All-in Vikings upgrade 3 spots, in no position for patience
By DAVE CAMPBELL
AP Pro Football Writer
EAGAN, Minn. (AP) — The Minnesota Vikings have almost every key player back from the 2017 team that won 14 games and went to the NFC championship game.
Their new quarterback, Kirk Cousins, is playing up to his big contract. They’re one kick away from starting this season unbeaten.
For all their strengths and stability, let alone dwindling space under the salary cap, the Vikings still sought upgrades at three positions in the three days that passed since their 29-29 tie at Green Bay .
They signed kicker Dan Bailey after cutting their fifth-round draft pick, Daniel Carlson, following his three missed field goals against the Packers.
They dropped wide receiver Stacy Coley, a seventh-rounder in 2017, in favor of Aldrick Robinson for a more experienced backup. When defensive tackle Tom Johnson became available, they brought him back to spell Sheldon Richardson and let David Parry go.
“I wanted to go somewhere that had an opportunity to win and be a part of an organization that’s right there and right on the brink of having a lot of success,” said Bailey, who like Johnson had offers from multiple teams. “When this situation came up, it fit the bill perfectly.”
Such cutthroat competition is commonplace in the NFL, of course, but nonetheless indicative of the all-in approach the front office has applied in 2018 in pursuit of a Super Bowl.
There’s little appetite this fall for leaving one of those 53 precious spots on the roster for a developmental purpose, if it can be used instead for a player who’ll contribute to the current team.
When the opening week rosters were established, the Vikings had the youngest average age in the NFC. But they replaced Carlson (23) with Bailey (30), Parry (26) with Johnson (34) and Coley (24) with Robinson, who will turn 30 on Monday.
Coach Mike Zimmer even texted general manager Rick Spielman and some of the other evaluators this week with this message: “Thank you for trying to get some more players in here.”
Zimmer added: “It’s great to see. We felt like we needed to make some moves after that game.”
Carlson was going to have a hard time recovering from his performance in Green Bay. Coley made a couple of less-obvious mistakes, but coupled with some costly dropped passes by fellow wide receiver Laquon Treadwell in that game, the Vikings were understandably concerned about their depth behind stars Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen.
Then Johnson suddenly became available after his release by Seattle, and the Vikings seized on the opportunity to add a player who was good enough to start for the league’s top-ranked defense last season in a reserve role.
Johnson became a free agent and picked the Seahawks after the Vikings signed Richardson. The Seahawks told Johnson they preferred to re-sign him, after dropping him from the roster to accommodate the promotion of a player from the practice squad.
“I guess they didn’t think I was going to get as much interest as I got,” Johnson said, adding: “It’s something that I wasn’t expecting, as far the better situation that I’m in. I’m taking full advantage of it.”
The same goes for Bailey, who was cut by the Dallas Cowboys on Sept. 1 in a cost-cutting move after he struggled in 2017 down the stretch of his seventh NFL season following a groin injury.
“Hopefully,” Zimmer said, knocking his knuckles against the podium, “he’s really, really good for us.”
The coach hoped aloud that Bailey would solidify the position the same way Cousins has at quarterback, after the carousel that has spun at both spots since Zimmer arrived in 2014.
“For me it was about being patient and waiting for the right opportunity,” Bailey said.
“It’s hard to say if I would have waited longer, but that was my game plan going into it. I’m fortunate this opportunity came up, and I took advantage.”