It’s going to be a good year for the Minnesota Vikings. They’ve got a shiny new quarterback, one of the best coaching staffs in the NFL, and not many weaknesses to speak of. It’s safe to call them one of the Super Bowl favorites with the start of training camp just weeks away. If all goes as planned for the Minnesota Vikings in 2018, all five of these players will be well on their way to stardom — and not just among Twin Cities fans. So begins our list of Vikings who need to live up to their 2018 salaries.
Cap number: $24,000,000
2018 salary rank (QBs): 6th
The deal: Cousins’ run as the league’s highest-paid quarterback lasted seven weeks before Matt Ryan inked his mega deal for $30 million per season. While Ryan is trying to get the Falcons back to the Super Bowl, Cousins is tasked with making his first appearance the Vikings’ first since Jan. 9, 1977. There are few excuses around one of the league’s best supporting casts.
Cap number: $12,306,000 2018 salary rank (4-3 OLBs): 1st The deal: Barr is likely seeking in the $10-$12 million per year range on a new contract that has been discussed this summer. That’s what he’s making on his fifth-year option in 2018 and, in the long-term, would put him in line with the league’s best in Jamie Collins, Telvin Smith and Lavonte David. But will the Vikings go that high? If a deal isn’t reached, Barr could force their hand by playing lights out this season.
3. Left tackle Riley Reiff
Cap number: $11,400,000
2018 salary rank (LTs): 8th
The deal: Case Keenum was the third-most pressured (39.3%) quarterback last season despite the Vikings fielding a 10th-ranked scoring offense. There’s room for improvement. It starts with the group’s leader in Reiff, who had a solid start in Minnesota but it tailed off in the second half of the season.
Cap number: $8,000,000
2018 salary rank (DTs): 17th
The deal: Richardson was, statistically according to PFF, one of the most disruptive defensive tackles in football last season. Yet his free-agent market wasn’t as robust, perhaps because the Jets were willing to trade him Sept. 1 last year to Seattle. Richardson’s success with the Seahawks was a testament to how quickly he transitioned from end to tackle. The Vikings need better pass rush up the middle, so enter Richardson — a type of unknown Minnesota rarely takes on as a free-agent risk.
5. Tight end Kyle Rudolph
Cap number: $7,675,000
2018 salary rank (TEs): 6th
The deal: Rudolph’s contract year in 2019 is upcoming. He turns 29 in November and has plenty of reasons to succeed. That includes a supposedly tight-end friendly offense under John DeFilippo and a strong-armed quarterback in Cousins. The Vikings were one of the most successful red-zone offenses in 2017 because of how they involved Rudolph. That needs to continue this season.