One of the reigning myths within Vikings fandom is that the team doesn’t have any money to spend because of Kirk Cousins‘ contract. Admittedly, there is some truth here. Cousins is well-compensated, and that inevitably impacts how much money can be spent elsewhere. That being said, the Minnesota Vikings have still been able to sign players over these past few years. The Covid Cap adds an extra layer of complexity, and yet Minnesota has several options for creating cap space. They likely won’t be in any bidding wars for top-tier free agents, but they should nevertheless be active. Here are five free agent players who would make a massive difference for the Minnesota Vikings.
Cordarrelle Patterson, Special Teams Star
It’s safe to say that Minnesota’s special teams left a lot to be desired this season. Of all the issues (there were many), perhaps the most discouraging rested in the lackluster returns. Can you imagine how much of a difference Cordarrelle Patterson would make? Pro Football Reference indicates that Patterson had 1017 kickoff return yards. The Vikings, in contrast, had 722 kickoff return yards split between five players. He might be a little older, but he still has it:
It’s an added bonus that he could also be used as a supremely-explosive gadget player on offense. Opposing defenses would have to account for Dalvin Cook, Adam Thielen, Justin Jefferson, Irv Smith Jr., and Patterson? Good luck. Of all the free agent players the Minnesota Vikings will consider, Patterson ought to be among the most intriguing. His last deal averaged $5 million per season. He’s worth it, especially since he has only missed one game in his eight-year career.
K.J. Wright, LB
It goes without saying that the situation at linebacker this season was brutal. Ben Gedeon, Cameron Smith, and Anthony Barr were gone for either all or the vast majority of the season. Troy Dye and Eric Kendricks missed significant time. Todd Davis, who does a nice job in run defense, also missed time. Coming into the season, we identified linebacker as Minnesota’s deepest position. At the end of the season, it was likely the thinnest.
It’s unlikely Minnesota will have such brutal injury luck again, but they still might be interested in adding someone. K.J. Wright has been great in Seattle for a long time. He is a little older but is still capable of strong play. It always seems that it’s former Vikings signing with the Seahawks. In this scenario, the Vikings would benefit from adding a former Seahawk. Can you imagine a Barr-Kendricks-Wright base defense?
Malik Hooker, S
In all likelihood, Anthony Harris will be finding a new team in free agency. Safety – already one of Minnesota’s thinnest positions – will thus lose one of its two starters. Harrison Smith, moreover, can be cut without leaving behind any dead money. While an extension is more likely, Smith’s age and Harris’ impending departure underscores an important truth: there is a serious lack of depth at safety.
Malik Hooker missed the majority of the 2020 season due to injury. He was chosen 15th overall in the 2017 draft, and is still only twenty-four. What we have, then, is a young, talented player who might be had for a relatively modest number due to the injury. In 2019, Hooker put forth a 69.5 score on PFF (solid but unspectacular). In 2018, Hooker had a 79.1 score on PFF. He has the capacity to be a really good safety in the NFL, and a move to Zimmer’s defense might be exactly what both sides need.
Everson Griffen, DE
Everson Griffen is good at many things; subtlety isn’t one of these things. Recently, Griffen has left some pretty obvious hints on social media that he would be interested in returning to Minnesota.
Mike Zimmer has always been clear about his affinity for edge rushers and corners. During the 2020 season, Zimmer’s defense was almost completely stripped of effective edge rushers. Adding Griffen as a rotational pass rusher could be a really good addition. He had 7 sacks between Dallas and Detroit, which is more than twice as many sacks as any DE currently on Minnesota’s roster. A two-year contract with plenty of incentives seems like a reasonable move for both sides.
One added bonus: Griffen and Danielle Hunter seem to have a good relationship. There are rumors that Hunter may try to renegotiate his deal or demand a trade. Would re-adding Griffen make Minnesota a more desirable place to play for Hunter? It certainly couldn’t hurt.
David Andrews, iOL
This could be a tough get. David Andrews is a center, and Minnesota is content to let Garrett Bradbury keep improving at center. What Minnesota has regularly done, though, is shift around their o-linemen into the configuration that best fits the team. Could Andrews be a viable option at either of the guard spots?
Andrews is twenty-eight. He received average grades from PFF for his 2020 season, but fans should remember that he was on the IR for all of 2019. His grades before the 2019 season were elite. It’s also notable that he is only 300 pounds, meaning he fits the mold of smaller linemen who Minnesota tends to target.
If Andrews isn’t an option, I think I can still speak on behalf of Minnesota Vikings fans everywhere: Rick, please add a free agent who can help us at guard.