Vikings’ $15 Million Playmaker Poised to Leave for AFC Contender

Kevin O'Connell

Getty Vikings coach Kevin O'Connell during the team's 2023 season opener.

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver K.J. Osborn has realized significant upside as a former fifth-round pick that leaves him likely to land elsewhere in 2024.

Selected in the fifth round of the 2020 draft, Osborn did not catch a single pass his rookie year but has since averaged 615 yards receiving and scored 15 touchdowns the past three seasons.

Osborn is set to reach free agency for the first time in his career in March. Considering his production and mounting needs elsewhere on the Vikings’s roster, Osborn is poised to attract offers that could price the Vikings out.

Pro Football Focus (PFF) considers the Cleveland Browns or Baltimore Ravens potential landing spots for Osborn.

“Osborn lined up primarily in the slot in 2022 and shifted outside in 2023. He’s a WR3/4 but has been productive in a very high-volume Vikings passing attack,” PFF’s cap expert Brad Spielberger wrote on January 31. “Untimely drops plagued him in 2023 but he’d provide solid depth for a lot of teams, and one has to imagine with the addition of first-round rookie Jordan Addison and the emergence of Brandon Powell this past season that perhaps Minnesota works a bit harder to retain the speedy Powell on a cheaper deal.”

Spotrac projected Osborn to garner a two-year $15.13 million contract worth $7.56 million a year in free agency, which is likely out of the price range the Vikings would want to spend for a fourth option in their passing game.

Writing Was on the Wall for Osborn After Vikings Drafted Jordan Addison

Jordan Addison, K.J. Osborn

GettyJordan Addison and K.J. Osborn will be leaned on in Justin Jefferson’s potential absence.

Last offseason, Osborn was partially the reason the Vikings felt comfortable moving on from veteran Adam Thielen, who saw his role in the offense diminished after the arrival of T.J. Hockenson.

However, the man who was billed as Thielen’s true replacement was Addison. Selected 23rd overall a year ago, Addison splashed immediately this season and eventually took the reigns as the No. 2 wide receiver behind Justin Jefferson.

Addison further cemented his role in the offense for future years when Jefferson missed seven games with a hamstring injury. He finished the year second in targets (108), receptions (70), receiving yards (911) behind Hockenson and led the team with 10 receiving touchdowns — the most by any Vikings rookie since Randy Moss in 1998.

Osborn finished the year with 48 receptions on 75 targets for 540 yards receiving and three touchdowns. He is a model player in the Vikings locker room and is surely welcomed back, but likely on a much smaller deal than he could garner elsewhere.

Vikings’ Top Needs in 2024 NFL Draft

Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, Vikings

GettyGeneral manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah of the Minnesota Vikings.

A disappointing 7-10 season for the Vikings in 2023 was marked by the absence of Kirk Cousins, who missed the final nine games of the season with a ruptured Achilles he is currently recovering from.

Simply running it back with Cousins won’t be that simple considering the Vikings face decisions on another 15 pivotal contributors and are tight on cap space.

Edge rusher, interior defensive line and cornerback are all positions on defense that could be drastically improved with an impact first-rounder. However, the ideal plan to succeed Cousins is to draft a first-round quarterback to develop his first year.

The new Vikings regime has balanced their competitive rebuild with continuity and budget free-agent additions over the past two years. This next draft, along with another offseason’s development of 2022 and 2023 draftees, will be decisive in determining whether the roster is ready to compete or should accept a step back.

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