The Minnesota Vikings have participated in some splash moves this past offseason, such as the appointment of Brian Flores as defensive coordinator, and the free agent acquisition of former Arizona Cardinal cornerback Byron Murphy. However, general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah’s first free agent signing of the new offseason, tight end Josh Oliver, may have quietly been one of the best pieces of business so far.
Adofo-Mensah has gifted head coach Kevin O’Connell one of the best blocking tight ends in the league. This will allow the Vikings to run heavier sets on offense, and hit the opposing second level with a wrecking ball of a blocker to lead the way for whoever lines in the backfield this coming fall. Irv Smith was competent, but not one you would describe as excellent at blocking, and reaching the second wave has always been the key to terrific runs on down and distance. No one can ever complain about another talented blocker, even when TJ Hockenson is a good one in his own right.
On the financial side, 3 years for $21 million sounded outrageous at first, but when the details of the contract were revealed, it was made more to look like a steal. The third year may as well be a bonus year considering the cap hit it actually offers, meaning it’s more or less a 2 year deal that has a third option pending performance. All Oliver has to do is block well, and offer himself as an optional safety valve, and he’ll carry his weight plenty.
The Negatives, and Why They Don’t Matter
Josh Oliver isn’t the best pass catching tight end in the league, but thankfully, he doesn’t need to be. TJ Hockenson is already slated to be the second option in the passing game with the current receiver situation, meaning Oliver‘s primary responsibilities will follow suit with what he’s already good at.
As previously mentioned, his contract isn’t as detrimental as it first sounded either. The Vikings aren’t looking for a playmaking Pro Bowl caliber player, Oliver is simply here to support the tactics and schemes that O’Connell wants to implement. O’Connell couldn’t have done that with Irv Smith.
Josh Oliver was more than the right choice. With the way the tight end market had mapped itself out, Oliver was clearly the best blocking option, and with the current needs of the Viking’s offense, he slots in nicely.
Irv Smith wasn’t re-signed for a reason. Most tight ends are built like Smith, and with the average price of said builds, Oliver comes at no surprise nor does he come as a negative. For those who criticize the Josh Oliver signing, it’s a rather simple reason. He was the best blocking tight end on the market, even though some people have developed the mindset that unless a tight end is a terrific pass catcher, it’s a waste. Those people are far from right, and Oliver will soon be given the opportunity to prove them wrong.
Being the first signing of the year is always hard if you’re not a big name. Some Vikings fans criticized the move because they were expecting something flashier or better. They eventually got that with Byron Murphy, so hopefully any animosity has calmed down. Maybe Oliver gets the Naz Reid treatment and becomes a team mascot simply for pancaking linebackers, I’d certainly look forward to that.