Free agency has now reached a near standstill with very few notable names left on the market.
The Vikings have been slowly accumulating low-risk “bargains” out of the discount bin and it wouldn’t be overly surprising to see them continue that approach between now and the Draft. The Vikings likely want to keep their cap situation healthy so that they can possibly be active when players are cut following the Draft and training camp.
Still, there are a handful of guys left that I think can improve this roster, and here are my top five:
5. Marcus Thomas, DT
Thomas is only 26 and is currently mulling over three offers. He isn’t someone the Vikings should overpay for or anything, but he is younger than others currently available (Albert Haynesworth and Aubrayo Franklin, for example) and is a very solid run stopper. With Letroy Guion and Fred Evans returning, a guy like Thomas would create quite the interesting training camp competition.
4. Jason Brown, C
The Rams signed Brown away from the Ravens in 2009, but like almost every other player that goes to St. Louis, he ended up being a disappointment. Still, he has proven he can play at a very high level and has the versatility to play both center and guard. The Vikes have done a good job of creating competition for both guard spots, but Brown would bring that competition up a notch. A low-cost, prove it deal would be a no-brainer.
3. Marcus McNeill, OT
It is a shame to see a player go from Hall of Fame potential to an afterthought because of injuries. McNeill is a special talent that just seems to still be plagued by a back injury that could threaten his career. If the Vikings really, truly want to create the impression that they could select someone third overall not named Matt Kalil then they need to have someone else on the depth chart not named Charlie Johnson. If the price is right, McNeill could end up being well worth the risk.
2. Larry Grant, MLB
Don’t recognize the name? That shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. Grant plays second-fiddle to Patrick Willis in San Francisco and filled in quite nicely in 2011 when Willis was injured last season. The Niners only tendered him at the seventh round level, so the Vikings could swipe him away at a relatively low cost from a pick standpoint. Plus, how hard could it be to outbid the Niners for a backup player? Grant would be solid enough competition for Jasper Brinkley that the Vikings could consider the middle linebacker spot solidified this offseason.
1. William Middleton, CB
Middleton is a young, talented corner with limited experience but tons of upside. He was tendered by the Jaguars at the fifth round level, but the Vikings could decide that he represents more value than any cornerbacks that will be available at that point in the Draft and try to steal him away from Jacksonville. Middleton is a solid cover man, but his ability to tackle and support the run defense is what makes him a perfect fit for this Vikings defense. The Vikings lose a fifth round pick by making this move, but they would also be able to pretty much cross cornerback off of their list of Draft needs.