The Minnesota Vikings will usher in a new era of football in 2022. Former general manager Rick Spielman and ex-head coach Mike Zimmer were relieved of their duties following their failure to qualify for the playoffs for the second consecutive season. The exciting and ascending duo of Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Kevin O'Connell has officially been hired to replace Spielman and Zimmer. The new GM-coach combo will look to begin putting their stamp on the Vikings throughout March and beyond, but they must address some financial difficulties first. The Vikings are currently $14.7 million over the cap, via Spotract's top-51 calculations. Adofo-Mensah will be forced to get creative as he approaches his first free agency period in charge. A contract extension for veteran starting quarterback Kirk Cousins could create immediate flexibility. Cousins is entering the final year of his deal in 2022 and represents the trickiest decision the Vikings must make this offseason. The likes of Danielle Hunter, Harrison Smith, Eric Kendricks, and even Adam Thielen are candidates to become cap casualties in the coming weeks. With cap, team needs, pending free agents, and draft selections all put into consideration, here are three offensive and three defensive free agents Minnesota could target when the signing period begins on March 14.
GERALD EVERETT, TE, SEATTLE SEAHAWKSWith both Tyler Conklin and Chris Herndon set to reach free agency, the Vikings could be looking to revamp the majority of their tight end room prior to 2022. Conklin exploded onto the scene in 2021 by posting career-highs in receptions (61), receiving yards (593), and touchdowns (3) while taking on more of a starring role in Minnesota's offense. The 26-year-old-Conklin earned just $685,000 last season while logging significant snaps and will surely land a sizable raise in pay via free agency. O'Connell could look to replace Conklin with a player he's more familiar with. Gerald Everett and O'Connell crossed paths in 2020 when Everett played out his final season as a Los Angeles Ram before signing a one-year deal with the Seahawks in free agency, an agreement which reunited Everett with another former Sean McVay assistant in Seahawks offensive coordinator Shane Waldron. Everett's versatility would allow O'Connell and his staff to get creative within their play-calling while maintaining their identity in similar personnel groupings. Minnesota's new head coach will undeniably want to bring in players he shares a familiar history with as he embarks on a new journey, and Everett would certainly qualify while filling one of the biggest offseason needs on the Vikings' roster.
AUSTIN CORBETT, RG, LOS ANGELES RAMSAdofo-Mensah will almost certainly identify the right guard position as one that could use upgrading this offseason. Current starter Oli Udoh especially struggled in pass protection throughout 2021, earning a grade of just 39.0 in that department, via Pro Football Focus. The Vikings possess way too many talented playmakers on the offensive side of the ball to allow the interior of their underperforming offensive line to serve as a roadblock to improved offensive efficiency in 2022. Austin Corbett represents a straightforward solution to Minnesota's issues at the right guard position. Corbett rehabilitated his career in McVay's wide zone offense while experiencing his best season yet in 2021. Corbett started all 21 games for the Rams in 2021, including 17 regular-season contests and four playoff triumphs. He's a Super Bowl champion that's extremely familiar with the offense O'Connell is about to implement and tweak in Minnesota. O'Connell has spent the previous two seasons with Corbett in Los Angeles and is highly familiar with the skill set and leadership he brings to the table. Adding Corbett to the fray would give the Vikings a much-needed plug-and-play solution at right guard without breaking the bank or investing yet another high draft pick on their offensive line.
RUSSELL GAGE, WR, ATLANTA FALCONSThe soon-to-be-32-year-old Thielen carries a sizable cap hit in 2022 and could find himself on the trading block this offseason as Adofo-Mensah searches for enhanced financial freedom. It's difficult to envision the Vikings without Thielen, but the former undrafted free agent out of Minnesota State has dealt with several injuries in recent seasons and Minnesota's current salary cap woes could lead to a difficult but mutual parting of the ways. Justin Jefferson will undeniably serve as Minnesota's WR1 for years to come, but the Vikings would need to acquire a receiver capable of playing opposite Jefferson on the boundary should they indeed decide to free themselves of Thielen's bloated contract. Russell Gage enjoyed a career year in Atlanta and is now set to reach free agency as an intriguing No. 2 or 3 option. Gage is the type of receiver that could take full advantage of the attention Jefferson commands from opposing secondaries while doing damage underneath in Minnesota's new-look passing attack. Gage played in a somewhat similar offense in 2021, as Falcons head coach Arthur Smith runs a system that was originally implemented by former Rams assistant Matt LaFleur. Gage's familiarity with the scheme could allow him to hit the ground running should he become a Viking in March.
