Minnesota Vikings 2018 impending free agents primer
FOX Sports North
After their season of destiny ended abruptly in the NFC championship game, general manager Rick Spielman and the Minnesota Vikings are faced with some tough decisions this offseason -- especially at the quarterback position. FOX Sports North takes a look at Minnesota’s 19 players set to hit free agency. (Note: free-agent and salary information via OverTheCap.com.)
The exclusive rights free agents
An exclusive rights free agent can only be signed by the Vikings, as long as Minnesota tenders that player an offer. If not, that player becomes an unrestricted free agent. Minnesota has three exclusive rights free agents: RB Mack Brown, S Anthony Harris and LS Jeff Overbaugh.
Why the Vikings would re-sign him: Berger has been a steady presence on the Vikings offensive line since he signed with the team in 2011. He started 14 games at right guard and filled in for rookie Pat Elflein at center for two contests as well. At age 35, the 12-year veteran showed no signs of slowing down. But …
Why they wouldn't: All signs point to Berger hanging up the cleats for retirement.
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY SportsBrad Rempel
QB Sam Bradford, unrestricted
2017 stats: 2 games (2 starts), 32-of-43 passing for 382 yards, 3 touchdowns and 0 interceptions, 124.4 passer rating
2017 cap number: $18 million
Why the Vikings would re-sign him: Bradford was incredible Week 1, earning NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors after throwing for three touchdowns and 346 yards in Minnesota’s 29-19 win over the Saints. That’s his ceiling. Bradford at his best is easily good enough to lead a team to a Super Bowl – especially paired with the Vikings’ top-ranked defense.
Why they wouldn't: Injury concern. It was tough to watch Bradford play the last time we saw him on the gridiron -- Week 5 against the Bears at Soldier Field. He hobbled around for 30 minutes of play before head coach Mike Zimmer benched him for Case Keenum, and Bradford was placed on injured reserve several weeks later. It would be more than risky to sign Bradford to an expensive deal solely because of his knee issues.
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QB Teddy Bridgewater, unrestricted
2017 stats: 1 game, 0-of-2 passing and 1 interception
2017 cap number: $2,179,387
Why the Vikings would re-sign him: Once Minnesota’s quarterback of the future, Bridgewater is at a crossroads in his career. The 25-year-old looked primed to take a big step forward before his tragic knee injury occurred in August 2016. Now healthy again, Minnesota could give Bridgewater a chance to take control of the huddle. He’ll be a cheaper option than re-signing Keenum and Bradford, giving the Vikings breathing room in the salary cap to sign linebackers Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks as well as wide receiver Stefon Diggs (all set for FA after next season) to long-term deals. Plus, Zimmer has always been fond of Teddy and has believed in him since the Vikings drafted him in the first round in 2014.
Why they wouldn't: The Vikings know the status of Bridgewater’s knee better than any other team in the league. If Spielman and the doctors decide his health is too risky to invest in, they’ll let Bridgewater walk and hand the reins back to Keenum, Bradford or even free-agent quarterback Kirk Cousins. Many teams in the NFL are desperate for a quarterback, but would the Vikings want to get in a bidding war for Bridgewater?
CB Tramaine Brock, unrestricted
2017 stats: 11 games, 1 pass defensed, 8 tackles
2017 cap number: $695,000
Why the Vikings would re-sign him: Brock was solid on special teams and did what he was asked to do on defense -- although he only appeared in 4.5 percent of the snaps.
Why they wouldn't: Brock will be 30 years old when training camp comes around in August. The Vikings can sign or draft a player for cheap and get the same production.
Why the Vikings would re-sign him: Easton proved himself to be a legitimate NFL starter at guard this season while playing next to the rookie Elflein, not allowing a single sack in 12 starts. His stock may have actually risen after he suffered a season-ending ankle injury in Week 15, as Minnesota’s protection on the O-line noticeably decreased without Easton on the field.
Why they wouldn't: At age 25, Easton is entering the prime of his career has proved he deserves starting money in the NFL. The only question is if his asking price would be too much -- or if another team is willing to overpay.
