million.

But the team could still bring in some valuable players who could make a difference down the road. Let's give the Vikings front office a chance to really get their hands dirty before we grade the 2021 offseason.

Any word on Danielle Hunter being unhappy with his contract situation?

— Ryan Christensen

To quickly recap, Hunter signed a five-year extension in 2018 to follow his rookie deal.

He followed with 14.5 sacks in back-to-back Pro Bowl seasons and was ready to build on that, but a fluky neck injury — one that the Vikings didn't think was overly serious at the time — popped up in training camp.

Unfortunately, it persisted and caused Hunter to undergo surgery and miss the entire 2020 season, and it was clear that the Vikings defense missed his presence on the field.

A tweet from NFL Media's Ian Rapoport in October has since fueled speculation:

So where are we at now? Well, here's what Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said in early January.

"He's doing well. He's on track wherever he's supposed to be," Zimmer said. "I know he thinks he's going to be able to come back and be better than he was before."

We know how the Vikings, and in particular Zimmer, feel about No. 99. Hunter is a humble superstar and a team-first guy who routinely deflects attention away from himself and toward team success.

But we don't know his thoughts on what missing the season, or his thoughts on anything else for that matter, as Hunter has not spoken to the media since prior to training camp.

The last time I believe he spoke publicly at all was in June, when I interviewed him at a community event when he was among a handful of players handing out essential goods to those in need following the aftermath of George Floyd's killing.

Hunter is one of the most respected players in the locker room. And I'm not about to speculate on his feelings and put words into his mouth.

But I will say is that when healthy, he's one of the best players across the league. And his presence in 2021 should help revamp a Vikings defense that struggled mightily to get to the quarterback this past season.

Do you think we will give James Lynch and Kenny Willekes a chance this season? We drafted both, and I think they should be ready by their second year.

— Warren

Yes, I expect they both will be given a chance to compete for ample playing time in 2021.

I'd argue Lynch has a bit of an advantage right now, simply because he played in nine games, even if that meant only 56 defensive snaps. But he showed some potential with a sack on Russell Wilson in his first NFL game and hopefully shows some growth this spring and summer.

Willekes suffered a season-ending injury in the Vikings scrimmage at U.S. Bank Stadium on Aug. 28, meaning he didn't get a chance to see the field in the regular season. He was one of the more intriguing Vikings draft picks for me, and it was a bummer his season was cut short.

Both players were Day 3 draft picks in 2020, but both offer some upside if they can learn and grow under Andre Patterson. And as I mentioned above in the answer about Hunter, with how much the Vikings defensive line struggled in 2020, the team could use as much help as possible going forward.

Eric, do the Vikings keep an eye on recent high profile, early-draft QBs from a few years ago like Josh Rosen, Sam Darnold and even some on the practice squads that could be brought in to be our No. 2 QB of the future? How about Nate Stanley and Jake Browning for the No. 2 position, or maybe drafting a QB in the second or third round? I believe we need an upgrade at our No. 2 QB position that isn't a veteran. Kirk Cousins doesn't need another QB teaching him anything, as we have coaches for that. Your opinion? Thank You!

— Randy S. in Escanaba, Michigan

Great question, Randy, and the answer is a simple one: yes. The Vikings, and every other NFL team, keep tabs on everyone across the league, not just high draft picks.

Remember that teams look at nearly every single player eligible for the draft. They don't just discard that information when a player is picked by another team, but they supplement the profile built by college scouts with assessments by pro scouts.

For comparison's sake, let's look at Riley Reiff. He was the second tackle taken in the 2012 NFL Draft, and was the 23rd overall pick by the Lions. (The Vikings took the first tackle at No. 4 in Matt Kalil).

But fast forward to the 2017 offseason, when Reiff signed with the Vikings as a free agent. Sure, they knew about him from his time in Detroit. But you can bet they also still had notes on him from five years earlier when they evaluated him before the draft.

Getting back to your questions about the quarterback situation, there's no question that the Vikings have continued to build their offense around what Kirk Cousins' strengths are. And, they just promoted his former QB coach to be the offensive coordinator.

I've mentioned this in previous Mailbags, but we'll have to wait and see who the backup is in 2021. Sean Mannion is slated to be a free agent but could re-sign again. Browning and Stanley were on the practice squad for all of this past season.

The latter two players surely missed out on the lack of preseason games more than most. We'll get a better idea of who will battle for the backup job depending on what the Vikings do in free agency and the draft.