Minnesota Vikings 2019 impending free agents primer
FOX Sports North
Last season the Minnesota Vikings had 13 players who were unrestricted free agents and they re-signed and kept just one -- Marcus Sherels (Kai Forbath was also re-signed but cut before the season began). This year Sherels is back on the market and the Vikings have several other key players who they'll have to make decisions on whether to bring back to Minnesota or not. FOX Sports North takes a look at the 15 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's exclusive rights free agents are: FB C.J. Ham, OG Cedric Lang, TE Josiah Price and P Matt Wile.
2018 cap number: $412,586 (prorated from $876,745)
Why the Vikings would re-sign him: Claimed off waivers from Detroit in early November, Abdullah served mainly as a kick returner and he did a solid job and could be brought back in that role. If he had qualified for NFL leaders, his 25.8 average would have ranked seventh. Abdullah could also provide some veteran insurance at running back, especially if Latavius Murray isn't re-signed.
Why they wouldn't: The 2015 fourth-round pick fell out of favor quickly with the Lions and was barely used on offense in Minnesota, on the field for only 17 snaps and never even received a carry. The Vikings could easily find someone with a similar (or better) skillset at a lower cost.
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K Dan Bailey, unrestricted
2018 stats: 14 games, 21 of 28 field-goal attempts; 30 of 31 extra-point attempts
2018 cap number: $1,750,000 (prorated from $1,983,333)
Why the Vikings would re-sign him: From 2011-16, Bailey was one of the best kickers in the NFL. While he's struggled the past two seasons, perhaps a new special teams coach can help Bailey regain his form. But also, there aren't a lot of veteran options out there and Vikings fans surely know the pain of trying a rookie or untested kicker.
Why they wouldn't: Bailey connected on 89.5 percent of his field-goal attempts from 2011-16 but just 75.0 percent over the past two seasons. In 2018, Bailey connected on only 5 of 11 attempts from 40 yards or beyond. Only three kickers had a worse percentage than Bailey (4-for-9, 44.4 percent) from 40-49 yards: Arizona's Phil Dawson (1-for-3), Carolina and Tampa Bay's Chandler Catanzaro (0-for-3) and the Rams' Sam Ficken (0-for-1). Daniel Carlson, drafted by Minnesota and subsequently cut after hitting just 1 of 4 field-goal attempts, made 16 of 17 with Oakland including 8 of 9 from 40-49 yards and all three attempts from 50-plus.
Why the Vikings would re-sign him: Statistically, Barr's numbers took a bit of a dip in 2018, but he remains an every-down linebacker -- playing at least 92.8 percent of the snaps in four of his five seasons, including three times at 96 percent or higher -- and there aren't too many like those in the NFL these days. Barr has been named to four straight Pro Bowls, and would be tough to replace on the outside. Minnesota could slap the franchise tag on him to keep him around for (at least) one more year.
Why they wouldn't: While Barr indeed can indeed play on every down, his coverage skills have diminished, as anyone who has seen him try to cover a wide receiver can attest. Barr now might be a better fit for 3-4 defense as an edge rusher rather than Minnesota's 4-3. Plus, he's likely going to have more than a few suitors, which could drive up his price.
Why the Vikings would re-sign him: Minnesota is going to need offensive linemen and while Compton might not be best suited for a starting role, his ability to play both tackle and guard is valuable. Pro Football Focus rated Compton as an average guard.
Why they wouldn't: Most would agree the Vikings need to upgrade the offensive line, and six sacks allowed by a guard is, well, a lot. Usually you only see numbers that high from a tackle (and even in those cases it's not good).
Greg M. CooperGreg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
G/C Nick Easton, unrestricted
2018 stats: Did not play
2018 cap number: $2,914,000
Why the Vikings would re-sign him: Easton's season went sideways back in training camp, when he had season-ending surgery to repair a back injury. He brings some versatility to the line, and could probably could be signed for less money since he didn't play last year.
Why they wouldn't: Injuries were a concern even prior to his latest surgery. His 2017 season ended when he fractured an ankle. There's definitely risk involved, and if the Vikings feel strongly that Pat Elflein -- entering his third season -- can be the guy at center, Easton becomes more expendable.
Why the Vikings would re-sign him: Given his first real opportunity to play - -he had 578 defensive snaps combined his first three seasons and 623 in 2018 -- Harris more than held his own. Pro Football Focus ranked Harris as the third-best safety in the NFL with its grading system. Harris' three interceptions tied for the team lead. Seems like someone you might want to bring back and as a restricted free agent, the Vikings can match any offer sheet.
Why they wouldn't: Coming off a season like he had, Harris could be popular on the market. As mentioned, Minnesota can match any offer -- but exactly how much do they want to spend on a safety? This is usually not a position group where teams allocate a lot of resources and the Vikings already have Harrison Smith making $10.75 million in 2019.
Why the Vikings would re-sign him: He has starting experience, can play both left and right tackle and won't cost an arm and a leg to have around. Pro Football Focus rated him as average, which seems about right for a depth piece along the line.
