Vikings Should Say ‘No Thanks’ to 1 of Their Free Agents

ESPN Labels Vikings "Achilles' Heel"
Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports

Seventeen Vikings players enter free agency when the new league year starts on March 15, and their 2022 contracts expire. General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah should keep some of them on the team while others should depart.

Dalvin Tomlinson is one of the former. He is one of the most consistent players in the league, according to his PFF grade and game film. Tomlinson will never be one for the big plays, but he does the dirty work, the run-stopping, exceptionally well. It was by far the best thing the suspect Vikings’ defense did in 2022. The defensive tackle joined the purple team in 2021 during free agency as a huge surprise because the team already employed Michael Pierce.

However, the Vikings retained Tomlinson while releasing Pierce. Most fans would welcome retaining the former Alabama lineman. The Vikings have another Alabama alumnus entering free agency, and his tenure with the organization should be over.

Vikings Should Say ‘No Thanks’ to 1 of Their Free Agents

Vikings Should Say 'No Thanks' to 1 of Their Free Agents
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

In 2019, the Vikings had veteran Kyle Rudolph on the team. He was never a dynamic tight end, but he certainly was one of the most reliable players in the league. Rudolph came fresh off a season with 64 catches, 634 yards, and four scores. He had just turned 29 years old at the time of the draft, which is not a high age for tight ends.

However, former GM Rick Spielman decided to add another tight end to the roster when he picked Irv Smith Jr. in the second round out of Alabama. Right after the draft, many expected the Vikings to move Rudolph. Once again, the organization made a surprising move when they extended the veteran’s contract. Smith spent his first two career seasons in a committee with Rudolph and recorded 676 yards and seven touchdowns.

Kyle Rudolph Chooses the NFC's Super Bowl Frontrunner
Nov 17, 2019; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph. © David Berding-USA TODAY Sports.

Two years later, Rudolph was cut as a cap casualty, and the team turned to Smith. Unfortunately, his injury struggles began. In the 2021 offseason, Smith tore his meniscus. He had to undergo surgery and missed the full season and had to watch Tyler Conklin, his backup, earn a big payday.

In 2022, Smith was again predicted to be the Vikings’ breakout star. He struggled in the first few games with a few drops, including a game-changing play in Philadelphia on a deep bomb from Cousins. A few weeks later, the Vikings had to place him on injured reserve with a high ankle sprain and traded for T.J. Hockenson. Subsequently, Smith was demoted to tight end two duties once he was back on the field.

Purple Rumor Mill: Face of Franchise Says Bye to Twitter, Blough Time, CB in the Draft
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports.

Smith finished the campaign with only 25 catches and 182 yards and found the end zone twice. Hockenson is under contract for another season and will likely be extended in the offseason.

Johnny Mundt, signed as a backup for Smith, has proven to be a solid second tight end with career-high numbers of 19 catches for 140 yards and a touchdown. In addition, Mundt is a great blocker, an important, often underlooked skill for a tight end.

Spotrac projected Smith’s market value at $10.2 million per season — an insane number for a player that missed 26 games in the last two seasons with a career-best season of 365 yards. Four seasons into his career, Smith is still more project than a finished product. He is still only 24 years old and has potential, but he is too unsafe of a player to re-sign for the cap-strapped Vikings.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt