[NOTE:  Click the links to see our free agency rankings for quarterbacksrunning backsfullbacks,tight endscentersguardsoffensive tackles, and wide receivers.  We’ll continue our way through all of the positions this week.]

The Vikings operated under the whole “safeties don’t really have a huge impact in our defensive scheme” mentality for a long time, but Harrison Smith blew the lid off that theory in his rookie year.  Seeing what Smith could do has Vikings fans salivating for another top notch safety to play next to him.

Mistral Raymond and Robert Blanton would provide some decent depth at the position if the Vikings decided to bring in a new starting safety, and it is still possible that they could re-sign Jamarca Sanford to compete and provide added depth.

Here is who might be available next month:

Top Tier

I really only put one player in this category, and that player is Jairus Byrd from the Bills, who might hit the open market with the Bills having a lot of offseason issues to attend to.  Of all the free agents in all of the positions, Byrd has to be in my top three favorite targets for Minnesota.  With decent run support skills, some of the best coverage skills in the league, and a nose for the football it is no wonder that Byrd grades out as an elite safety in this league.

Second Tier

2.  Kenny Phillips, NYG:  Phillips has had trouble during his time with the Giants with injuries.  When healthy, however, he can be very effective in any number of ways.

3.  Ed Reed, BAL:  I know, I know… Reed should probably be first or second on this list.  I just don’t see how he would be a fit for what the Vikings are trying to do in the long term, but instead would simply be an immediate boost that costs a lot of money and has some major downside to consider (i.e. injuries and age).

4.  Patrick Chung, NE:  Again, Chung’s health has been what has held his career back more than any other factor.  He would fit in well with the Vikings defense and their mindset of stopping the run.

5.  William Moore, ATL:  Same story.  Talent, but oft-injured.

6.  George Wilson, BUF:  Wilson is a very solid and consistent option, albeit on the wrong side of thirty, that could be a nice option for a team looking for a safe solution.  Wilson was recently cut by the Bills as a cap casualty.

7.  Dashon Goldson, SF:  A lot of people are going to have Goldson a lot higher than this, but I just have never watched him play a game where he doesn’t appear to be a giant liability in coverage.  He plays well at times, and can deliver a big hit, so the Vikings could certainly do worse.

8.  Louis Delmas, DET:  Injured a lot.  Great when he’s healthy.  Noticing a trend yet?

9.  LaRon Landry, NYJ:  I’ve always appreciated the way Landry plays the position, but he has certainly lost a step over the last couple of years.  Not sure that his personality is a fit for the Vikings.

THIRD TIER

10.  Glover Quin, HOU

11.  Jamarca Sanford

12.  Chris Clemons, MIA

13.  Abram Elam, KC

14.  Corey Lynch, SD

15.  Chris Crocker, CIN

16.  Ronde Barber, TB

17.  James Sanders, ARI

18.  Yeremiah Bell, NYJ

19.  Eric Frampton, DAL

20.  Jim Leonhard, DEN

THE REST

21.  Sean Considine, BAL

22.  James Ihedigbo, BAL

23.  Troy Nolan, CHI

24.  Rashad Johnson, ARI

25.  Ray Ventrone, CLE

26.  Josh Barrett, NE

27.  Tyrone Culver, MIA

28.  David Bruton, DEN

29.  Will Allen, PIT

30.  Sherrod Martin, CAR

31.  Quintin Demps, HOU

32.  Madieu Williams, WAS

33.  Mike Mitchell, OAK

34.  Charlie Peprah, DAL

35.  Ryan Mundy, PIT

36.  Matt Gordano, OAK

37.  Chris Hope, ATL

38.  Craig Dahl, STL

39.  Travis Daniels, KC