A new year sees a new crop of players ready to carry on the tradition of Minnesota football up in the Twin Cities. However, for a team that won 13 games last season, Minnesota lost a handful of starters over the past few months that are no longer in Minnesota, but rather have landed in a variety of new places. How are they doing with their new teams? Take a look below at these nine former Vikings starters and their current camp updates.
RB Dalvin Cook
Released just two months ago, Dalvin has been a name that has swirled around the league, and many predict will start for another team come kickoff of Week 1. The New York Jets, New England Patriots, Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills, Denver Broncos, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers have all been linked to the former star back, but no deal has materialized. As the running back market continues to devolve, it will be interesting to see where Cook lands.
WR Adam Thielen
Losing hometown hero Adam Thielen was a tough cut last offseason, but one that ultimately saw him land with the Carolina Panthers and with a shot to be a true Alpha in their offense. Early reports out of camp shows Thielen quickly developing a report with #1 overall pick Bryce Young and should be one of the two primary starters in Reich’s offense. At 32, many fans believed Thielen has lost a step but all signs out of camp show he’s ready to go for his tenth season in the league. On top of that, there have also been reports of Thielen mentoring younger receivers, an encouraging signing from the former Vikings receiver.
TE Irv Smith Jr
The former Vikings second rounder was on the way out once Hockenson was acquired midseason in 2022. Just 24-years old, Smith ultimately landed with Cincinnati who had a hole at tight end after Hurst jettisoned to Carolina. Irv has had an up and down career, seeing his best season come in 2020, but missing all of the 2021 campaign and half of last season with injuries. Reports from camp indicate a strong want to get Smith Jr involved to help open lanes for Chase and Higgins. Primarily, Irv’s athleticism and speed have been on display with highlights surfacing across camp. Smith is expected to beat out Drew Sample and Devin Asiasi for the starting tight end job.
EDGE Za’Darius Smith
Traded to Cleveland this offseason, Smith only spent one year with Minnesota but was a great tandem with Danielle Hunter. Just as in Minnesota, Smith wasted no time getting to work and has created a strong relationship with fellow edge rusher Myles Garrett. Early reports indicate Smith will be used a lot, lining up both on the inside and outside of the line depending on their defensive scheme. Now fully healthy, Za’Darius should have no issue earning the starting job in Cleveland.
DL Dalvin Tomlinson
After Kwesi and company couldn’t get a deal done with Dalvin Tomlinson, he was quickly snatched up by Cleveland, filling a massive hole in the middle of their defense. Having a bottom ten run defense and a bottom five defense in terms of sacks, it was crucial they got bigger and more athletic. Tomlinson has been running with the first team and is projected to earn the starting DT job. A bit of a surprise though, reports out of camp show the big man lining up as a 3Tech in Schwartz defense.
LB Eric Kendricks
At 31, fan-favorite Eric Kendricks’ release was a hard pill to swallow in terms of roster moves, but his return to LA has been like a storybook. Kendricks hasn’t had a ton of hype coming out of camp, but the Chargers have seen their young linebacker Kenneth Murray Jr being mentored by Kendricks. Head Coach Brandon Staley spoke highly of Kendricks, citing his overall ability and instincts as a player and linebacker as the selling point to bringing him in. The former Vikings linebacker is projected to start alongside Murray on early downs and will have a role with this defense.
CB Cam Dantzler
After a rough 2022 campaign, the Vikings looked to rebuild an abysmal defense and cutting a 24-year-old cornerback who many predicted as a (at least) spot starter was a bit of a surprise. However, as Minnesota moved on and brought in a handful of new players, Dantzler signed on with the Washington Commanders in March but was released two months later after the NFL Draft, before he ultimately latched on with the Buffalo Bills. As of yesterday, Dantzler was reported to be designated with a waived/injury designation after showing up late to practice last week without his helmet. A rough off-season so far, but the 6’2” corner is now a free agent.
CB Patrick Peterson
After being arguably the most effective corner Minnesota had, Pat Pete became a cap casualty this offseason before ultimately landing in Pittsburgh. Once their, his skills and wisdom as a longtime player has been on full display. Former All-Pro DB Ike Taylor most recently joined Pittsburgh as a scout, but spoke Peterson’s praises this off-season. Versatility is a word that has come up a handful of times out of camp as Peterson has been not just a corner, but a “coach on the field” and a leader for a young secondary. Recently, Peterson has been taking snaps at safety in Tomlin’s defense. Expectations out of camp is Peterson will be heavily utilized in a variety of ways with the Steelers.
CB Duke Shelley
Shelley was a light in the darkness during the 2022 season, playing in 11 games and starting 5 en route to a pretty solid campaign for the 26-year-old journeyman. However, Minnesota elected to move on from Shelley rather than offer him a contract and the former K-State Wildcat signed with Las Vegas. A solid signing given the status of the Raiders defensive back room, but Shelley hasn’t stood out in camp with most reports looking towards Jakorian Bennett, Nate Hobbs, and newly signed Marcus Peters. However, Shelley has been lining up as a gunner with Las Vegas’ special teams.