Only a few days remain until the 2015 NFL Draft, so looking ahead to the 2016 free agency situation seems incredibly far away. It’s worth being aware of, however, because the Vikings have 23 players entering the final year of their contract this season.

On top of those 23, keep this in mind: 2012 first-round pick Harrison Smith has a fifth-year option in his contract, which gives the Vikings another 16 games to make any long-term decisions. According to ESPN, GM Rick Spielman has until May 3 to decide on the extra year. It seems safe to say at this point, however, that Spielman will go to lengths to keep Smith in purple, and it could be costly. The safety’s current deal is worth $7.14 million.

There will be a lot of decisions to be made regarding re-signing, restructuring, or saying “good-bye” to lots of roster members, so let’s see who will be free agents prior to the 2016 season:

OFFENSE

DEFENSE

SPECIAL TEAMS

*will be a restricted free agent

Let’s take a look at a few of the more notable players on this list…

Matt Asiata, RB
I realize that not everyone is sitting in the Matt Asiata fan section, and they have valid arguments. The running back is not a top player in the league. Especially for a team accustomed to having Adrian Peterson at the helm, Asiata may not be the star RB fans are hoping for. He is, nonetheless, a very solid role player. Asiata had two 3-TD games during the 2014-15 season, and he demonstrates that pitbull-like tenacity that you want to see on the field. The 27-year-old signed a one-year deal that will expire in 2016, and at $800,000 he is one of the lowest-paid players on the team. Even if AP stays in Minnesota, the Vikings should look to re-sign Asiata. He is a family guy who would most likely want to avoid up-rooting his wife and four children, and the Vikes could probably sign him to a bargain deal that wouldn’t count much against the cap space.

Audie Cole, LB
Some decision-making will certainly be based on Cole’s performance during the 2015 season, but if he continues where he left off this year, the linebacker is a must-sign moving forward. Cole filled in for Chad Greenway in Week 17, and he delivered quite the performance. Coach Zimmer said the following after that game:

“Audie played in there in all of the sub groups, nickel packages, the whole bit today. He made all the calls and checks. The more you can do, the longer you get to stay.”

Especially considering we know Greenway is nearing the end of his career, Cole has a real opportunity to earn a starting position and convince Rick Spielman to renew his contract. The 25-year-old’s current deal is worth $1.7 million.

Josh Robinson, CB
It’s no secret that I’ve been a Josh Robinson supporter, and I’ll continue to be in that camp now. Despite having a rough 2013 season, Robinson played much better last year in being able to move to the outside. The cornerback showed a lot of upswing, and it is clear that he has even more to offer. It seems likely the Vikings will target a CB in the Draft, and while that may force Robinson to vie for a starting position, I think he’s up to the challenge. Robinson also contributes exponentially to special teams defense–that in itself is a role Spielman won’t take for granted. let’s look back at our 2016 FA list: five corners are in the final year of their contract. Robinson stands out as Minnesota’s most valuable of that pool.

Blair Walsh, K
Walsh struggled a bit in 2014, but I don’t expect that to carry into the upcoming season. Walsh is a top-notch kicker, and one of his caliber is absolutely necessary to win games. Unless the Vikings end up drafting or trading for a kicker who proves undeniably better (highly unlikely scenario), they will need to convince Walsh to renew his deal after this season. Currently under a deal worth $2.2 million, Walsh ranks No. 31 in the league and can be expected to look for a much larger paycheck.

***

With so many players entering the last year of their contracts, the Vikings certainly have a lot to consider. Looking ahead at the list is helpful in analyzing the Draft picks Minnesota takes this weekend, as well. Keep an eye out for another installment this week that will look at the Top 5 Draft needs for the Vikes.