USA Today Sports
WR Michael Floyd, unrestricted
2017 stats: 11 games (1 start), 10 receptions, 78 yards
2017 cap number: $1,137,059
Why the Vikings would re-sign him: Floyd has a 1,000-yard season under his belt (2013) and brings experience and his large 6-foot-3, 220-pound frame to the receivers room.
Why they wouldn't: Either Floyd regressed significantly in 2017 or the Vikings simply opted to not utilize him in the offense. He played in just 167 snaps (13.2 percent) this season and was targeted only 17 times. Both parties might want to go separate ways.
Associated PressAndy Clayton-King
K Kai Forbath, unrestricted
2017 stats: 16 games; 32 of 38, 84.2% (field goals); 34 of 39, 87.2% (extra points)
2017 cap number: $775,000
Why the Vikings would re-sign him: Forbath missed four extra points in Minnesota’s first eight games, but settled in after that, sending 27 of his final 28 PAT attempts through the uprights. Forbath tied for ninth in the league with 32 field goal makes and proved he was reliable in the playoffs (3 of 4 field goals; 3 of 3 extra points) – something the Vikings were looking for when they released Blair Walsh in the offseason.
Why they wouldn't: Kickers and the Vikings – especially in the Zimmer era -- have always had a strange relationship. Zimmer was clearly frustrated with Forbath’s missed extra points early in the season, so we’ll see if that frustration carries into the offseason or if Forbath’s strong finish wiped the coach’s memory.
Associated PressRich Barnes
DT Tom Johnson, unrestricted
2017 stats: 16 games (15 starts), 32 tackles, 2.0 sacks
2017 cap number: $2.35M
Why the Vikings would re-sign him: Johnson has been with the Vikings since Zimmer’s first year at the helm in 2014 and has played a key role as a run-stopping defensive tackle. His 32 tackles this season is the second-best mark of his career, so the 288-pound lineman is still producing at age 33.
Why they wouldn't: It’s possible the Vikings are looking for even more of an upgrade at defensive tackle – whether that’s early in the draft or in free agency. This team is led by its defense, so signing an elite tackle – instead of an aging yet steady player like Johnson – could bring Zimmer’s team to the next level.
The Associated PressBruce Kluckhohn
QB Case Keenum, unrestricted
2017 stats: 15 games (14 starts), 325-of-481 passing for 3,547 yards, 22 TDs and 7 INTs, 98.3 QB rating
2017 cap number: $1,906,250
Why the Vikings would re-sign him: After taking over for an injured Sam Bradford in Week 2, Keenum ran away with the starting quarterback job and led Minnesota to a 13-3 regular season record and a memorable playoff win against the Saints. You can’t argue with his stats. Keenum’s 98.3 quarterback rating ranked seventh in the NFL, ahead of QBs like Aaron Rodgers, Philip Rivers, Russell Wilson and Ben Roethlisberger. Best of all, Keenum hasn’t suffered any significant injuries in his six-year career, something you can’t say about Bridgewater or Bradford. Even though he’s 29 years old, Keenum could just be getting started.
Why they wouldn't: That 2017 cap number is nowhere near where Keenum will earn next season and beyond. He’s projected to earn around $15 million next season. If the Vikings do want him back but can’t shell out that kind of money, he might opt to follow the cash in free agency and sign a big, once-in-a-lifetime contract while he has the chance. Also, there’s a risk factor how Keenum will play in the system of Minnesota’s new offensive coordinator, whoever that may be.
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Why the Vikings would re-sign him: Lamur has been a special teams standout the past two seasons in Minnesota – playing 166 snaps with that unit this season. He also serves as a quality backup behind Barr, Kendricks and rookie Ben Gedeon at linebacker, as Lamur played a season-high 38 snaps against the Packers in Week 6 and tallied three tackles. Every elite defense has loads of depth, and Lamur has been that for the Vikings and then some.
Why they wouldn't: Lamur might decide to go elsewhere for a starting position. He started 15 games with the Bengals from 2014-15 but hasn’t started a single game since signing with the Vikings in 2016. Plus, his $2.75 million price tag is quite hefty for someone who took less than 8 percent of the defensive snaps.
