MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings entered the 2016 season with an All-Pro kick returner they had drafted in the first round, a punter they had taken in the fifth round and a kicker trying to regain the Pro Bowl form he'd shown as a rookie after the Vikings drafted him in the sixth round.
If that set of resources on special teams seemed too expensive for your liking, there's no need to fret. Cordarrelle Patterson, Jeff Locke and Blair Walsh are gone, and in their absences the Vikings will try to remake things on special teams with what figures to remain an affordable set of options.
Kai Forbath entered the offseason as the team's top kicker after signing with the Vikings to replace Walsh last November. Though he hit all 15 of his field-goal attempts last year, he'll compete with Marshall Koehn this spring and summer after missing three extra points. The Vikings signed former Jets punter Ryan Quigley this spring, but also brought in former Texas Tech punter Taylor Symmank -- who worked out for the team last year -- to battle for the job. And with Patterson gone to the Oakland Raiders, the Vikings will try out a number of options at kick returner, likely including but not limited to Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs, Marcus Sherels and Jerick McKinnon.
It's a time of transition for a group that's been one of the best special-teams units in the league in recent seasons. And while many of the principals from special-teams coordinator Mike Priefer's solid coverage groups are still on the roster, the Vikings have some questions to answer with the specialists themselves.
Current specialists (2017 cap number in parentheses): Kevin McDermott ($910,000), Forbath ($775,000), Quigley ($775,000), Koehn ($465,000), Symmank ($465,000).
Player with most to prove in 2017: There's bound to be competition all over the special-teams group this spring and summer, but Forbath is the only incumbent here who's getting challenged. He tried out against Koehn when the Vikings were working out kickers to replace Walsh last November, and the Vikings decided to sign Forbath at that point. With a full offseason to evaluate both options, though, the Vikings could go in a different direction this time, so Forbath will have to be at his best to keep his job. His missed extra points came on the heels of Walsh's four misses (the final one of which ultimately sealed his fate). He'll need to clean up that part of his performance in the preseason.
Draft need: If the Vikings were to bring in any more competition for their kickers and punters, they'd likely do so in the undrafted free-agency signing period at the end of this weekend. They could use a pick on a player who might fit as a return man, though -- especially if a running back like Tennessee's Alvin Kamara catches their eye. The Vikings need to add depth at running back and wide receiver, and they'll have the luxury of perusing a deep draft of defensive backs. Another kick-return option could come from any of those position groups.