Why they wouldn't: While Hill started the first eight games (having to leave two due to injury), he was barely used after the midway point of the season, accumulating just 49 offensive snaps over the final eight games. After allowing five sacks in limited time and barely playing, how much faith do the Vikings have in him?
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S George Iloka, unrestricted
2018 stats: 16 games (3 starts), 16 TKL, 1 FF
2018 cap number: $880,000
Why the Vikings would re-sign him: Mike Zimmer coached Iloka in Cincinnati, where the safety ended up having several big seasons, recording nine interceptions from 2013-17. Iloka was picked up late in training camp after being cut by the Bengals, so perhaps a full year in the system would help.
Why they wouldn't: After Iloka was surprisingly let go by Cincinnati, which signed him to a five-year, $30 million contract (only $5 million guaranteed) in 2016, he hooked up with former mentor Zimmer … who promptly barely played him. Iloka saw extended defensive snaps in just two games but saw just 23 snaps combined in the rest, although he did play a lot on special teams (238). Iloka might be looking for a bigger role -- and more big money -- again.
2018 cap number: $882,353 (prorated from $1 million)
Why the Vikings would re-sign him: After being cut by Seattle, where he signed as a free agent after spending 2014-17 with Minnesota, Johnson resumed his place as a rotational defensive tackle and put up decent numbers despite usually playing less than half the snaps. He's had his best success in the NFL with Zimmer and the Vikings.
Why they wouldn't: Johnson will be 35 years old next season so there has to be some doubt as to how much he has left in the tank. Also, he did leave Minnesota last season looking for greener pastures.
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Why the Vikings would re-sign him: You might have heard this before, but it doesn't hurt to have veteran depth and someone with starting experience. Jones was adequate in his three starts.
Why they wouldn't: Barring injuries to others, he won't start for the Vikings and could look elsewhere. He also had a hefty price tag in 2017. Oh, and after his three starts, he appeared in just three offensive snaps the rest of the season.
Why the Vikings would re-sign him: While Dalvin Cook, when healthy, will be the starter, Murray is a nice complement, able to gain some tough yards and also catch a pass out of the backfield. You could do a lot worse with a No. 2 running back. At 29 years old next season, Murray might have limited opportunities and prefer a known commodity.
Why they wouldn't: Murray has already stated he'd rather be a starter (of course, who wouldn't?) and he's shown he can still excel in that role. He had 155 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries in a win over Arizona this year and scored a touchdown in the next three games as well (four total). This might not even be the Vikings' choice.
Why the Vikings would re-sign him: Richardson fit right into Minnesota's strong defensive unit and had more sacks in 2018 than he did in the past two seasons combined (2.5). He's only 28 and beyond Linval Joseph, Minnesota is a little thin on the defensive interior.
Why they wouldn't: Richardson won't be the top DT available in free agency, but he'll be near the top and could price himself out of the Vikings' budget. This upcoming draft class is supposedly very deep along the defensive line and Minnesota could also choose to go younger (and cheaper).
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2018 cap number: $697,059 (prorated from $790,000)
Why the Vikings would re-sign him: Signed in mid-September, Robinson was clearly trusted by Kirk Cousins, his former Washington teammate. Robinson was targeted in every game he played, including games when he had two touchdowns against the Rams and a season-high five receptions at New England. His 13.6 yards per reception were the best on the team of anyone with more than five catches. It certainly wouldn’t cost much to keep around a Cousins security blanket.
Why they wouldn't: For all the surprisingly good things Robinson showed in 2018, he was last on the team in catch percentage (48.6 percent). He'll turn 31 in September and Minnesota does have some younger receivers like Chad Beebe and Brandy Zylstra (and who knows about Laquon Treadwell) who might command more playing time.
The Associated PressDavid Banks
KR/PR Marcus Sherels, unrestricted
2018 stats: 12 games, 23 punt returns, 12.0 average; 2 kick returns, 17.0 average
2018 cap number: $1,400,000
Why the Vikings would re-sign him: He's still one of the more dangerous return men around. Sherels ranked fifth in the NFL in punt return average and his 70-yarder against Miami was the seventh-longest return in the league this season.
Why they wouldn't: All he does is return punts -- and just 23 at that. Do the Vikings really want to spend the money on a special-teams only player? He can play defense, but his 29 snaps there in 2018 were his most since the 2013 season while his 55 percent of snaps on special teams were his lowest since that year. Also, he'll turn 32 at the end of September. We do this dance every year, and the Rochester native inevitably sticks around, but it's a discussion worth having.
QB Trevor Siemian, unrestricted
2018 stats: Did not play
2018 cap number: $1,907,000
Why the Vikings would re-sign him: You don't have to look very far around the NFL to see how important it is to have a quality backup quarterback. Minnesota certainly felt so, investing a fifth-round pick in 2019 for some insurance in 2018. Siemian didn't play, but he has 26 games of NFL experience with 24 starts.
Why they wouldn't: Maybe Minnesota is ready to roll with Kyle Sloter as the No. 2 QB behind Cousins. Siemian was a nice placeholder for 2018, but he had middling results (30 TD, 24 INT, 79.9 passer rating) in his three years in Denver. Also, Sloter is already on the roster and his contract won't be as expensive.