The Minnesota Vikings have some serious concerns to address during 2017 NFL Free Agency. These five moves would be steps in the right direction for a franchise hoping to regain its contender status.
Following a 2016 campaign that started strong and ended in heartbreak, the Minnesota Vikings have some ground to gain in the next few months. If they plan on capitalizing on their potential this upcoming season, the Vikings will need to make some notable additions during 2017 NFL Free Agency.
At this moment, they have about $37.6 million in cap space to work with, according to Spotrac.com. While that’s nothing compared to the spending power of some other teams, it’s enough to fill some holes and add some depth in the next month.
More importantly, it’s an opportunity for the Vikings to patch up their pitiful offensive line. If it wasn’t for their miserable front five, the 2016 season might have ended a little differently. That’s the past, though. It’s 2017, and Minnesota has a number of fixes that must be made. The progress must start during free agency.
So who will the Vikings spend their hard-earned money on this offseason? No one knows for sure, but we can certainly speculate.
With that in mind, I’ve put together my predictions for five noteworthy free agents the Vikings will sign in March. The list may not be filled with stars like some fans may be hoping for, but all five would be welcomed additions with the talent to help this team take a step forward in 2017.
This offseason, the Vikings will be searching far and wide for help at the three-technique. Sharrif Floyd simply can’t be counted on, and none of their current depth can adequately fill the interior pass rusher role.
I can assure you that Stacy McGee would fill it with ease, though. The Oakland Raiders’ former sixth-round pick has had an up-and-down career up to this point, but is coming off a 2016 campaign filled with promise. If it wasn’t for the injury bug limiting his snaps, McGee may have emerged as an up-and-coming interior defender.
Instead, he’s now likely headed for the open market with plenty of potential to offer his next team. When healthy, he’s an outstanding pass-rushing presence along the interior who can also hold his own against the run. Pro Football Focus even went as far as giving him the 24th-best rating among interior defenders in 2016.
Don’t let his 2.5 career sacks fool you—McGee can be a force at the three-tech. Playing alongside Everson Griffen, Danielle Hunter and Linval Joseph, there’s no way he wouldn’t find immediate success in the Twin Cities.
It’s surprising how far under the radar Tim Lelito has flown this offseason. Although not exactly a household name, the New Orleans Saints’ own Swiss Army knife certainly brings a lot of value to the table. That’s why the Vikings would be wise to get him under contract in the next month.
Put simply, Lelito can do it all along the offensive line. Although primarily a guard, the former undrafted free agent has NFL experience at tackle and center as well. Especially considering the injury issues Minnesota dealt with last year, that type of versatility would be invaluable.
Don’t fret, though—Lelito is more than just versatility. He struggled with pass protection early in his career, but earned exceptional marks from Pro Football Focus in that department last season. Any Saints fan would also back up the assertion that he can be a dominant run blocker, something the Vikings sorely lacked in 2016.
Is Lelito the splash signing fans are hoping for? Not exactly. But he’s a tough, physical blocker with the pass-pro chops and flexibility to provide immense value for the Minnesota front five. If they can convince him to leave New Orleans and come to the Midwest, the Vikings will be in a much better position heading into 2017.
By all accounts, Alterraun Verner was a free agency bust for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The team would most likely agree, especially after they cut the cord with him only a few days ago after three tumultuous seasons.
Despite his poor play for Tampa Bay, Verner has star-esque abilities in there somewhere. There’s a reason why he was named second-team All-Pro in 2013, earning a four-year, $25.75 million deal from the Buccaneers that following offseason. Now he’s back on the market, and the Vikings should pounce.
Why, you might ask? Well, because the potential is there for him to be a quality contributor at cornerback. Things obviously didn’t pan out in Florida, but a trip to Minnesota to play under Mike Zimmer might be enough to bring out the best in Verner. We’ve seen what playing for the Vikings has done for the likes of Xavier Rhodes and Harrison Smith.
On top of that, Verner should come at a discount. His status as a free agency bust will make potential buyers wary, effectively driving down his price. With their lack of elite spending power, the Vikings could use a cheap, starting-caliber cornerback to help replace Captain Munnerlyn and (potentially) Terence Newman.
Even if the Vikings aren’t huge players during free agency, that doesn’t mean they can’t make a head-turning signing or two. The first one I’m predicting will happen is the addition of Latavius Murray, one of the best available running backs this offseason.
After declining Adrian Peterson’s option for 2017, the Vikings suddenly had a huge role in the backfield. While bringing Peterson back isn’t out of the question, it may be best for the parties to part ways with how the last few seasons have gone.
As it turns out, Minnesota has been entertaining the idea of signing Murray even before they bid Peterson farewell. According to Draft Analyst’s Tony Pauline, the Vikings have shown “a good deal of interest” in the Raiders’ featured back. In my opinion, their interest in the former sixth-round pick is well warranted.
While many question his ability to be a starter in the NFL, I believe he can be a star under the right circumstances. Obviously getting healthy would be a great start, but he also needs the opportunity to carry an offense. With Minnesota, he wouldn’t be expected to split carries with two rookies—just Jerick McKinnon on passing downs.
The addition of Lelito was a start. However, it was far from the solve-all for one of the NFL’s worst offensive lines. The Minnesota front five was a disaster in 2016, which is why adding some quality starters in the next month or so is imperative to this franchise’s success in 2017.
Unfortunately, I don’t think they’ll have the cap space to grab this year’s top offensive line talent. Even then, it’s not like there are a ton of outstanding starting left tackles out there for the signing. However, they need to do something significant, especially with no first-round pick in April’s draft.
So Russell Okung it is. Matt Kalil likely won’t re-sign because some team with more cap space will make him too expensive. Signing Andrew Whitworth would be ideal, but should fall out of Minnesota’s price range if he’s even available.
Okung, however, will likely land a more reasonable contract. Plus, according to CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora, the Vikings have already reached out to the former No. 6 overall pick. It’s clear they need a new blindside starter, and Okung was serviceable for the Denver Broncos a season ago.
Don’t get me wrong, Okung is no home run, especially considering his injury history. However, he played all 16 games for the Broncos in 2016 and was held his own. At this point, Okung would be a monumental upgrade over T.J. Clemmings.