2020 NFL free agency: Possible fits for the Vikings
Welcome to arguably the most critical offseason in general manager Rick Spielman’s career. Coming off a solid season that featured a 10-6 record and a playoff win, the Minnesota Vikings’ window to win a Super Bowl with their aging defense is closing quickly. Minnesota needs to make a move to get over the hump in the draft or free agency. Now that Everson Griffen’s contract has been voided and Xavier Rhodes and Linval Joseph have been released, the Vikings now have over $20 million in cap space to work with in free agency, which ranks 26th among NFL teams according to spotrac.com. The Vikings have a few impending free agents on their own roster they’d like to re-sign, like UFA safety Anthony Harris and RFA fullback C.J. Ham. But which players could Minnesota be targeting once free agency officially opens March 18? Let’s dive in:
C/OG Graham Glasgow
Glasgow hasn’t played guard since 2017 but is more than capable, having rotated on the interior line during his first two seasons. He’s been Detroit’s full-time starting center for the past two seasons and has allowed just 1.75 sacks over that span. The Vikings already have two starters who can play center (Garrett Bradbury and Pat Elflein), but versatility never hurts. Plus, Glasgow could reunite with left tackle Riley Reiff, his teammate in 2016.
K Kai Forbath
Always begging for a consistent kicker, head coach Mike Zimmer might be satisfied if the Vikings sign Forbath, who nailed 47 of 53 field-goal attempts (88.7%) in Minnesota from 2016-17. Forbath had an odd 2019 season. He didn’t suit up for an NFL game until New England signed him for one contest Dec. 1. Forbath nailed his only field-goal attempt but went 1 of 2 on extra-point attempts and was released. Then, Forbath was signed by Dallas and went a perfect 10 for 10 on FGA (and 10 for 10 on XPA) over three games for the Cowboys. He doesn’t have a booming leg, but there’s no arguing that 86.8% career clip.
CB Byron Jones
Minnesota’s core of cornerbacks will look much different in 2020. Xavier Rhodes will more than likely be cut, and both Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander are impending free agents. The Vikings will have to decide on re-signing Waynes or bringing in a free agent. As the top cornerback on the market, Jones will have all the leverage on his side and could end up getting one of the most expensive deals at the position (currently held by Miami’s Xavien Howard at $15.1 million per year). Jones is also 27 years old. If Minnesota learned anything with the Rhodes situation, it’s that cornerbacks can go from All-Pro to non-factors in a matter of one season. So … this one might not happen. But Zimmer definitely will want a new prized cornerback to groom now that his original project, Rhodes, is gone.
QB Josh McCown
The only quarterback on roster behind Kirk Cousins is Jake Browning, the former Washington star and undrafted free agent who spent 2019 on the Vikings’ practice squad. Although Cousins hasn’t missed a single game due to injury over the past five seasons, Minnesota will undoubtedly want a player with actual NFL experience to back him up. Why not go with the veteran of all veterans? Over 17 seasons, McCown has played for eight different teams and thrown for 17,731 yards, 98 touchdowns and 82 interceptions. He signed a one-year deal with Philadelphia last year and appeared in three regular-season games. But in the first quarter of a playoff game against Seattle, quarterback Carson Wentz suffered a head injury, so the Eagles turned to McCown. In his first career postseason action, McCown threw for 174 yards — no touchdowns or interceptions — on 18-of-24 passing. He’ll turn 41 years old in July. One more year! One more year!
CB Jalen Mills
A seventh-round pick by Philadelphia in 2016, Mills quickly gained a reputation for his solid play at cornerback and … his hair, the most interesting locks in the NFL. Mills looked like he had potential to become one of the NFL’s top young corners after grabbing three interceptions in 2017, but a serious injury in his foot derailed his past two seasons. Mills suited up for a combined 17 games from 2018-19 and tallied 16 passes defensed and one interception. He’s talented, but with that injury history no team likely will commit long-term to the cornerback. Mills is a candidate for a cheap, one-year contract – a “prove-it” deal.
OG Andrus Peat
Originally drafted as a tackle in 2015, Peat made the move from left tackle to right tackle to the interior line as a rookie. Now a full-time starter at guard, he’s also proved an ability to slide over and fill in at tackle when necessary. Despite missing a combined nine games over the last two years, Peat was named to the Pro Bowl in both 2018 and 2019. He’s not quite a top-10 offensive guard, but the Vikings could use his versatility.
WR Breshad Perriman
The Vikings likely won’t bring back a certain first-round bust at wide receiver in Laquon Treadwell, so why not take a chance on another who might be actually reshaping his career? Perriman, selected 26th overall by Baltimore in 2015, was waived by the Ravens after two seasons and never caught more than 33 passes over his first three campaigns. However, the 6-foot-2 receiver set career bests in receptions (36), receiving yards (645) and touchdowns (6) last year for Tampa Bay, and even posted three straight 100-yard games while filling in for an injured Mike Evans to close out the year. Treadwell never did anything close to that. The Vikings might have something in Bisi Johnson, the seventh-rounder who caught 31 passes for 294 yards and three touchdowns as a rookie in 2019. But Perriman is out there if they want a different answer at WR3.
RB Wendell Smallwood
Ameer Abdullah is an impending free agent, so the Vikings could be searching for a player to fill in as the third-string running back behind Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison. Smallwood could make sense here due to his ability to both run and catch the ball — he logged 364 rushing yards and 230 receiving yards for Philadelphia in 2018. But the Vikings have a third option already in Mike Boone and can go even cheaper with a late-round or undrafted rookie this summer.
OG Joe Thuney
Thuney has protected quarterback Tom Brady for the past four seasons and hasn’t missed a game, starting all 64 contents (as well as 10 in the postseason) since he was selected in the third round in 2016. Even better, Thuney has yielded one whopping sack over the past two seasons. Can you ask for much more at the guard position?
WR Jarius Wright
A fourth-round pick by Minnesota in 2012, Wright spent the first six seasons of his career with the Vikings and hauled in 153 receptions for 2,039 yards and 10 touchdowns, establishing himself as a reliable option in the passing game. He signed with Carolina after the 2017 season but saw his role decrease with the rise of young receivers D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel. The Panthers declined an option for 2020, so Wright is back on the free market. If Minnesota is looking to add depth at the position, bringing back a familiar face in Wright wouldn’t be a bad (or expensive) move.
K Greg Zuerlein
If Minnesota goes away from re-signing Dan Bailey, Zurlein would fill in nicely. Very nicely. The 32-year-old has nailed 82% of his career kicks and 60% of attempts from 50+ yards. He’s still got power — Zuerlin did connect on a 58-yarder last season for the Los Angeles Rams. However, he’s coming off his worst season in 2019, as his 72.7% field-goal clip ranked 28th in the NFL. That could drive down the asking price a bit.