EAGAN, Minn. — The road to the 2018 season starts now.
The Vikings returned to work today for voluntary offseason workouts, the first to be held at Twin Cities Performance Center in Eagan.
Minnesota is coming off an NFC North title, its second in four seasons under Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer.
But this squad looks vastly different from the group that showed up to Winter Park two years ago at this time. Of the 71 players who arrived in mid-April in 2016, only 17 remain on the roster now.
There are some fresh faces on this year’s squad, too, led by new starting quarterback Kirk Cousins.
Here’s a quick refresher of the 64 players currently on the roster (players listed in alphabetical order):
Cousins was the prized signing during free agency. He was Washington’s starter for the past three seasons and *threw *for 13,176 yards and 81 touchdowns while compiling a passer rating of 97.6 during that span. The Vikings traded to acquire Siemian from the Broncos a few weeks ago. The backup quarterback has 24 career starts. Sloter spent most of the 2017 season on the 53-man roster and was active for six games but did not play.
Perhaps one of the most exciting storylines entering the 2018 season is the return of Cook. The 2017 second-round got off to a hot start to his NFL career (354 rushing yards and two touchdowns in three-plus games) before suffering a torn ACL in Week 4. Murray stepped in to help carry the load in his first season in Purple, rushing for a team highs of 842 yards and eight touchdowns. Brown was added to Minnesota’s roster in October. Ham, a Minnesota native, enters his second full season as the fullback.
Rudolph put together another strong season in 2017 with 57 receptions for 532 yards and eight touchdowns, which tied for the team lead. Rudolph has 20 receiving touchdowns over the past three seasons, which is the second-most behind Rob Gronkowski among tight ends. Morgan grew in an expanded role and had 10 catches for 95 yards and a touchdown, while Bell filled a versatile role as well. Price spent time with Minnesota last offseason and was added to the roster a few weeks ago.
*This group is headlined by Thielen and Diggs, who combined for 155 receptions for *
*2,125 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2017. Treadwell is back for a third season, and Wright was signed in late March. Coley was a seventh-round pick who played in four games as a rookie in 2017. Jones spent the 2017 season on the practice squad after impressing during the preseason. King was signed in early April. *Zylstra, a native of Minnesota, signed with the Vikings after playing for the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League.
Offensive linemen: Josh Andrews, Aviante Collins, Tom Compton, Nick Easton, Cornelius Edison, Pat Elflein, Rashod Hill, Danny Isidora, Dieugot Joseph, Cedrick Lang, Storm Norton, Riley Reiff, Mike Remmers
The Vikings have a half-dozen players in this group who started at least one game in 2017. Reiff was a stalwart at left tackle in his first season in Minnesota, while Remmers spent time at tackle and guard. Easton and Elflein are both coming off ankle injuries after starting at left guard and center, respectively. Hill made seven starts in 2017 as a swing tackle, and Isidora played in seven games (with one start) as a rookie. Collins played in three games in 2017 after making the team as an undrafted rookie. Edison was elevated to the 53-man roster from the practice squad late in the season. Andrews, Compton and Joseph were added this offseason. Lang and Norton spent parts of the 2017 season on the practice squad.
Griffen has 43.5 sacks since becoming a starter in 2014 (fourth-most in the NFL in that span). Hunter transitioned to a starter role in 2017 as Robison passed the torch and rotated in. The pairing of Joseph with recently signed Richardson will be intriguing on the interior of the defensive line. The rest of the defensive line is young. Weatherly is heading into his third pro season, and Bower has a chance for more reps after joining Minnesota as an undrafted free agent in 2017.
Barr and Kendricks are the leaders of this group, both in terms of performance and playing time. Barr made his third straight Pro Bowl in 2017, and Kendricks led the Vikings in tackles for the third consecutive season. Gedeon was a starter in the base defense and also made an impact on special teams. Brothers and Wilson both provided depth and strong special teams play in 2017. Williams spent part of the 2017 season on the practice squad, and Cliett was signed as a free agent in late March.
Smith and Rhodes are All-Pros and two of the best at their positions across the league. Each made the Pro Bowl in 2017 and were key factors in Minnesota having the league’s top third-down defense. Sendejo and Waynes are the other two starters in the secondary and turned in strong performances last season. Harris started three games in his third pro season. He and Kearse repeatedly made impactful plays on special teams. Alexander improved in his second season in the NFL and could be the starter at the nickel spot. Sherels recently re-signed with the Vikings. The Minnesota native is the franchise’s all-time leader in both punt return yards and punt return touchdowns. Richardson and Tocho each spent parts of the 2017 season on the practice squad.
Forbath recently re-signed for his second full season with the Vikings. He made 32 of his 38 field goal tries in 2017 (84.2 percent) and came up clutch in Minnesota’s playoff win over New Orleans with a 53-yarder with less than 90 seconds left. Quigley fared well in his first season in Minnesota as he averaged 42.2 yards per punt and did not record a touchback in the regular season. McDermott enters his fourth season with the Vikings and is one of the most reliable long snappers across the league. He is working his way back from a shoulder injury suffered in Week 16. The Vikings added Dooley in March.