Looking back at Super Bowl LIV, Mike Zimmer was about 10 minutes away from doing a Blair Walsh type of victory lap. No, he didn't miss a field goal and was consoled by a throng of elementary students. And of course he wasn't on the sidelines either because...well...did you really expect the Vikings to make a Super Bowl during your lifetime?
But Zimmer's spirit animal, the San Francisco 49ers, held a 10-point lead over the offensive juggernaut Kansas City Chiefs. Armed with a strong running game and elite defense, the 49ers looked a lot like what Zimmer wanted to do on the field and if San Francisco held on, he would have validation in what he was trying to accomplish in Minnesota.
But as you know, Patrick Mahomes basically Undertaker GIF'd and the emergence of Damien Williams helped offense prevail over defense and the Chiefs had their first Super Bowl title since they cheated by having Gatorade on their sideline against the Vikings in Super Bowl IV.
Now, we've talked at length about having the Vikings find their version of Mahomes in the 2020 NFL Draft, but there's another thing to take out of this. With the Vikings defense falling apart and the pieces in place for a top-five offense, it's time for Minnesota to ditch the conservative approach and try to win games in the same fashion the Chiefs did...by outscoring your opponent until the scoreboard says "TILT."
The current scenario
As you know, the magic of Rob Brzezinski has suddenly transported the Vikings into a world of salary cap hell. Although they sit $736,556 under the salary cap, that happened because Everson Griffen basically forfeited $12 million to become a free agent.
With that comes the idea to ask current players to take a pay cut and like you and I, we're probably not keen on the idea of making less money especially when it involves millions of dollars. So players like Linval Joseph and Xavier Rhodes could be on the chopping block.
Should the Vikings just let those two walk, it would clear up roughly $19 million in cap room, putting the Vikings at $19.7 million in cap space, which is much better!
That's until you realize all the defensive free agents the Vikings will have. Trae Waynes, Anthony Harris, Mackensie Alexander, Stephen Weatherly, Eric Wilson and more all have expiring contracts and unless you want to cut someone's salary in half and they actually agree to it, odds are they're not all going to stay here.
So in an armageddon scenario, the Vikings will lose their two starting cornerbacks, one of their starting defensive tackles, a starting defensive end and a starting safety and they're going to try to play defense...
Building an offensive juggernaut
With the defense possibly in shambles even if they convince a couple players to stay, odds are it's not going to be the same top-10 unit they've been since Zimmer took over in 2014. That doesn't mean they'll be Detroit Lions bad, but more middle of the road under the guidance of the head coach.
The offense, however, has suddenly become the strength of this team. Although we can joke around about the conservative play-calling and the tendency to hide Kirk Cousins at times, the personnel on this team is good enough to be a top-five offense in the NFL when you consider.
- The Vikings have a quarterback that is coming off his most efficient season as a starter with 26 TD and 6 INT while also averaging 8.2 yards per attempt.
- They also have a running back duo (Dalvin Cook, Alexander Mattison) that led the Vikings to the sixth-ranked rushing attack.
- One of the best WR duos (Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen) in the league that each went over 1,000 yards as recently as 2018.
- An up-and-coming dynamic tight end (Irv Smith Jr.) and a veteran who is a dominant red-zone target (Kyle Rudolph).
- An offensive line that...oh, whoops...how did this get in there?
Disregarding that last point, the Vikings have everything they need right now to be a dominant offense. So with that in mind, why not add to your strength and get a third wide receiver in the draft? Maybe pay up for an offensive guard like Joe Thuney instead of overpaying Trae Waynes or Anthony Harris? Draft an athletic, but mauling offensive tackle. All of the above would be great.
But what about Zimmer?
Through all of this, Zimmer would probably be rolling his eyes into the furthermost part of his head, but remember that he's a defensive guru. He prides himself on the development of Anthony Barr and Danielle Hunter and taking some gems and turning them into studs. Why couldn't he do that with a new group of players?
Sure, a sixth-round cornerback in the draft might not play at the same level as Trae Waynes, but why not help Mike Hughes and Holton Hill make the next step? You could even go defense in the first round and draft Xavier McKinney or Grant Delpit to cover the loss of Harris just to be more comfortable.
Even if the Vikings go a little above their 25.4 points per game allowed in 2019, the offense could be good enough to outscore their opponents if they just take the chains off.
Will that happen? Probably not as long as Zimmer is running the show. But if the Vikings are really serious about not having a drop off in 2020, they'll need to rely on the one area they were afraid to showcase last season.