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P2 is back! Yes! Truly hoping for the last few weeks that this would/could happen. Leadership in the cornerbacks room, his love for Harrison Smith and belief in this group of guys. This is a GREAT signing of a vet wanting to be a part of a new Vikings culture. SKOL Vikes! Thanks for coming back, Pat Pete!!
— Tim Burkard in Canyon Lake, Texas
A loaded Mailbag on deck, so let's get into it with the biggest Vikings news of the past week: Patrick Peterson is back in Purple.
If you missed it, here's what Peterson had to say when he made his announcement on his "All Things Covered" podcast.
"There's a good group of guys in the locker room, Harrison [Smith] being one of the ones I'm very close with," Peterson said. "I just felt it was right just to be there and grind with those guys and come together for that common goal.
"That team is stacked, just like I talked about last year," he continued. "We just didn't put it all together in certain situations, but we got even better this year in the offseason by adding a great offensive mind in [Head Coach] Kevin [O'Connell], adding a pass rusher (Za'Darius Smith) to help Danielle [Hunter] and with [Defensive Coordinator] Ed [Donatell] coming from his defensive background. … These guys are definitely trying to put the pieces in the right place. Now it's just all on us and the coaching staff and the players to go out and execute and put together the best game plan possible … so we can get some dubs. I'm excited about it, and my family is excited about it."
The biggest waiting game over the past few weeks with Peterson was whether or not he wanted to return to Minnesota, and the comments certainly back up that desire.
Count me as a fan of the move for a few reasons.
No. 1, once it became clear the Vikings were set on running it all back in 2022, Peterson's return made sense on the field.
The future Hall of Famer was steady in 2021, as analytics website Pro Football Focus had him with an overall grade of 63.0 this past season.
That didn't lead the league, of course, but it wasn't down in the cellar, either. That showed Peterson was solid if not unspectacular, something the Vikings will likely take once again in 2022.
There's also the off-field aspect, too. Peterson was voted a captain in his first season in Minnesota, was very respected by everyone in the building and was refreshing and candid in interviews, too.
View the best photos of Vikings CB Patrick Peterson from the 2021 season.
Simply put, he's a guy you want on your team from a leadership perspective.
And, he's a guy you want on your team if you were looking to possibly draft a cornerback at No. 12 overall in the draft.
That's not a prediction, just for the record. But if cornerback ends up being the pick in the first round, or any in any round, really, there might not be a better mentor around the league right now than Peterson.
With free agency wrapping up, are the Vikings looking at a replacement at safety next to Harrison Smith??
— Darrin in Shakopee, Minnesota
Right now, if we're looking internally, you have to think Camryn Bynum might have the inside track for the job.
Other than Bynum, the only other safeties on the roster are Smith, Josh Metellus and Myles Dorn, and the latter two have never started a game in the NFL.
Bynum started three games last year, including two games for Smith when he was on the Reserve/COVID-19 List in games at the Ravens and Chargers. (Bynum's third start came the next week against the Packers when the Vikings opened in a three-safety look with Smith, Bynum and Xavier Woods).
And the 2021 fourth-rounder flashed at times when he was on the field, most notably getting an interception off Lamar Jackson and sacking Justin Herbert.
Externally, there are also some safeties still available in free agency. But the Vikings aren't exactly flush with tons and tons of cap space right now, so getting a big name there seems unlikely.
Perhaps Minnesota brings in a veteran later this offseason, and the draft is always a possibility at safety, too.
But with Woods off to Carolina, Bynum seems to be the most likely internal candidate on the current roster to start next to Smith.
Do you think the Vikings will kick the tires on JC Tretter? Or maybe pick one up in free agency via trade?
— Blake Harsma
Should the Vikings should consider taking Tyler Linderbaum in the first round if he's available at No. 12? I still maintain that given free agency additions on defense, who greatly improve that side of the ball, the Vikings should consider cementing the O-line. The best defense is a great offense. The draft is deep in corners as well as edge rushers which can be obtained in later rounds.
— Gary Larsen
Before we get into the offensive line, and Blake and Gary's emails were just a few that touched on that group in this week's inbox, I had to solve a mystery.
The Gary that emailed me was the Gary Larsen of the Purple People Eaters, was it?
After getting Gary's inquiry, I hit him back with that very question. Alas, no.
