2017 NFL Free Agency: 5 Bold Predictions for Minnesota Vikings
Taking this roster to the next level means the Minnesota Vikings will need to make moves during 2017 NFL free agency—maybe even some bold moves.
The Minnesota Vikings’ 2016 campaign was a huge letdown. After starting the season with five straight wins, they tanked the rest of the year, eventually ending at 8-8. Despite that historic collapse, there’s still hope for this franchise moving forward.
Realistically, there are only a few issues to address this offseason. Obviously the offensive line requires a serious overhaul, and some extra weapons are needed on offense. The defense could also use a new starter or two along with added depth.
Put simply, upgrades are needed if the Vikings plan on being contenders in 2017. The first step in the process of making said upgrades is winning NFL free agency, which is set to begin on March 9. In anticipation of the start of the offseason madness, I’ve put together this list of bold predictions for what the Vikings will do when that time comes.
Will they manage to sign some big-name free agents? Will they sever ties with a surprise player? Can they get the whole Adrian Peterson situation figured out? Let me answer some of those questions with my five “bold” predictions for what the Vikings will do during 2017 NFL free agency.
5. Vikings Convince AP to Take Massive Pay Cut
One of the biggest issues on the Vikings’ offseason to-do list is figuring out what the future holds for Adrian Peterson. There are a number of directions the situation could go in between now and the start of 2017 NFL free agency.
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If he’s going to stay in the Twin Cities, Peterson is going to have to take a significant pay cut. He’s set to count $18 million against the cap this season, an unfathomable figure for a running back these days. Especially with the other areas the Vikings must address, they’ll need that cap space to fix this roster.
If Peterson isn’t willing to take the aforementioned pay cut, Minnesota will likely let him go. Although it’s unclear if he’s willing to lower his cap hit, Peterson recently told NFL Network he’d like to retire as a Viking.
While assuming that’s true, I’m guessing Peterson lets go of a big chunk of his salary to stay in Minnesota. I’m talking about cutting his cap hit from $18 million to about $4 million. It’s not going to be easy for Peterson, but it’s not like he has a ton of leverage at this point.
Peterson has only played more than three games in two of the last three seasons. Last year, he averaged a whopping 1.9 yards per carry. It’s clear that he’s slowing down, but can still be an integral part of this offense. He just needs to accept that he’s no longer worth $18 million.
4. Mike Zimmer Lures Dre’ Kirkpatrick to Minnesota
With Captain Munnerlyn set to enter free agency and Terence Newman possibly headed for retirement, the Vikings need reinforcements at cornerback. It’s unclear how prepared youngsters Trae Waynes and Mackenzie Alexander are to start, so adding an experienced option would be ideal.
With that in mind, it seems fitting for Mike Zimmer to go out and grab his former first-round pick. Dre’ Kirkpatrick is a pending free agent, and is familiar with Zimmer from their days together with the Cincinnati Bengals. A reunion seems like an excellent way for Minnesota to kick off 2017 NFL Free Agency.
While Kirkpatrick isn’t exactly a star, he’s shown significant improvements in recent years. Coming off another strong 2016 campaign, he’d be a welcomed addition to the Minnesota secondary. Especially with no clear starter across from Xavier Rhodes, the Vikings could use a player with starting experience.
I don’t think Kirkpatrick will cost too much to acquire, although the Bengals should make a push to re-sign him. Assuming they don’t push too hard, I’d guess he’d at least entertain the idea of reuniting with Zimmer.
The Vikings have a need at cornerback, and Kirkpatrick can definitely fill it. With Waynes and Alexander still question marks at this point, convincing the five-year veteran to come to the Twin Cities seems like a good idea.
3. Vikings Re-Sign Matt Kalil to Team-Friendly Deal
If the Vikings are to actually compete in 2017, their offensive line must improve. While I wouldn’t necessarily call the return of Matt Kalil a huge improvement, anything is better than T.J. Clemmings at left tackle.
By bringing back the former No. 4 overall pick, the Vikings would again have a serviceable option on the blindside. He may be injury prone and is coming off a 2016 campaign lost almost entirely to a hip injury, but we’ve seen glimpses of greatness from him in the past.
Especially with the offensive tackle market so thin this offseason, Minnesota isn’t going to have a ton of options. So why not bring back their starter and give him one final chance to prove he can be the cornerstone left tackle for this franchise?
That’s why I’m predicting he’ll return on a one-year, “prove it” deal. It’s bold because there will be several teams interested in Kalil despite his durability and consistency issues. The dearth of tackle talent this offseason is overwhelming, but the Vikings will find a way to convince Kalil he needs to come back and earn a long-term contract.
Otherwise, the Vikings may be forced to rely on a bargain-bin addition or a rookie to hold down the right side. That wouldn’t be ideal, but again—anything is better than Clemmings.
2. Kevin Zeitler Also Heads to Minnesota
After saving all of that money on AP and Kalil, the Vikings have some spending to do. Chances are they’ll do it along the offensive line, assuming some worthy talent is actually available. In this hypothetical situation, though, I’m predicting Kevin Zeitler will hit the open market after failed attempts by the Bengals to re-sign him. They’ve been a bit hesitant to keep homegrown talent in recent years, so it’s perfectly feasible they let Zeitler walk as well.
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Seeing as that’s the situation here, the Vikings pounce at the opportunity to land an outstanding guard. It may cost them a pretty penny, but they simply can’t afford to continue settling for mediocrity along the offensive line. It’s not like they have the most durable of quarterbacks heading into 2017.
Now keep in mind, signing Zeitler won’t be easy. According to Spotrac.com, the Bengals’ star guard is expected to command a contract paying him an average of $11.6 million per year. That’s a lot of dough for a team like Minnesota to cough up, but it’s not out of the question.
If the Vikings are serious about keeping Sam Bradford well protected, they’re going to have to pay big. Zeitler may cost them a huge chunk of cap space, but it would be a worthwhile investment nonetheless.
1. Sharrif Floyd is Surprisingly Shown the Door
It’s clear heading into 2017 that Zimmer is not happy with what he’s seen from Sharrif Floyd. The former first-round pick is everything the Vikings want in a defensive tackle, but he can’t seem to stay healthy long enough to make a significant impact.
Last season, Floyd only played in one game before a mysterious knee injury brought his campaign to a screeching halt. The surgery he underwent typically carries a six-week recovery time, but Minnesota instead watched him sit out the rest of 2016.
It got to the point where Zimmer failed to hide his disappointment in public comments.
“We kept hanging around and hanging around,” Zimmer said (via 1500 ESPN). “We may need the roster spot at some point.”
Now obviously that was in regards to last season, but that doesn’t mean the sentiment can’t ring true in 2017 as well. The Vikings can save $6,757,000 in cap space by cutting Floyd loose before March 9. With plenty of potential moves for them to make this offseason, it’s not out of the question for them to cut the cord.
If Zimmer and Co. feel Floyd isn’t ready to contribute early in 2017, they could make the difficult decision to release him. In this scenario, I’m boldly predicting that will be the eventual outcome.