Friday, March 3, 2017

Vikings To Make a Splash in Free Agency

The Minnesota Vikings are gearing up to make a big splash in free agency, it would appear. The team is clearly in win-now mode, despite missing the playoffs last season. A veteran heavy roster and no first round pick means the Vikings know their window to win with their talented defense is going to close soon, and the fact that Super Bowl LII is in Minneapolis is even more incentive.

The team has spent all off-season reworking contracts and finding ways to squeeze out as much cap room as possible. Even with quarterback Sam Bradford's large cap hit, the team reportedly has more than $38 million in cap space to play with

It's obvious the team needs to shore up it's offensive line, but the team needs a deep threat receiver, a starting running back, some cornerback depth and a safety to play next to Harrison Smith as well. Andrew Sendejo had his moments and is a capable player, but would be ideally suited as a third safety giving the team solid insurance should Smith continue to fight injuries next season.

There are several average to above-average left tackles available, which is uncommon. The Vikings own left tackle, Matt Kalil, is one of them. However, after an impressive rookie season Kalil has been ineffective or injured. It's time to find someone else. Andrew Whitworth is the best of the bunch and he was on the Cincinnati Bengals when Mike Zimmer was the defensive coordinator there, but he's also 35-years-old and could hit the wall at any point.

Players like Russell Okung, Riley Reiff, Kelvin Beachum and Ryan Clady are available as well and would be worth taking a look at if Whitworth is deemed to old or chooses to sign elsewhere.

Bengals guard Kevin Zeitler is who I expect the Vikings to make a major run at. The team attempted to sign Kelechi Osemele before he went to the Oakland Raiders, and despite the addition of Alex Boone the Vikings still need to upgrade their line everywhere. He's one of the best free agents at a major position of need for the team.

If his market is too rich for the Vikings blood, players like TJ Lang, Larry Warford and Evan Mathis would be worthy targets.

Unless the team plans to bring back Adrian Peterson, which I doubt, the only free agent running back I'd have interest in adding is Latavius Murray. He's dealt with injuries over the years which makes him a major risk, but he's been very good at times when healthy and shouldn't cost much to sign. Ideally the team will draft a running back and pair him with speedster Jerick McKinnon.

DeSean Jackson would fill a major need as a deep threat receiver in what should be a revamped Adrian Peterson-less passing offense. However, Mike Wallace's struggles and Jackson's likely final price will keep him off the Vikings radar. I'd like to see the team retain Cordarelle Patterson, though, and give him some more playing time on offense. It's not like they were playing great players ahead of him the past two years, and he produced fairly well when given opportunities this past season.

Bringing back Terrance Newman for depth purposes might be the easiest solution at corner, as he's unlikely to command a large salary and will sign for 1-year. The team could also look to draft another corner to develop behind the threesome of Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander, but rookies rarely help teams immediately, and very rarely as a cornerback. Captain Munnerlyn will likely be out of the team's price range. A surprising run at someone like AJ Bouye, Stephon Gilmore or Logan Ryan to pair with Xavier Rhodes is unlikely, because Rhodes is about to get a major contract himself and the team only can spend so much money on one position. However, it'd make the defense truly elite for a season or two, so it's not out of the question if they can't sign the marquee offensive lineman.

At safety, players like Johnathan Cyprien or Tony Jefferson would be great acquisitions, but they both had good seasons and could get badly overpaid because a lot of teams need safeties. If the price is right, either player would be great to put next to Harrison Smith. A player like TJ McDonald or Barry Church could be possible too, but in my opinion neither is a huge upgrade over Sendejo so the money would again need to be a good value.I expect a lesser safety signing once the market drops.

Vikings Predictions:
  •  G Kevin Zeitler for 5 years, $60 million.
  • LT Andrew Whitworth for 2 years, $14 million.
  • CB Terrance Newman for 1 year, $2.5 million
  • S Jahleel Addae for 2 years, $6 million
I think Adrian Peterson will sign with the New York Giants.

Free agency starts in less than a week, let's just hope the Vikings can fill a few holes so we can watch them in the playoffs next season.


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