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Zulgad’s Roundup: Vikings could have opportunity to land standout free agent guard

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Washington Football Team
Nov 29, 2021; Landover, Maryland, USA; Washington Football Team guard Brandon Scherff (75) at the line of scrimmage against the Seattle Seahawks during the first half at FedExField. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
  • There are indications Pro Bowl free agent guard Brandon Scherff would welcome the opportunity to sign with the Vikings, according to tips my podcast partner Phil Mackey has received. Scherff is from Denison, Iowa, played college football for the Hawkeyes and would like to play closer to home. The 30-year-old was taken with the fifth pick of the 2015 draft by Washington and has had the non-exclusive franchise tag placed on him by Washington the past two years ($15 million in 2020 and $18 million in 2021). He was slowed by MCL injuries in 2020 and ’21 and hasn’t played a complete season since 2016. The past three seasons he has played in 11, 13 and 11 games. Spotrac estimates Scherff’s market value at $38.9 million for three years, which would make him the NFL’s sixth-highest paid guard in terms of average annual value at $12.9 million.
  • There promises to be plenty of competition for Scherff’s services and the Vikings would need to clear significant salary cap space to make a contract work. The Vikings are $16 million over the cap, according to the Over The Cap. The league year starts on March 16, so the next few weeks will be key for new general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah to clear up cap space and begin trying to repair the roster. Among the teams that could be in on Scherff, a five-time Pro Bowl selection, are the Bengals, Jets and Raiders.
  • If the Vikings could plug in Scherff at right guard that would be a major upgrade for an offensive line that would then include Christian Darrisaw at left tackle, Ezra Cleveland at left guard and Brian O’Neill at right tackle. That would leave center Garrett Bradbury as the one potential weak link in the unit, assuming he would still be used in a starting role.
  • The NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis this week will enable Adofo-Mensah to meet with agents for several Vikings who are either headed for free agency or might be candidates for restructured or renegotiated contracts. That list should include defensive end Danielle Hunter, who is due an $18 million roster bonus on the fifth day of the league year. That can be converted to a signing bonus, a move that would save approximately $13.5 million in 2022 cap space.
  • Adofo-Mensah also likely will meet with Kirk Cousins’ agent, Mike McCartney, at the combine. It’s not expected that Cousins will take a salary reduction in a new contract. Cousins is entering the final season of his deal and will have a base salary of $35 million, and a cap hit of $45 million, in 2022.
  • Gil Brandt, a longtime NFL executive who is a senior analyst for NFL.com, suggests the Vikings pursue free agent cornerback D.J. Reed in a column he recently wrote. Reed, a fifth-round pick of San Francisco in 2018 from Kansas State, played and started a career-high 14 games in his second season with the Seattle in 2021. The 25-year-old had been claimed off waivers by the Seahawks before the 2020 season and intercepted two passes in each of the past two seasons. Reed allowed a catch rate over expectation of -11.9 percent, better than any player to log 80-plus targets last season, while holding quarterbacks to a passer rating of 69.1 when targeted, fifth-best in that group, according to Brandt’s piece.
  • The amazing thing is how much help the Vikings need at cornerback, despite former coach Mike Zimmer’s focus on that position. Veterans Patrick Peterson and Mackensie Alexander, the primary nickel corner last season, are set to become free agents. Another veteran, Bashaud Breeland, was cut late in the season after an incident in practice and there are questions about 2020 third-round pick Cameron Dantzler. It doesn’t help that two first-round corners, Mike Hughes from 2018 and Jeff Gladney from 2020, are both no longer with the team.
  • NFL free agency being filled with Reckless Speculation and juicy rumors is nothing new, but there has been added intrigue of late with all of the scuttlebutt surrounding NFL broadcasters and the networks that carry games. This included Amazon, which will air Thursday night games starting next season, reportedly offering Super Bowl winning coach Sean McVay $100 million over five years to leave the Rams. He said no but the next up-and-coming broadcaster who happens to be on the sideline might not.
  • Former Gopher and current Cleveland Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff should receive strong consideration for NBA Coach of the Year. Phoenix’s Monty Williams is the front-runner for the award, according to the latest odds, but Bickestaff’s team entered Monday’s game against the Timberwolves with a 36-24 record and in fourth place in the Eastern Conference standings. Bickerstaff, 42, was interim coach of the Houston Rockets for 71 games in 2015-16 and coached Memphis from 2017 to 2019.
  • The Wild have won the faceoff battle only once during their 1-5 stretch and that came in a 6-2 loss to the Florida Panthers at Xcel Energy Center. Minnesota has won 47.3 percent of its faceoffs this season to rank 30th in the 32-team NHL. Losing faceoffs isn’t a huge deal, but not being able to win draws and get possession at key moments does become an issue.
  • The Wild went 1-3 on its recently completed Canadian road trip but the line of Kevin Fiala, Frederick Gaudreau and rookie Matthew Boldy continued to click. Fiala had three goals and four assists and was a plus-2 on the trip, while Gaudreau went 2-1-3, plus-3, and Boldy went 1-3-4, plus-4.
  • Center Ryan Hartman got off to an outstanding start, scoring 18 goals with 14 assists and registering a plus-32 in his first 36 games. But in the past 14 games, he has only one goal and five points and is a minus-7. Wild coach Dean Evason tried to shake up things on Saturday in Calgary by moving Joel Eriksson Ek to the top line with wingers Mats Zuccarello and Kirill Kaprizov and putting Hartman with wingers Marcus Foligno and Connor Dewar. The changes didn’t last long and the Flames cruised to a 7-3 victory. Speaking of slumps, Foligno has no points in his past eight games and is a minus-6.