The Minnesota Vikings have plenty of time before the beginning of free agency to make important decisions on players who are not under contract for next season. A number of factors will play into whether top free agents come back, including whether the team can restructure contracts and create more cap space.
With that said, let’s have a look at the chances that each one of the Vikings’ free agents ends up in purple next season…
Defensive tackle, Sheldon Richardson
The Vikings signed Richardson to a one-year, $8 million contract last offseason, giving the veteran defensive tackle an opportunity to earn a long-term deal. He largely performed up to snuff, ranking 14th among defensive tackles in QB pressures. As far as a tandem player with Linval Joseph goes, Richardson turned out to be a quality partner for the star nose tackle. Both played a significant role in Mike Zimmer’s defense ranking in the top five in yards allowed. Whether the Vikings can bring him back rests on his price tag. Top three-technique DTs can make in the range of $13-$15 million per season, which might be too rich for the Vikings, but it would be a surprise if they weren’t in the mix for his services going forward.
Linebacker, Anthony Barr
While the Vikings rarely use the franchise tag, Barr might be the case in which they go that route. He was the lone player set to become a 2019 free agent that did not sign a contract extension last offseason. Eric Kendricks, Stefon Diggs and Danielle Hunter all agreed to long-term deals. Barr is a different situation from the others because he has indicated he would like to be more of a pure pass rusher. That has only occasionally been his role under Zimmer. If he is set on looking for greener pastures, the Vikings will have to either tag him for somewhere in the range of $12 million or let him walk. Zimmer has made it clear that he wants Barr around and the team found a way to work around his fifth-year option in that price range in 2018, so they could do it again with the tag. The least likely scenario appears to be that he signs a long-term deal for more than $12 million per year. That would be a high price for a player at his position and possibly put the team in a cap bind down the road.
Running back, Latavius Murray
Odds: Medium low
Over the last two seasons, Murray has admirably filled the starting running back role when Dalvin Cook suffered injuries. He played all 16 games each year and finished with an average of 710 yards and seven touchdowns per year. The 2015 Pro Bowler also was one of the NFL’s best pass protecting running backs. Murray expressed interest in returning to the Vikings on locker cleanout day, but also added that he wants to be a starter. While the team needs a backup plan for Cook, they might not have $3-$5 million to pay Murray like another club might. The Vikings’ two promising young running backs Mike Boone and Roc Thomas could be in line to spell Cook next year.
Guard, Nick Easton
If the Vikings want to get back to using zone runs and screens, they will want Easton back, assuming he is healthy enough to get back to starting. Easton’s quickness was used as an asset by Pat Shurmur in 2017, getting him to the second level in runs and pulling on screens. With needs at both guard positions, Easton could take up one of the starting spots or compete with a draft pick for a spot.
Kicker, Dan Bailey
Odds: Medium low
The Vikings repeatedly talked about their belief in Bailey because of his impressive history, but he has only made 75 percent of his kicks for two straight seasons. They would have to be certain the former Cowboy was ready to bounce back — and there are no certainties when it comes to kicking. It would be a surprise if they drafted a kicker again after cutting Daniel Carlson in Week 2.
Punt returner, Marcus Sherels
Each year, we project the Vikings to part ways with Sherels and each year he proves exactly why they have kept him around so long. He averaged 12.0 yards per punt return this year and played in a pinch as a cornerback against the Patriots. Sherels’ remarkable reliability is tough to find.
Defensive tackle, Tom Johnson
Johnson did exactly what he’s done for so long: Pressure the QB when called upon. After re-joining the team, he produced 23 pressures on 222 pass rush snaps, a very similar rate as in the past. As a situational pass rusher, Johnson would still make sense for the 2019 roster, but the Vikings may be hoping that fourth-round pick Jalyn Holmes will step into that role next season.
Safety, George Iloka
Odds: Extremely low
When the Vikings signed Iloka, it appeared they would be able to create some unique personnel packages on defense using the former Bengal. Instead Anthony Harris ended up starting when Andrew Sendejo went down and Iloka played just 117 snaps. He will likely be looking this offseason for a starting job elsewhere.
Wide receiver, Aldrick Robinson
While Robinson also joined the team late, he found instant chemistry with Cousins. The two had played together in Washington and it appeared Cousins trusted his veteran receiver. Robinson caught 17 passes for 231 yards and five touchdowns. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Cousins campaigned for Robinson to return as a deep threat.
Quarterback, Trevor Siemian
As far as backup quarterbacks go, Siemian is on the top end. Having made the NFC title game with a backup in 2017, the Vikings should make an effort to keep a QB whose career record is 13-11.
Center, Brett Jones
Odds: Medium low
Jones joined the Vikings in a trade from the Giants and acted as a stopgap early in the season. He is known as a very bright player who could still add to the depth of the O-line. It is probable, however, that they will look for upgrades across the board on the line.
Running back, Ameer Abdullah
Odds: Medium low
The Vikings signed Abdullah after he was let go by the Lions. As a running back with special teams and receiving ability, the Vikings may attempt to make him Cook’s backup if they aren’t fully sold on Boone and Thomas.