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5 biggest Vikings needs after the first wave of free agency in 2023

What are the biggest remaining needs of the Minnesota Vikings after the signings they’ve made during the first wave of 2023 free agency?

Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has been very busy since the legal tampering period began last Monday.

The Vikings released some big named players and also signed some new faces. Minnesota also brought back plenty of familiar faces, as players like Alexander Mattison, Oli Udoh, Garrett Bradbury, and even Austin Scholttmann are all coming back for at least one more season in purple.

The Vikings have addressed plenty of need areas so far in free agency. They brought in a potential new No. 1 cornerback, found an edge rusher in Marcus Davenport, and solidified their offensive line.

While those positions are shored up, there are still a handful of position groups that need either a starter or could just use some more quality depth.

Minnesota could still look to address these needs in the next few weeks of free agency. It is more likely they wait and address them in this year’s NFL Draft, as they are quickly running out of cap space.

Here are the Vikings’ biggest needs after the first week of free agency, in order of least to greatest.

Need No.5: Edge

Even before free agency started, Za’Darius Smith said his goodbyes to Vikings fans on social media. This created a frenzy of speculation that he’d be traded.

After the team signed Marcus Davenport, it appeared a trade of Smith would soon follow. It’s been nearly a week since the Davenport signing was announced, and Smith remains on the team whether he likes it or not.

Assuming Smith is moved, and with Davenport being signed to just a one-year deal, the Vikings could look to add an edge later in free agency or in the draft.

They do have some solid young players in D.J. Wonnum and Patrick Jones on the roster, but like Davenport, Wonnum is only here for one more season.

The draft this year is loaded with edge rushers. The Vikings could actually find some pretty tantalizing options on the board at pick No. 23, but it’s more likely an area they would look to upgrade sometime in the later rounds.

Edge remaining a need hinges on Smith’s future with the team. If he somehow sticks around, this need diminishes. If he’s let go, then it’s likely a draft pick will be used to bolster the depth.

Need No.4: Inside Linebacker

Inside linebacker is a curious position for the Vikings. It wasn’t a shock at all when they released Eric Kendricks, but it was surprising that Jordan Hicks was kept with a restructure.

At a press conference at the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah was asked about his linebacking corps, and he mentioned Brian Asamoah, Troy Dye, and William Kwenkeu by name, so he’s obviously high on those players, despite their lack of experience.

The Vikings could stand pat and roll with Hicks, Asamoah, Dye, and Kwenkeu, but they could also be in a great spot to add a young talent in the draft.

There is a handful of high-quality inside linebackers in this class, and the Vikings could find one staring them in the face in the third round. Iowa’s Jack Campbell, Texas’ DeMarvion Overshown, and Auburn’s Owen Pappoe are all options.

All of these players would challenge Hicks for his starting job and, worst case, usurp it by midseason.

There are also free agents the team could look to bring in. Myles Jack, Zach Cunningham, and Deion Jones are some names who would add veteran depth and are still relatively young. Inside Linebacker is a position that could definitely be upgraded and will remain a need until someone is brought in.

Need No.3: Cornerback

The Vikings did great signing Byron Murphy in the first wave of free agency. He is coming off a back injury but is a versatile cover corner who can play inside or out.

He’s also a violent hitter who loves making contact with the ball carrier. He’s set to be cornerback No. 1 for Minnesota in 2023, but it’s the depth behind him that is concerning.

The Vikings’ other cornerbacks are Andrew Booth Jr., Akayleb Evans, Tay Gowan, and Kalon Barnes. That’s it. Kwesi would be wise to sign one more veteran like a Rock Ya-Sin, JoeJuan Williams, Sean Murphy-Bunting, or even former Viking Mike Hughes to add some experience to the back end.

If they don’t add a veteran in the next couple of weeks, corner then definitely becomes a need the team could look to address at pick No. 23 in the NFL Draft. Players like Deonte Banks, Joey Porter Jr.,  and Cam Smtih could all be options.

The Vikings have already upgraded the cornerback position, but they are not yet finished. They have to find at least one more quality player to flesh out this unit and improve the overall talent level.

Need No.2: Wide Receiver

Wide receiver is one position the Vikings have completely ignored so far in free agency. They released Adam Thielen prior to the start but haven’t even met with a single one to replace him. The reason for that is perhaps they believe they already have their No. 2 wide receiver on the roster in K.J. Osborn.

Osborn has had a surprising career. It first started off with being drafted a couple of rounds too early and then doing nothing during his rookie season. He broke out his sophomore year and continued to prove he was a quality number three target last year.

He continues to progress and impress, and seeing him be elevated to the No. 2 option across from Justin Jefferson is very likely.

Even if that happens, the depth remains a concern. Jalen Nailor had a few moments as a rookie, and Jalen Reagor is what he is, a gadget player at best and not someone who is going to catch 70 balls a season. Free agency is an option, but this is an area that’ll likely be upgraded in late April with a draft pick.

At pick No. 23, the Vikings could have their choice of the litter between Jaxson Smith-Njigba, Zay Flowers, Jordan Addison, and Quentin Johnston. They could also find value later, as this is a pretty deep class loaded with quality receiving prospects.

Need No.1: Defensive Line

The Vikings’ front seven was a major issue a season ago, and it took a big hit with the loss of Dalvin Tomlinson in free agency.

They found a decent player in former Green Bay Packer Dean Lowry, but they still are a defensive end short. The team could get creative and move Harrison Phillips to end and start Khyiris Tonga at the nose, and then have Lowry at the other end.

Even if they did that, the depth chart isn’t exactly riddled with high-end talent. It is instead speckled with names like James Lynch, Ross Blacklock, and Sheldon Day.

This unit needs an upgrade in a big way, and that upgrade could come in the first round of this year’s draft. Clemson’s Bryan Bresee would be an ideal option. He can penetrate and create pressure while also being stout against the run.

Pittsburgh’s Calijah Kancey makes a lot of sense as well. He’s not as stout as Bresee but is much more explosive and can be a disruptor that can be used all over the line.

The free agency route isn’t as exciting as the draft if the Vikings look to continue to upgrade their defensive line. Their best options would be names like Rasheem Green, Chris Wormley, and Kentavius Street.

When factoring in the current starters and the quality of the depth, the defensive line is definitely the Vikings’ biggest overall need after the first wave of free agency.