Vikings Ongoing Team Building Enters Phase 3 with 2 CBs and OG Signed

Vikings Free Agency Begins in 5 Weeks. Get Ready.
Kwesi Adofo-Mensah

Vikings Insider, The GM’s View

The process of roster construction for NFL teams, including the Vikings, comes in five phases which are all part and parcel of building a playoff team and Super Bowl contender. We are now in Phase 3, as witnessed by the signing of three lower-salaried veteran free agents in the past few days.

Phase 1 involves getting your own house in order through salary cap management moves including player cuts (Michael Pierce for Minnesota) combined with extended and restructured contracts to keep veteran stars in the fold. Kirk Cousins’ extension and restructures for Danielle Hunter, Adam Thielen, and Harrison Smith fell into that category.

Next came Phase 2, the mid-March first wave of free agency with the higher-priced signings. For the Vikings, this consisted of bringing onboard defensive tackle Harrison Phillips, linebacker Jordan Hicks and in their potentially most impactful move—edge rusher/outside linebacker Za’Darius Smith.

Sep 12, 2021; Jacksonville, Florida, USA; Green Bay Packers linebacker Za’Darius Smith (55) stands on the sidelines during the game against the New Orleans Saints at TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The Vikings are now in Phase 3, which involves signing second-tier free agents who are less expensive but fit the team’s new offensive and defensive schemes. This is a critical part of team building and was instrumental in the Patriots’ early Super Bowl success.

For Minnesota, there have been three such signings over the past week that the fan base may not be paying a lot of attention to, but I assure you the coaching staff lobbied GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah for these players, and they’re excited about their addition.

As I rank their relative value and importance, they are: slot cornerback Chandon Sullivan who has started 20 games over the past two seasons in Green Bay and worked with new Vikings assistant head coach Mike Pettine when he was Packers defensive coordinator in 2018-2019; guard Jesse Davis who started 72 games at guard or tackle for Miami and will compete for Minnesota’s starting right guard spot; and cornerback Nate Hairston who played for new Vikings defensive coordinator Ed Donatell in Denver and has 17 starts over his six seasons with the Broncos, Jets, and Colts.

I like this much needed additional depth in the Vikings secondary via the Sullivan and Hairston signings, but I’d still like to see the team re-sign corner Patrick Peterson during this Phase 3 period after his very good 2021 season with the Purple, along with a veteran safety to compete with second-year man Cam Bynum as the starter opposite Harrison Smith.

Next, we move to Phase 4, which is the upcoming NFL Draft on April 28-30. There’s a strong possibility that unless another position player who is a clear top 10 talent falls, Minnesota will likely look to add one of three top-rated corners with their No.12 pick in the first round—either LSU’s Derek Stingley Jr., Cincinnati’s Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner or Washington’s Trent McDuffie.

Nov 28, 2020; Seattle, Washington, USA; Washington Huskies defensive back Trent McDuffie (22) reacts following a turnover on downs against the Utah Utes during the third quarter at Alaska Airlines Field at Husky Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

As former Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer famously said, “ You can’t have too many corners.”

Finally, Phase 5 for the 2022 Vikings will consist of adding players off the waiver wire during training camp and on the final cuts, which the GM and coaches see as roster upgrades. So lots of seemingly good work has been done by the new regime, but there is plenty left to do before we see this year’s Vikings squad open the regular season on either September 11 or 12.

Around the NFL Observations

1.At the NFL Annual Meeting in Florida, the owners approved an overtime rules change: now, in postseason games only, both teams are guaranteed a possession which is the right move after the Chiefs beat the Bills in last January’s AFC Divisional playoff when Josh Allen and Bills didn’t touch the ball after Kansas City won the coin toss and Patrick Mahomes drove the Chiefs to the winning TD. This has happened too many times in recent years and worked against the Chiefs when Tom Brady drove the Patriots to the winning TD on the first possession of OT in the 2018 AFC Championship.

I think this will bring the two-point conversion into play in OT as either the team scoring first or second will likely go for two, and both teams will take that approach if the team scoring first decides to go for two and converts, forcing the other team to make a two-point conversion if they score a TD. Then the game would move to sudden death. The next step will be to put this OT rule into effect in the regular season too.

2. Deal struck for new stadium in Buffalo: this is good news for the NFL and upstate New York that the Bills will stay long term in one of the NFL’s smallest but most rabid markets. The deal, which must be approved by county and state lawmakers in New York, is for a $1.4 billion stadium financed by $850 million in public funds, $350 from the team’s owners, and a $200 million loan from the NFL. Credit quarterback Josh Allen for elevating the franchise to playoff status, so there was momentum for this deal to get kick-started.

3. The Vikings are happy to see another Aaron Rodgers’ receiver leave Green Bay as Marquez Valdes-Scantling has signed a three year, $30 million deal in Kansas City after the Chiefs traded all-pro Tyreek Hill to Miami for five draft picks (including first and second-rounders in next month’s draft). After losing top receiver Davante Adams to Las Vegas in a trade, the Packers will certainly be looking to pick a receiver with one of their two first-round selections at No. 22 or No. 28 overall (in a good receiver draft). Either that or Rodgers may go apoplectic.

4. Eight-time Pro Bowl linebacker Bobby Wagner, released in a salary-cap move by Seattle, is one of the premier free agents still on the market. The Rams, Cowboys, and Ravens are reportedly interested in signing him but probably not at his asking price of $11 million for one year. With their own Pro Bowl inside linebacker in Eric Kendricks, along with signing Jordan Hicks from Arizona, the Vikings are not in the Wagner sweepstakes, but they certainly hope the 31-year-old signs with Baltimore, so he moves to the AFC.

Jeff Diamond is a former Vikings GM, former Tennessee Titans President and was selected NFL Executive of the Year after the Vikings’ 15-1 season in 1998. He now works for the NFL agent group IFA based in Minneapolis and does other sports consulting and media work along with college/corporate speaking. Follow him and direct message him on Twitter– @jeffdiamondnfl