Regardless of how things play out over the next few weeks, an extremely turbulent 2016 season has left the Minnesota Vikings roster scarred and full of question marks, meaning a dramatic offseason is surely ahead. Before we speculate (and we will speculate) on which subtractions and additions can lead to a more successful year, we asked our panel to instead give their insight as to which Vikings are the most secure in their employment status for the season ahead.
QUESTION OF THE WEEK:
Taking all things into consideration, including injuries and contracts, which five Vikings would you say are the safest to return in 2017 given this has the makings of an unpredictable offseason?
1. Harrison Smith
2. Stefon Diggs
3. Danielle Hunter
4. Xavier Rhodes
5. Trae Waynes
Looking at the Vikings roster for this exercise revealed just how much stability — especially on the defensive side of the ball — they will have going into 2017. The list could have easily been five spots longer, and I would’ve had no problem coming up with enough players that seem certain to be on the team next year; Joseph, Rudolph, Griffen, Barr…even Treadwell and Alexander will almost definitely be rostered due to their respective draft status’.
As it stands, the five players I chose all play key roles and/or (in the case of Waynes and Smith) have incurred a considerable investment. They’re all signed through at least 2018 and seem unlikely to hold out, and these factors make for a very stable status with the franchise.
1. Harrison Smith
2. Stefon Diggs
3. Xavier Rhodes
4. Danielle Hunter
5. Sam Bradford
My list is nearly identical to Sam’s, save for one name — Sam Bradford. Like Sam, I struggled with who exactly to place in the “top 5,” but settled on the strategy of giving the Vikings “building blocks” at a few major positions.
Smith’s contract and stellar play keep him in Minnesota, likely for life. Diggs is still the Vikings’ best receiver, giving the team little incentive to move him or waste such a young talent. Elsewhere, Rhodes and Hunter solidify a defense’s two most impactful positions — cornerback and defensive end.
It’s Bradford who will likely draw ire from readers. But with Teddy’s health still a major question mark, keeping Bradford is a no nonsense move for the Vikings. That’ll surely come with a contract restructure, but the price tag is worth stabilizing what’s been a tumultuous position for years. Bradford’s done enough this season to prove his worth as the Vikings’ quarterback for the foreseeable future.
EXTRA: Nick Easton, who’s quietly taken Joe Berger’s place at center. When you don’t hear an offensive lineman’s name, it’s a good thing, and Easton’s been nearly invisible in spot duty. I have no doubt the position will be his in the coming years, if not as soon as next season.
1. Sam Bradford
2. Matt Kalil
3. Adam Thielen
4. Kai Forbath
5. Cordarrelle Patterson
I wanted to have some fun with this, so I may not have exactly gone with the safest of players.
But to keep it short, I think all five of these players will be signed to basically one-year tryout contracts that will allow the Vikings to escape with all of their limbs in tact if (Ha! If) one of these five players does not have a good year in 2017.
1. S Harrison Smith
2. DT Linval Joseph
3. CB Xavier Rhodes
4. WR Stefon Diggs
5. EDGE Danielle Hunter
Over-Achiever Bonus List: QB Teddy Bridgewater, QB Sam Bradford, WR Adam Thielen, OG Alex Boone, LB Anthony Barr, LB Eric Kendricks, DT Sharrif Floyd, DE Everson Griffen, CB Trae Waynes, CB Mackensie Alexander, K Kai Forbath and CR (Cockroach) Marcus Sherels.
My list is a combination of rationale, contract situation, team control and, as a whole, players the Minnesota Vikings simply cannot afford to lose at this juncture.
Smith heads the group because he is not only is the best all-around safety in the NFL and the team’s best player, but the former Golden Domer also signed a contract extension this past offseason that will keep him in Vikings Territory™ through 2021 (and likely beyond).
Joseph is both under contract through 2018 and represents a player Minnesota cannot afford to lose. He is the best 43 nose tackle in professional football and a definitive tone-setter along Mike Zimmer’s vaunted defensive front.
Rhodes, as with Smith and Joseph, exemplifies the epitome of a player Minnesota cannot afford to let go. The Vikings have also already exercised his 5th-year option and will almost certainly extend the 2013 first-round pick this offseason or, if Rob Brzezinski has picked up a procrastination habit, at some point following the 2017 calendar year.
Diggs is still playing under his rookie contract, which, in itself, makes him a no-doubt lock for the Vikings’ 53-man roster next season. He is also unequivocally the team’s best wide receiver and one of a _very_ limited number of threats that the Vikings’ pedestrian offense currently boasts.
Hunter, as with Diggs, will be playing under his rookie contract next season. He has also become arguably the team’s best pass-rusher at only 22 years of age, is in the midst of outlining a flawless argument for a greater role next season with veteran Brian Robison getting up there in age, represents the last person I’d ever want to come across in a dark alley (other than Ray Lewis for obvious reasons) and is a strong candidate to cost the Vikings a boatload of money in a couple years.
The 10-man list of bonus players is made up of guys who will make the Vikings’ 2017 53-man roster regardless of how well they have played this season — if they have played at all — and whether _you_ like it or not.
Bridgewater (rookie contract) and Barr (rookie contract), the pair of 2014 first-round picks who have appeared in a combined total of 14 games this year and contributed _absolutely nothing_ this season, are roster locks regardless of their respective offerings in 2016.
Bradford (need), Boone (dead money), Floyd (5th-year option), Griffen (dead money), Kendricks (rookie contract), Waynes (rookie contract) and Alexander (rookie contract) all fall under the “team control” section of the equation.
Thielen, conversely, has proven to be an indispensable member of a receiving corps that could very likely part ways with Cordarrelle Patterson, Jarius Wright and Charles Johnson this offseason. Despite entering restricted free agency this spring, the Mankato State product will be a key member of the Vikings’ offensive attack for years to come. Minnesota natives that make the team based on performance in a random “local talent” tryout don’t just walk in free agency — especially when the Vikings maintain the ability to retain his services by matching any contract offered by another team in pursuit of his talents.
Sherels, finally, falls within his own group: He is a cockroach. The former Golden Gopher simply refuses to get cut regardless of how many times we predict him to be — I myself have learned my lesson. Additionally, his absence this season has proven just how valuable he is to Mike Priefer’s punt return unit.
Now it is your turn! Take to the comments section and give us your list as you see it!