"When he was playing, I dreamed of playing for the Vikings," Gary wrote. "Unfortunately, I only weighed 156 pounds."
Mystery solved. On to the current Vikings offensive line, where coincidentally, Vikings Head Coach Kevin O'Connell solved one offseason mystery himself this past week.
We've all known for a while that the tackles were set, and that Ezra Cleveland is the guy at left guard. But what about center and right guard?
Speaking Tuesday from Florida at the Annual League Meeting, O'Connell said only one spot — at right guard — remains open for competition right now.
That means that Garrett Bradbury is in line to start for the fourth year in a row after he was a 2019 first-round pick.
And, it likely means that the Tretter scenario that Blake asked about is probably a no-go. O'Connell seems genuine when he credits Bradbury, who has had his fair share of struggles, but perhaps the Vikings new offensive scheme is what helps Bradbury take that jump he's been aiming for in recent seasons.
As for taking Linderbaum in the draft, that remains a possibility, sure. Here is what CBS Sports draft analyst Chris Trapasso, who has the Iowa center as his No. 21 overall player, wrote in his scouting profile.
This could be as low as you've seen Linderbaum, and don't get it twisted. He's a stud center prospect. yet doesn't come without flaws though, most namely his shorter arms, occasional over-aggression as a blocker, and the fact that he needs to add a lot more sand in his pants.
There's no question Linderbaum is the top center in the draft, and one of the top interior linemen overall.
But, and I don't mean for this to be rude, doesn't Trapasso's report sound a lot like Bradbury himself?
Bradbury was among the best prospects at his position back in 2019, too, but also had shorter arms. And when Trapasso writes that Linderbaum needs "more sand in his pants," it's a creative way of saying he's a bit on the smaller side.
Bradbury has struggled against big and powerful defensive tackles in the NFL, and Linderbaum seems to fit the same prototype that Bradbury is.
With O'Connell's comments in mind, it also makes me think that center isn't the top priority for the Vikings going forward. Plus, teams usually don't take centers in the first round in two out of four drafts.
Bradbury is going to get another chance to prove himself in 2022. If he thrives, then he could be the long-term guy.
If he doesn't, then maybe a veteran or draft pick next year makes sense.
Is there any type of urgency for us to maybe get another playmaker on offense? It was as if our offense was stagnant most of the time last year. O'Connell came from L.A. where Odell Beckham, Jr., played. Is he a free agent that they are possibly thinking about signing him?
— Clayton Rose
Great question from Clayton, who points out that most of the spending in free agency of late has either gone to the defense or on the offensive line.
What about the offensive skill players?
As I stated above, money is a tad tight for the Vikings right now, and they'll likely be priced out of Beckham's range. The guy also just tore his ACL in the Super Bowl, so he's not able to provide immediate help, either.
So, perhaps the upcoming focus is on the draft in terms of a wide receiver or mid-round tight end?
I wrote two weeks ago that a first-round wide receiver could make sense, and that stance hasn't changed. If the Vikings want to load up there and also look long-term, a receiver at No. 12 could be the play.
View the best offensive line photos from the 2021 season shot by Vikings photographers.
Just curious on your thoughts about the proposed OT rules changes?
I don't mind it.
I was in favor of the previous rules, but once the momentum charged ahead for change, this seemed like it would be the result.
I get it. There's a strong argument to be made that Josh Allen should get a chance to score the next time Patrick Mahomes gets the ball first in overtime.
The league has been trending toward offense for a long time, and this rule caters to that, too. Put another way, it puts less emphasis on defense than the previous rule did.
I'm also intrigued about the strategy going forward now. Do teams elect to play defense first knowing they may only need a field goal if they get a stop? Or do you want the ball to try and score first and put the pressure on your opponent?
From a Vikings perspective, the team being involved in this scenario right away in 2022 would be great. After all, it would mean a return to the postseason for Minnesota.
View photos of the Vikings 2022 coaching staff.
Will I see our Vikings hoist the Lombardi Trophy before I die? I am 57 and a lifetime fan of our Vikings.
— Thomas from Indiana
I hope so, Thomas. And I can assure you that everyone inside TCO Performance Center is working to make that happen.
People who work for the Vikings care deeply about bringing that elusive title to Minnesota, but there are numerous other goals that need to be accomplished before a February parade route can be planned.