Season grade: C-
Season summary: It's difficult to encapsulate all that happened to the Vikings this season in a few sentences. They started 5-0 despite injuries to Teddy Bridgewater and Adrian Peterson, and they had Super Bowl hopes after quarterback Sam Bradford joined the team to rave reviews. But injuries along an already-suspect offensive line proved to be too much for the Vikings' offense to overcome. Bradford had to resort to a quick passing game to keep the offense moving, and he set the single-season completion percentage record although he had the shortest average pass distance in the league. The Vikings' rushing game has been the league's worst, with or without Peterson. It put too much stress on a Vikings defense that appeared to be the league's best in the first half of the season. The Vikings won early with a defense that created takeaways, harassed quarterbacks and put points on the board with regularity, but penalties and missed tackles became frequent issues as the Vikings lost eight of 10 to fall out of the playoff race. It was a sour season for a team that began the year with a rush of positivity after the opening of a new stadium, and the Vikings will have some difficult questions to answer as they try to get back on track in 2017.
Biggest draft need: The Vikings' offensive line has been an issue for the better part of three seasons, and an attempt to fix it through free agency fell flat, as players underperformed and got injured with regularity. The team's problem, though, is that the 2017 draft class is thought to be thin on NFL-ready linemen, and the Vikings won't have a first-round pick thanks to their trade for Bradford. A 2016 draft trade leaves them with an extra third- and fourth-round pick. Whether they use those picks to move back into the first round, or whether they spend the picks to give themselves a number of options on the line, they'll have to make some moves to reinvest in the group after using only two picks higher than the fourth round on linemen since 2008.
Key offseason questions:
What does the Vikings' future look like at quarterback? Bradford has played admirably in 2016 after joining the team eight days before the start of the regular season following Bridgewater's torn ACL and dislocated left knee. He is signed for the 2017 season, and general manager Rick Spielman has said the Vikings made the deal for Bradford in part because they'd have him next season. Bridgewater's rehab could keep him out until late in the 2017 preseason, if not longer, and the Vikings might have to count on Bradford heading into next season. The quarterback's agent, Tom Condon, likely will be looking for a long-term extension, however, and the Vikings have to make a decision on Bridgewater's fifth-year option in May. Even if they decide to move forward with Bradford next season, the question about who will lead their team going forward is likely to remain open.
Who will lead the offense? Offensive coordinator Norv Turner resigned on Nov. 2 after signs that his relationship with Zimmer had deteriorated in the 2 1/2 years he had been with the team. Tight ends coach Pat Shurmur became the Vikings' interim offensive coordinator. His history with Bradford could put him in position to keep the job for a full season in 2017, when he'd get a chance to remake things in accordance with his West Coast offense background, rather than trying to massage the scheme in the wake of Turner's departure. The Vikings' passing game has picked up in recent weeks, though it's still concerning how much trouble they've had scoring touchdowns and moving the ball before games have been decided. Whether Shurmur is in charge or someone else, the Vikings' offensive coordinator will have plenty of big decisions to make next season.
Will Adrian Peterson be back in 2017? The Vikings have a team option on the 32-year-old running back for the 2017 season and would have to pay him a $6 million roster bonus on the third day of the league year if they pick it up. Given Peterson's age, and the fact he would have an $18 million cap charge on the option, it seems unlikely the Vikings would pick it up. When the Vikings restructured Peterson's contract in 2015, the 2017 option always appeared to be a trigger for another restructure after the 2016 season. Now that Peterson has missed most of the 2016 season, his leverage has been significantly diminished, and the only way he likely will be back next season is if he is willing to take a significant pay cut. That puts some power in the running back's corner, and given the fact Peterson has never explored the open market, it's possible he'll want to take a look at some other options rather than returning to a team that might not have a markedly improved offensive line in 2017. It remains to be seen whether Peterson would be amenable to taking less money from the Vikings or if he'll want a change of scenery. Given the number of high-dollar decisions the Vikings have to make in the next year, it's difficult to predict how much of a cap charge they'd accept to keep Peterson.