KYLE FULLER, CB, DENVER BRONCOSThe Vikings must spend resources revamping a cornerback room that was truly abysmal in 2021. The Vikings finished the campaign ranked in the bottom five in passing yards allowed per contest (252.9) while the likes of Bashaud Breeland and Mackensie Alexander struggled on the outside and in the slot, respectively. Breeland was released mid-season and Alexander is set to become a free agent next month, alongside veteran cornerback Patrick Peterson. Minnesota's cornerback room will look unrecognizable in 2022. O'Connell hired Ed Donatell as his new defensive coordinator, a 65-year-old leader with 40-plus years of coaching experience. Donatell most recently spent three seasons as Vic Fangio's defensive coordinator with the Denver Broncos and will look to implement his system which is heavily influenced by the Fangio-tree in Minnesota. The addition of Kyle Fuller would fill a sizable hole in Minnesota's defense at the nickel position and makes a ton of sense on the surface. Fuller has spent five of his previous seven professional seasons alongside Donatell via two stints in Chicago (2015-18) and Denver (2021). Fuller will become a free agent in March barring an unexpected agreement to return to the Broncos, who have now hired a new regime and defensive coordinator. Remaining in Donatell's defensive scheme makes sense for the 30-year-old Fuller.
OGBONNIA OKORONKWO, EDGE, LOS ANGELES RAMSDanielle Hunter made just seven appearances over the previous two campaigns and the Vikings can't possibly allow him to account for the $26.1 million cap hit he's set to represent in 2022. Hunter is still a quality pass rusher and his impending departure will leave the Vikings searching for newfound production at the EDGE position. Salary cap issues may lead Adofo-Mensah to attempt to find an ascending talent that may be available on a shrewd contract. Los Angeles' Ogbonnia Okoronkwo is that type of talent and player. Okoronkwo has consistently flashed in a part-time role with the Rams and could be searching for more opportunity now that his four-year rookie contract will expire at the beginning of the new league year. Okoronkwo has recorded 4.5 sacks in four seasons with the Rams while playing behind the likes of Von Miller, Leonard Floyd, and the best version of Dante Fowler Jr. Okoronkwo has shown the versatile ability to rush the passer and set the edge when given opportunities to hit the field. O'Connell has spent the previous two seasons with Okoronkwo and is fully aware of the talent he possesses as Minnesota looks to shed salary while maintaining quality play on the defensive side of the ball.
KAREEM JACKSON, S, DENVER BRONCOSMinnesota's aforementioned secondary is going to receive quite the overhaul this offseason, and that sentiment extends outside the cornerback room and into the safety position as well. Starting free safety Xavier Woods will become a free agent in March and starting strong safety Harrison Smith qualifies as a likely cap casualty candidate. The departures of Woods and Smith would leave Adofo-Mensah on the hunt for a new pair of starting safeties ahead of the 2022 campaign. Minnesota's financial issues mean they may be forced to go bargain bin hunting to fill these potentially new-found holes. Enter Kareem Jackson, a soon-to-be-34-year-old-veteran that should be available on an affordable one-year contract in free agency. Jackson spent the 2021 season transitioning from cornerback to safety with the Denver Broncos while playing under the watchful eye of new Vikings defensive coordinator Donatell. Donatell is expected to run a heavy Cover 1 scheme in Minnesota as he did in Denver, and Jackson's familiarity with the system could qualify him as an ideal target for the Vikings. Jackson is the type of veteran leader that could help his new teammates get familiar with the coverage schemes in a timely manner.
- Aug 16, 2022
- Aug 16, 2022