Why the Vikings Probably Aren’t Looking at Remaining Veteran FAs

Vikings Draft Party
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

After Za’Darius Smith was traded to the Cleveland Browns, the Minnesota Vikings finally had some breathing room with the salary cap.

Why the Vikings Probably Aren’t Looking at Remaining Veteran FAs

With all the draft picks except seventh-round RB DeWayne McBride signed up, the Vikings have just shy of $10 million of salary cap space. That could increase with a trade or release of Dalvin Cook, and if the Vikings wanted to push the boat out, Brian O’Neill could be restructured, leaving the Vikings with up to $30 million in cap space. However, there are several reasons why the Vikings probably aren’t looking at the remaining veteran free agents.

On the surface, replacing Smith with another veteran edge defender like Melvin Ingram, Justin Houston, or Leonard Floyd would make sense. As would adding players like Ndamukong Suh, Marcus Peters, or Bryce Callahan to the defense. However, the business the Vikings have conducted so far suggests that none of those players will likely make their way to Minnesota.

Looking at Remaining
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All of the Vikings major free-agent signings have been aged between 25 and 28 years old;

  • Byron Murphy – 25
  • Joejuan Williams – 25
  • Brandon Powell – 26
  • Josh Oliver – 26
  • Marcus Davenport – 26
  • Dean Lowry – 28
  • Troy Reeder – 28

Meanwhile, former starters in their thirties have gone, such as Adam Thielen, Eric Kendricks, Patrick Peterson, and Za’Darius Smith. I don’t think this is a coincidence but a concerted effort to make the team younger. The Vikings have kept vastly experienced players on each side of the ball in the shape of Kirk Cousins and Harrison Smith. Outside of those two, depending on how the final 53-man roster shapes up, it could be a very young Vikings roster.

Adofo-Mensah and O’Connell Shaping Their Roster

Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and head coach Kevin O’Connell at a Minnesota Timberwolves game in 2022.

Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Kevin O’Connell have got their feet under the table, with one year as general manager and head coach under their belts, respectively. They proved they could turn what had been an underachieving roster into division champions in just one season without significant changes. There was something that needed to be addressed in Year 2: aging players on big contracts. 

That is why Thielen and Kendricks were released. Adofo-Mensah and O’Connell inherited a mess of a roster and salary cap situation. Navigating those waters while working to stay competitive would always be difficult.

It worked well last year, but can the Vikings do it again? Replacing the likes of Thielen with a rookie in Jordan Addison and Kendricks with a second-year player with minimal playing time in Brian Asamoah has almost been a necessity. 

If Addison, Asamoah, and the young defensive backs that will be heavily relied upon have good seasons and play to a starting player level, then the Vikings will be in great shape. If it doesn’t, and the young players don’t reach the levels expected this season, then Minnesota will have problems.

Will There Be Any More New Additions?

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I’m not ruling out the Vikings adding to the roster; indeed, only this week, a WR who had been playing in the XFL was signed. There’s always room for young developmental players, possibly with one eye on the practice squad. I don’t see a Za’Darius Smith-type signing where a veteran player comes in on a cheap cap hit but is too expensive to keep past the first season.

Suppose the right player is available in that 25 to 28-year-old range who can be a long-term solution. Then maybe the Vikings make a move, but no players that stand out like that are still available in free agency. Maybe Kwesi can cook something up in a trade before or during the season, as he did with Hockenson. There are also contract extensions for Jefferson, Hockenson, and, next year, Christian Darrisaw that need to be addressed.

There is plenty the Vikings need to work on; I don’t think veteran free agents, particularly expensive ones, are a priority.