The Minnesota Vikings got off to a hot start in 2016, going 5-0 in their first five games. Then things went off the rails. Injuries plagued the offense, and coordinator Norv Turner decided to step down, giving way to Pat Shurmur.
Now, the Vikings have their work cut out for them. The offensive line needs a lot of attention, while the defense is in relatively good shape. They certainly need to bring some balance to the offense by adding a playmaker at running back, giving Sam Bradford a guy who he can feel confident handing the ball to.
Now that Adrian Peterson is gone, the Vikings have some cap space -- $38.7 million to be more specific. A return hasn’t been ruled out, but bringing him back on an expensive deal would be foolish.
Instead, they should target these five players when free agency begins.
Kim KlementKim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
RB Mike Gillislee (Bills)
On the surface, the running back crop looks strong. Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles, Latavius Murray. However, it’s not as talented as it may seem. Gillislee isn’t a big name and hasn’t been a starter in the NFL, but he has good potential. He’s averaged 5.7 yards per carry in each of the last two seasons, rushing for eight touchdowns in 2016. He has good size and speed, and has the necessary tools to be a three-down back. The Vikings need to draft a running back this offseason, but Gillislee would be a good fallback plan.
WR Kenny Britt (Rams)
Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen are a good duo at receiver, but who knows what Laquon Treadwell will be in the NFL, and Cordarrelle Patterson is a free agent. Britt had his best season as a pro in 2016, topping 1,000 yards for the first time. He’s a big target, which is something the Vikings lack when they get into the red zone. Britt doesn’t have the speed he once had, but he’d be a good boundary receiver with Thielen in the slot and Diggs on the other side. He’d fit nicely in Shurmur’s offense.
CB Captain Munnerlyn (Vikings)
Munnerlyn isn’t a flashy re-signing, but he is a necessary one. With today’s shift towards nickel base defenses, the No. 3 cornerback is incredibly important. Munnerlyn played well in that role last season and is still relatively young. With Trae Waynes’ future uncertain and Terence Newman a free agent, the Vikings have to do their best to keep the secondary intact. Munnerlyn will be affordable to retain.
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY SportsJeff Hanisch
G Kevin Zeitler (Bengals)
Zeitler is a premier guard, and with the way teams are prioritizing that position more and more, he’s bound to be paid accordingly. The Vikings need help across the offensive line, particularly at right guard with Brandon Fusco out of the picture. Zeitler, along with a draft pick or another free-agent signing, can give the Vikings a formidable unit up front and help open up running lanes for their backs. After all, they failed to do that on a weekly basis last season, owning one of the worst ground games in the NFL.
RT Ricky Wagner (Ravens)
Wagner is the top available right tackle, and he won’t be cheap. But when it comes to linemen, you get what you pay for. The Vikings learned that the hard way last season, using multiple players at each tackle spot. Wagner would alleviate those concerns from Day 1 and provide good frontside protection for Sam Bradford. He’s also just 27 years old, so there are plenty of good years ahead of him.