how will Vikings look to build around Bridgewater? defense needs more pieces right now so which direction will the off go #VikingsMail
— John Murray (@J_LouisVillain) December 26, 2014
@GoesslingESPN: Good morning, everyone. Hope you had a great holiday season. We'll get started here. John, you're correct in saying the Vikings' defense needs more pieces, and I think the primary focus of the offseason will be improving that group to a point where it can be a top-10 unit next season. That said, the Vikings have some questions at most levels of the offense, too. The biggest priority, to me, is identifying a No. 1 receiver. Do they have a player on their roster who can be that type of weapon? I'd start there. The offensive line is an issue, as well, but I don't think they're ready to give up on Matt Kalil, who has played better in the second half. A change at left guard, as well as a veteran backup who could fill in at tackle if Kalil or Phil Loadholt has a bad season, could be options. And then there's the running back situation: The Vikings would absolutely benefit from having Adrian Peterson in their offense, but at what price? He said earlier this month he doesn't believe he should take a pay cut, and I don't think the Vikings will agree with that. Can they come to an agreement, or will Peterson want to head elsewhere? I'm inclined to think he'll decide to play somewhere else if he has to take less money, and if that's the case, the Vikings might look at a deep running back class for a player to pair with Jerick McKinnon. Teddy Bridgewater has given the Vikings' offense hope for the future, but there are still some loose ends to tie up.
— Bryce Ketcheson (@BayouBryce) December 24, 2014
@GoesslingESPN: It's hard to predict acquisitions at this point simply because it's too early to tell which impending free agents are going to hit the open market. One player I'd keep an eye on, though, is wide receiver Greg Jennings. He turns 32 next September, is scheduled to count $11 million against the cap, and though the Vikings' quarterback instability has hurt his production the last two years, Jennings hasn't put up numbers to fit that kind of salary. The team would save $9 million by cutting him after June 1, and though I'd expect a restructuring could be in order -- he's a good route-runner and has been useful for Bridgewater in recent weeks -- the Vikings could decide to move on if they can't make the money work. That would grab headlines just two years after the team signed Jennings, but the Vikings structure their contracts a certain way to give themselves flexibility for quick changes.
A few people have asked about the possibility of cutting Captain Munnerlyn just one year after the team signed him; I can't see that one happening. Yes, the Vikings would only have to eat $1.67 million if they released him, but they'd only save $2.17 million by cutting him before June 1. And think about how big of an issue that slot cornerback position was in 2013. Do the Vikings really want to address it again in 2015? It's possible, but I don't think Munnerlyn's struggles have been to the point where the team would cut him. I could see them trying to add another top-flight corner to play in the base defense and making Munnerlyn purely a slot corner, though. If you've got two big corners, Munnerlyn as your slot guy, Josh Robinson as your No. 4 corner and an upgrade at safety next to Harrison Smith, that's a pretty darn good secondary.
#VikingsMail what grade would you give Zimmer for year one and it seems players react well to him but have had a few eggs this year
— zach sween (@1Sween) December 25, 2014
@GoesslingESPN: Given everything he's had to manage in his first year on the job, and considering how much the defense has improved in its initial year in his scheme, I'd have to give Zimmer a B+. Even with a rookie QB, a decimated offensive line and no Adrian Peterson, the Vikings are essentially four close losses (to Buffalo, Detroit, Green Bay and Miami) from fighting for a playoff spot this weekend. Yes, they've got to get better in those situations, and there are some in-game situations that haven't gone well for Zimmer -- he regretted not taking a timeout before the fourth-and-20 in Buffalo, and the Vikings' clock management on their final drive in Detroit wasn't good -- but he has the defense headed the right way, and players seem to have responded to him. The teams that are consistently successful in the NFL are the ones that have a solid coach-QB partnership -- Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers, Sean Payton and Drew Brees -- and the Vikings have good reason to hope they've got the makings of one in Zimmer and Bridgewater.
— Brad Carlson (@Brad_Carlson) December 26, 2014
@GoesslingESPN: It depends on his contract -- Chad Greenway is due to count $8.8 million against the cap next season -- but right now, I'm going to say yes. He's said he wants to stay here, and with three kids at home, he doesn't have a great interest in uprooting his family. He's been smart enough with his money that he could accept a big pay cut and finish out his contract here, and I think Zimmer sees value in the leadership Greenway provides to the Vikings' younger linebackers (remember, Greenway is a year and a day older than his position coach, Adam Zimmer). The trick might be coming to an arrangement that allows Gerald Hodges to take on a larger role while still keeping Greenway involved enough to justify a salary that would likely still be several million dollars, but maybe Greenway sees some time at middle linebacker, where he practiced a little bit before this season. My hunch is, though, there's enough interest in both sides that Greenway will spend 2015 in a Vikings uniform.
— Andrew Krammer (@Andrew_Krammer) December 26, 2014
@GoesslingESPN: We'll close the final mailbag of 2014 with a question from my buddy Andrew Krammer, the Vikings beat writer at 1500ESPN.com. For those of you who haven't noticed on Twitter, Andrew and I often trade good-natured barbs about Adam Thielen; I told him back in OTAs that I thought Thielen could be a sleeper pick to make the team in 2014, and there's a chance I've reminded him about that a time or two since then. :-) So what does 2015 hold for the receiver, who was unanimously selected as 1500 ESPN's "Mr. Mankato" award winner as the star of training camp? He's become an integral piece of the Vikings' special teams units, and with special teams coordinator Mike Priefer in Thielen's corner, he'll have a good shot to return next season. Thielen caught the eye of general manager Rick Spielman and coach Mike Zimmer with how he'd improved as a receiver last spring, but he'll probably need to keep improving if he wants to have a role as more than a special-teams guy (and thus, more job security). There have been a few times where he's looked a little wide-eyed as a receiver this season, and he could probably benefit from another year of speed and strength training. But the Vikings love his work ethic, and he'll likely keep fighting to stay around next season. But don't worry, Andrew -- I'll leave the I-told-you-sos in 2014.
That'll do it for this week's mailbag. Thanks for the great questions, everyone. We'll keep this rolling on Saturdays in the offseason, though we might take a week off from time to time. Talk to you on Sunday from TCF Bank Stadium for the season finale.