Dale ZanineDale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
RB Jerick McKinnon, unrestricted
2017 stats: 150 rushes for 570 yards, 3 touchdowns; 51 receptions for 421 yards, 2 touchdowns
2017 cap number: $828,750
Why the Vikings would re-sign him: McKinnon really stepped up big for the Vikings after rookie standout Dalvin Cook suffered a season-ending injury in September. The “Jet” caught 51 passes out of the backfield – the most for a Vikings running back since Moe Williams in 2003. He was a big reason why the team went from the NFL’s worst rushing offense in 2016 to a top-10 team on the ground in 2017.
Why they wouldn't: Cook will be the featured back for years to come, and he can do just about everything McKinnon does, but better. Unless they cut Latavius Murray, the 1-2 punch of Cook and Murray looks promising for next year, leaving McKinnon free to find a destination where he’ll be featured.
AP PhotoJeff Roberson
CB Terence Newman, unrestricted
2017 stats: 16 games (7 starts), 35 TKL, 5 PD, 1 INT
2017 cap number: $3,584,375
Why the Vikings would re-sign him: Despite his age, Newman is still productive in his role as an extra cornerback, although he can start as well, and has been especially useful in the slot. He's played a lot with Mike Zimmer over the years he's a pseudo right-hand man and know the defense perhaps as well as anyone. Newman also provides some veteran leadership to what is still a relatively young cornerback group. A de facto assistant coach, Newman has said he intends to play in 2018.
Why they wouldn't: Newman will turn 40 right before the start of the 2018 regular season. While he's still productive, Newman played in just 55.8 percent of Minnesota's defensive snaps, the lowest -- by more than 20 percent -- of his three seasons with the Vikings. Only one cornerback has played at 40 years old in the NFL -- Darrell Green, who was known for his speed, which is not Newman's calling card.
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RB Bishop Sankey, restricted
2017 stats: Did not play.
2017 cap number: $418,000
Why the Vikings would re-sign him: Minnesota will need running backs -- Jerick McKinnon could be gone and Latavius Murray is a candidate to be a salary-cap cut. Other than Dalvin Cook, Mack Brown (an exclusive-rights free agent) is the only other running back on the Vikings' roster. Heck, someone has to tote the ball in the preseason and as a restricted free agent, he's a likely easy re-sign.
Why they wouldn't: Sankey is coming off a knee injury and hasn't played a down in the NFL since the 2015 season with Tennessee, which drafted him in the second round in 2014. It's not like there won't be other younger, cheaper backs on the market or draft.
Timothy T. LudwigTimothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Spor
CB/PR/KR Marcus Sherels, unrestricted
2017 stats: 24.6-yard kick return average, 9.5-yard punt return average, six TKL
2017 cap number: $2 million
Why the Vikings would re-sign him: Sherels has been one of the best punt returners in the NFL over his career, boasting a career average of 10.4 yards per return with five touchdowns. He was seventh in the NFL this past season in yards per punt return.
Why they wouldn't: He commanded a pretty hefty salary in 2017 for someone who just returns kicks -- Sherels has just 33 defensive snaps combined over the past three seasons, including 20 in 2017. How much do the Vikings want to spend on such a one-dimensional player? Sherels also will turn 31 on Sept. 30 -- at what point do you risk the eventual falloff in speed and production?
Why the Vikings would re-sign him: If Berger retires, the Vikings have an open starting spot at guard. Even if they go with another option next season, Minnesota still needs depth on its O-line, and Sirles definitely provides it. In two seasons with the Vikings, Sirles has played at both left guard and right tackle, offering the kind of versatility Minnesota will miss if Berger does hang up the cleats.
Why they wouldn't: There’s not a great argument for not re-signing Sirles, unless some other team decides to give him a hefty contract which the Vikings aren't comfortable matching.
Jim DedmonJim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
DT Shamar Stephen, unrestricted
2017 stats: 15 games (1 start), 28 tackles, 1.0 sack
2017 cap number: $1,813,287
Why the Vikings would re-sign him: Sharrif Floyd, Minnesota’s first-round pick in 2013, will likely retire in the offseason due to health concerns, so the Vikings need help the D-Line.
Why they wouldn't: Like most other questions about depth, a lot of the Vikings’ decision comes down to money. Minnesota also has Jaleel Johnson, an up-and-coming fourth-round pick from last year’s draft, that’s cheaper and could step into a bigger role next season.