Kevin O’Connell Sounds Off on Vikings’ Big Bet on New LB

Kevin O'Connell, Vikings

Getty Head coach Kevin O'Connell of the Minnesota Vikings.

If the Minnesota Vikings hope to replicate the success they found last season, the franchise is going to have to win in the margins.

It was far from an ideal situation that general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and head coach Kevin O’Connell inherited when they arrived in Minnesota two offseasons past. The Vikings made the best of it in 2022, going 13-4 and winning the NFC North Division. But after their playoff run ended, veteran contributors with big contracts began falling by the wayside, as the team addressed a salary cap situation that remains one of the most difficult in the league to navigate.

The Vikings then entered the NFL Draft with only six picks at their disposal, making each selection a crucial decision and putting pressure on the undrafted free agent period immediately to follow. The biggest move Minnesota has made post-draft is the signing of outside linebacker Andre Carter II, and undrafted free agent out of Army, who the Vikings guaranteed a base salary of $300,000 earlier this month. O’Connell addressed Carter and his contract, which is one of the largest in NFL history for an undrafted rookie, during a media session on Friday, May 12.

“He was under consideration for us to be drafted a couple times in the draft, and through the dialogue and really trying to figure out how we still get him here, we felt like we gained an extra draft pick with him,” O’Connell said.

“For a guy like Andre, we’re really looking forward to seeing him build,” O’Connell continued. “He’s a professional football player now. He gets to focus in on that as his job and really thrive in that with some great coaching. He’s a great kid, really excited to have him as a part of our team and looking forward to seeing what he’s able to do.”

Andre Carter Produced Staggering Sack Total at Army in 2021

Andre Carter II, Vikings

GettyThe Minnesota Vikings signed linebacker Andre Carter II of Army to a $300,000 undrafted rookie contract.

Carter was a beast in college, both physically on the field and on the stat sheet.

The 23-year-old OLB stands at 6-feet, 6-inches tall and weighs 256 pounds. He produced 14.5 sacks for Army across 12 games in 2021 and added another 3.5 sacks in 10 games last year, as well as 7.5 tackles for loss, per Football Reference.

O’Connell on Friday raved about the length and athleticism Carter has already displayed during rookie minicamp, while the amount of money the Vikings guaranteed the linebacker indicates he has a good chance of making the 53-man roster. Should he do so, Carter will join edge rusher Danielle Hunter, who put up 10.5 sacks last season, on Minnesota’s roster.

The Vikings traded pass rusher Za’Darius Smith and a couple of late-round draft selections in 2025 to the Cleveland Browns on Friday in return for fifth-round picks in 2024 and 2025.

Vikings Not Worried About Andre Carter’s Drop in Production Last Season

Kevin O'Connell, Vikings

GettyHead coach Kevin O’Connell of the Minnesota Vikings speaks to the media during the NFL Combine in March 2023.

O’Connell on Friday addressed Carter’s drop off in statistical performance last season, chalking it up mostly to considerably more attention paid from opposing offenses following a breakout campaign the year before.

“A lot of times, just like in our league, a dynamic pass rusher can have a ton of production. But what happens? They get circled in the scouting report,” O’Connell said.

“I’m sure there’s some things that looking back on it, he’s looking forward to improve, add to his pass rush, and he’s got one of the best position coaches in the league in Mike Smith to do that,” O’Connell said. “[Defensive coordinator Brian Flores] has got a great plan for him, and can’t wait to see him get a ton of snaps in the preseason.”

Read More