The Vikings added a number of players throughout the offseason who will help bolster the team in 2022.
Which move, though, will prove most impactful?
CBS Sports' Patrik Walker recently highlighted the "best offseason move" by each NFC team, and for Minnesota he pointed to the free agent signing of former Packers outside linebacker Za'Darius Smith. Walker wrote:
In what was quite the coup from Minnesota, they were able to stick it to the rival Packers a bit by convincing Smith to not leave the division in 2022 – with offers from several teams, including the Cowboys, on the table. Smith joining the Purple People Eaters not only gives him a shot at facing his former team at least twice per season, but also adds some serious firepower opposite Danielle Hunter. If Smith can remain healthy this coming season, he has proven an ability to change games with his play, and the pass rush tandem is one the Vikings can certainly look forward to harassing opposing quarterbacks with. The two-time Pro Bowler likely has the biggest chip on his shoulder of his entire career after his release from Green Bay, so look out.
With the Packers, meanwhile, Walker said their best move was "bowing" to Aaron Rodgers.
Say what you want about Rodgers, but you can't say he's not the single most important factor to the Packers continuing to remain in Super Bowl contention going forward. Yes, it's now two consecutive postseasons in which he and his compatriots have unceremoniously fallen flat on their faces, but imagine what the Packers would (or rather, would not) be if he were to part ways with the club. To avoid that QB purgatory, or outright Hell, the team acquiesced in 2021 and then took a hands-off approach in 2022 to let their legend find his way back to their locker room on his own time – then giving him a hefty new contract as a "thank you."
Walker praised Chicago's decision to not trade Robert Quinn and Detroit's signing of D.J. Chark.
Jared Goff was good enough to warrant adding around him in free agency as opposed to giving him the Wentz Treatment and, as such, they'll welcome in Chark to the offense for 2022. When healthy, and if targeted well, Chark can be an explosive receiving threat for a Lions team that desperately needs such talent. He reeled in 1,008 yards and eight touchdowns in his second year in the league, and with the Jaguars, which tells you what he can do. If he and Goff can get on the same page early and often, this will turn out to [easily] be the best move they've made in 2022.
View photos of Vikings OLB Za'Darius Smith touring TCO Performance Center and getting introduced to the team for the first time.
NFL.com calls Smith 'most intriguing' move by Vikings
Walker wasn't the only NFL pundit talking about Smith this week.
NFL.com's Jeffri Chadiha opined a "most intriguing" move by the past week's mandatory minicamps, and he spotlighted Smith. Chadiha wrote:
The Vikings signed Smith this offseason for a couple reasons. The first is that he's a hell of a pass rusher when he's healthy. A back problem limited him to just two games for the Green Bay Packers in 2021 – the season opener and an NFC Divisional Round loss to San Francisco – but he had 26 total sacks in his first two years with the Packers. The other reason why Smith is in Minnesota is fellow Vikings pass rusher Danielle Hunter. Like Smith, Hunter has been fighting his share of injuries recently (a neck injury in 2020 and a pec injury in 2021) but Hunter also has 60.5 career sacks. Put Smith in the same front as Hunter and the Vikings expect big things if everything goes well. Minnesota is shifting to a 3-4 defense, so it'll be moving those players around often to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks. The coaches have been experimenting with an assortment of options when it comes to that strategy already this offseason. It's just a matter of whether Smith and Hunter and can stay healthy enough to make all those wild dreams come true.
Chadiha looked at the Packers signing of veteran receiver Sammy White as Green Bay's most intriguing move.
This will be the third team Watkins has played on in the last three seasons, and he once again is being tasked with a potentially influential role. He was the man who did all the dirty work in complementing Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce in Kansas City. Last season, he was the veteran who was supposed to give Lamar Jackson a steady target in the Baltimore Ravens' offense. Now, he's the most accomplished wide receiver on a team that just traded away the best player in the league at that position, Davante Adams, to the Las Vegas Raiders. The Packers sorely need Watkins to be a difference-maker in a receiver room that includes Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb and rookie Christian Watson.
Watkins only produced 27 receptions and one touchdown catch for the Ravens last year. Just as worrisome is the fact that he missed four games, especially since he hasn't played a full season since his rookie year in 2014. The Packers seem willing to look on the bright side when it comes to these facts. Head coach Matt LaFleur recently said a lack of opportunities has more to do with those productivity issues and that Watkins will be counted on to do plenty in this offense. Watkins had better be up to the task. This is a team that has reached the NFC Championship Game in two of the last three years, and quarterback Aaron Rodgers is hungry for another shot at the Super Bowl.