The Minnesota Vikings have made some strides during 2017 NFL free agency, but that doesn’t mean more upgrades can’t be made in the second wave.
The first wave of 2017 NFL free agency has passed, and the Minnesota Vikings appear to be making progress. They’ve addressed their miserable offensive line, but still have a number of concerns that must be taken care of before we move on to the draft.
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Like a couple of other teams, the Vikings’ bigger issue right now appears to be the players they’re losing. They’ve already watched Matt Kalil, Cordarrelle Patterson, Captain Munnerlyn and others leave for greener pastures. The Vikings’ “toxic leadership” has been mentioned as a reason for the mass exodus (via the Pioneer Press’ Chris Tomasson).
Maybe that’s why the Vikings have struggled to sign some of the top options on the open market. They made a play at Alshon Jeffery, who shunned their long-term offer for a one-year contract with the Philadelphia Eagles. Kalil also received significant interest from Minnesota, but opted to join his brother in Carolina.
Still, the Vikings possess the spending power (about $31 million, via Spotrac.com) to make some more moves. Luckily for them, there are several big names still available who could help get this team back on track in 2017.
When the Vikings decided to decline Adrian Peterson’s 2017 option, running back immediately made its way towards the top of their list of needs. Luckily for them, the running back market has been one of the slowest moving of free agency.
There are a few names still available who could fill the void. One that appears to be on Minnesota’s radar is Latavius Murray, the Raiders’ starter for the last two seasons. As a matter of fact, the Vikings were “showing a good deal of interest” prior to the start of 2017 NFL free agency (via Draft Analyst’s Tony Pauline).
Some folks are concerned about Murray’s average showing since taking over as the starter. In two seasons, he’s managed only four yards per carry while losing a large amount of carries to two rookies in 2016. For a player with his physical talents and impressive size-speed combination, Murray should be more effective than he has been.
Still, the natural abilities are there. He’s battled numerous injuries, and didn’t seem to have the backing from the coaching staff he needed. Maybe that would change in Minnesota, giving him enough opportunities to finally unlock the potential he appears to possess.
In 2016, the Vikings fielded one of the most underrated cornerback groups in the NFL. However, with Terence Newman potentially retiring and Captain Munnerlyn rejoining the Carolina Panthers, more stable options are needed—Minnesota can’t rely on Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander just yet.
Nickell Robey-Coleman could be a solution, at least in the slot. Munnerlyn held down the role for the last three seasons, and he did it very well. With him out of the picture, though, the Vikings need to find a capable replacement. His four years in the NFL would tell you that Robey-Coleman is exactly that.
While teams are wary of his 5-8, 165-pound frame, Robey-Coleman has proven to be a capable playmaker despite his diminutive size. In four seasons with the Bills, he racked up 167 tackles, five sacks, three interceptions, 28 passes defended and three touchdowns. His lack of size hurts him at times, but we’ve seen him produce highlight plays in the past.
The Vikings have already been mentioned as a team that has shown interest in Robey-Coleman (via Tomasson). I’m a firm believer the USC product is an underrated option in the slot, and could help keep this Minnesota secondary strong in 2017.
After sporting one of the worst offensive lines in 2016, the Vikings are making progress this offseason. They’ve already signed Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers to hold down the tackle positions, but the interior of the line still needs work.
The Vikings could try to rely on the mix of Alex Boone and Willie Beavers at guard, with Joe Berger returning at center. However, that group (outside of Boone) doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence. Beavers looked overwhelmed as a rookie, and the 34-year-old Berger can’t stay healthy. Put simply, more talent is needed along the interior.
While the 33-year-old Nick Mangold has also battled injuries as of late, he’s a clear upgrade over Berger. For the past decade, he’s been one of the NFL’s top centers, and appears to have a couple of years left in him. Assuming he can stay healthy, Mangold would be a notable upgrade for the Minnesota front five.
Better yet, it would allow Berger to slide out to guard, pushing Beavers back to the bench where he belongs. That starting five wouldn’t be in any discussions as the best in the NFL, but it would be a marked improvement on what the Vikings fielded for most of the 2016 campaign.
Coming into the offseason, the Vikings appeared to at least have a solid receiving corps with considerable depth. Then, they lost both Patterson and Johnson to free agency. Now they’re left with two quality starters and almost no noteworthy depth.
I’m guessing they’ll address that during the draft, but adding a veteran wouldn’t be the worst idea. In fact, there’s one name in particular who I think could be a huge steal for the Vikings if they opted to sign him. Yes, I’m talking about Anquan Boldin.
Sure, he’s 36 years old and just now decided to forego retirement (via ESPN’s Jim Trotter). However, a quick look back at his 2016 season will show you that he’s still capable of positively influencing a passing game. Last year, he caught 67 passes for 584 yards and eight touchdowns for the Lions. I’m sure he could do similar damage in Minnesota.
The Vikings are set with Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen as starters. With Boldin in the mix, they’d have a tremendous option out of the slot who can consistently move the chains and create mismatches in the red zone. It may seem like a silly idea, but signing Boldin would be an underrated addition for Minnesota.
Leading up to the start of free agency, I was very skeptical about a potential Eddie Lacy signing—for any team. He showed tremendous abilities early in his career, but has watched weight issues and injuries plummet his stock over the last two seasons.
What’s going to change in 2017? Is a new team suddenly going to convince him to take his health more seriously? Can the Vikings really find a way to revive his career, bringing back the days where folks considered Lacy one of the NFL’s top up-and-coming backs? I don’t know, but it may be worth a shot at this point.
Bringing back Peterson may be the most likely option, but it doesn’t solve much. He’s been rather inefficient as of late, can’t stay healthy and isn’t getting any younger. Murray is an option as previously mentioned, but hasn’t enjoyed the same success as Lacy. What sets the Packers’ power back apart is he possesses by far the most upside of the current options.
Lacy already met with the Vikings on Sunday, but left without a deal (via ESPN’s Ben Goessling). That, however, doesn’t count Minnesota out as a potential landing spot for the former second-round pick. If he can get his weight under control and keep his ankles intact, Lacy could be a big-time difference maker for the Vikings.