The Minnesota Vikings new defensive tackle Michael Pierce has opted out of the 2020 season, citing health concerns with COVID-19 and his asthma. You absolutely can’t fault a guy for wanting to protect himself and his family, and it does give the Vikings $5 million to work with now that his contract will start next season.
With that additional money, the Vikings now have about $14 million in cap space to work with according to Overthecap.com. With that in mind, what moves can the Vikings make with that extra money?
Bring Back Everson Griffen
This is a no-brainer. Griffen obviously has history with Minnesota, having spent the last 10 seasons there. In addition, it seems like Griffen wanted to be back and Mike Zimmer wanted him back, but the money just wasn’t going to work when the Vikings were strapped for cash.
Now that the offseason is over and the Vikings have plenty of cap space, a reunion with the sack daddy could be in order. It’s not like Griffen has been bad in recent years. Following his mental health issues in 2018, he came back and recorded 8 sacks this season.
Although Griffen is on the wrong side of 30, he can still bring a lot to a defense, especially one that is now hurting for accomplished players outside of Danielle Hunter. There is no question of Griffen’s leadership and love for Minnesota, but at what cost?
Griffen made $7.4 million last season, and while it would be possible for the Vikings to at least match that, you would think that they would want a hometown discount. The big domino waiting to fall in Griffen’s talks is still Jadeveon Clowney.
Sign Jadeveon Clowney
Speaking of the man with the most viscous college football hit that I have seen live, Clowney is still on the open market. Teams and reporters alike have expressed concerns over Clowney’s motor and his dedication to the game. That, coupled with a down year in 2019, has left teams less eager to make a splash for the once highly touted pass rusher.
However, this could be a huge opportunity for both Minnesota and Clowney. The Vikings and Mike Zimmer have a history of bringing players with motor issues up to their full potential. Heck, Everson Griffen was considered a potential problem for years before he came under Zimmer’s tutelage.
So, if the Vikings could land Clowney and put him opposite of the freak athlete that is Danielle Hunter, they could have one of the best pass rushing tandems in the league. At this point, Clowney will probably be signing a one year deal to prove his worth and then cash in. If the Vikings were to take on the risk, they could get first crack at signing Clowney long-term, assuming of course that he works out.
Sign Brian Winters
The Minnesota Vikings are hurting at the guard position. After releasing their starter on the right side last season Josh Kline earlier this offseason, the team is left with very little starting experience. Of course, there is always Pat Elflien whose switch back to guard was supposed to breathe new life into his career, but it so far has just given Vikings faithful headaches.
So with the surprise news of the New York Jets releasing their starting right guard of the past five seasons, it gives the Vikings another veteran option to bring in. Winters was set to make $7.3 million from the Jets this season, but instead finds himself looking for a new home with training camp starting.
Minnesota would be a perfect place for the 29-year-old. There are two starting spots to compete for, and Winters worked with offensive line/run game coordinator Rick Dennison when he was doing the same job for the Jets in 2018.
It might not be the sexiest move, but it would do a lot to bolster the group that many fans will agree needs the most work. After Rick Spielman failed to bring in anybody to help fill those voids this offseason, and indeed lost his best guard in Josh Kline, Winters would make a lot of fans happier with their newly extended GM.
If not Winters, Larry Warford is still on the table.
Sign Damon Harrison/Mike Daniels
Harrison and Daniels are the best interior defensive lineman on the market at this time. It would make sense with the departure of Pierce to sign one of the two to be their big man up front for the season.
Of course, this assumes that either plays this season. Harrison reportedly asked to be released by the Lions last season and was also batting around the idea of retiring. Daniels apparently wants to play this season, in Detroit or otherwise, but health concerns have kept anybody from making a play for him.
If given the choice, I would want Harrison over Daniels. Last season notwithstanding, he’s been a dominant run defender for years. He would immediately give the Vikings a leg up in an area that got them eliminated from last year’s playoffs when the San Francisco 49ers ran all over them.
Sign Devonta Freeman
This is without a doubt the most out there take of this list. I did consider suggesting signing Josh Gordon, but that seems like less of a risk at this point.
This move would be purely a spiteful move against Vikings running back Dalvin Cook. Cook, who has reported to training camp despite a threat of a holdout, is reportedly looking for a contract extension somewhere in the neighborhood of $12-13 million/year.
If the Vikings are serious about playing hardball with Cook, they could sign Freeman to a deal and basically say “we don’t need you.” Now, this is relying on Freeman being less 2018-2019, 724 rushing yards and two touchdowns over 16 games, Freeman and more 2015-2016, 1000+ rushing yards and 11 rushing touchdowns per season, Freeman.
It’s very hard for running backs to turn back the clock and be effective up to the age of thirty and past it. Vikings legend Adrian Peterson being the exception to the rule.