Settle the Adrian Peterson situation: One way or another, a decision is coming. The choices are simple: keep and renegotiate, trade or release. The decision isn’t as simple, but the middle choice is likely obsolete given Peterson’s $12.75 million base salary in 2015 that rises to $17.75 million in by the final year in 2017. No matter the decision, it should be done on the first day of free agency to allow the other options, if needed, to unfold.
Give Teddy Bridgewater better protection: Bridgewater had the best season of the rookie quarterbacks, the best rookie season in Vikings history, and one of the best in NFL history. All of that is more amazing considering the protection problems he faced. He was under pressure much of the season, taking 39 of the Vikings’ 51 sacks, tied for fifth-most in the NFL. With a poor first half of the season from left tackle Matt Kalil, and then losing right guard Brandon Fusco and right tackle Phil Loadholt by mid-season, Bridgewater at least learned to get rid of the ball quicker in the final two months of the season. That should serve him well in the future.
Refine the receiver position: Adding to Bridgewater’s impressive rookie résumé is that he didn’t have a true go-to receiver. Greg Jennings was the most consistent, but he may be asked to take a pay cut given his scheduled $11 million cap hit in 2015, seventh among NFL receivers, compared to his 59 catches and 742 yards (both 58th in the NFL). Cordarrelle Patterson was a disappointment that was benched in favor of a receiver (Charles Johnson) that wasn’t even on the roster the first two weeks of the season. Whether it’s the draft, free agency or Patterson living up to his potential, the receivers have to get better.
Rebuild the linebackers: Middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley is a free agent. Veteran outside linebacker Chad Greenway could be asked to restructure given his $8.8 million cap hit in 2015. Either way, at least one young addition is needed next to (or opposite) Anthony Barr to improve a run defense that finished 23rd in the NFL.
Secondary support for two on the rise: Cornerback Xavier Rhodes had a vastly improved second season in the NFL and safety Harrison Smith continues to ascend to a Pro Bowl level, even if neither were recognized with those accolades. Finding reliable players to complement them – a bigger cornerback opposite Rhodes for facing teams with two tall receivers and a strong safety next to Smith to further open the options in Mike Zimmer’s defense – would go a long way to finishing the defensive overhaul.
Vikings: 5 changes for a playoff push in 2015
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