5 Pending Vikings FAs Playing Themselves into New Contracts

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The Minnesota Vikings are on a five-game win streak and sit in a wildcard playoff place with a 5-4 record. Despite the injuries to key players, the Vikings season is still alive. Casting one eye towards next season, several players are in contract years. As we have passed the halfway mark in the season, I want to look at five pending Vikings free agents playing themselves into a new contract.

5 Pending Vikings FAs Playing Themselves into New Contracts

The Vikings have a lot of players set to hit free agency when this season has finished. As it stands in 2024, the Vikings have just 36 players contracted to play football and 26 players scheduled to hit free agency. Some free agents will return to play in Vikings purple, and some won’t. Here are the five players I believe should be back next season.

Jordan Hicks

5 Pending Vikings
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In March, Jordan Hicks renegotiated his contract and saved the Vikings $1.5 million in cap space. The mutual agreement has certainly benefited everybody, and the two parties will be back at the negotiating table this offseason. Hicks has simply been that good this season, amassing 80 tackles, 1 sack, 3 tackles for loss, 1 forced fumble, 2 fumble recoveries (one for a touchdown), 1 interception, and 4 pass deflections. Pro Football Focus gives him an overall grade of 78.3, ranking him 18th among linebackers across the league. He also added the accolade of NFC Defensive Player of the Week in Week 6.

Hicks will be 32 by the time the 2024 season rolls around, but the only linebackers contracted to the Vikings roster for next season are Ivan Pace, Brian Asamoah, and William Kwenkeu. The rookie Pace has had an excellent start to his career but has plenty to improve on to become a quality all-around linebacker. Asamoah hasn’t progressed as hoped in a second season blighted by injury.

Meanwhile, after being waived by the Vikings before the season started, Kwenkeu returned and landed on IR. Given his performance this season and the Vikings lack of depth at the position, coupled with Hicks becoming one of the core leaders on the team. I would expect him to return for a third season in Minnesota.

Danielle Hunter

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The media has been trying to trade him away for the last month, but Danielle Hunter is still in Minnesota with the trade deadline passed. Hunter’s contract status was a factor in the rumors, being out of contract at the end of the season, with a void year tagged on with a cap hit just under $15 million.

This season, the Vikings were in a similar situation with Dalvin Tomlinson, who eventually signed with the Cleveland Browns. As much as Tomlinson has been missed on the defensive line, losing Hunter would leave a massive hole in the team. Players capable of leading the league in sacks — as Hunter does with 10 through nine weeks — aren’t out there in abundance. 

When you have one in the building like the Vikings do with Hunter, you do not let them leave unless you completely blow things up with a full rebuild. The Vikings are not, and not likely to be any time soon. The competitive rebuild mantra will live on in Minnesota. Hunter, the league’s tackles for loss leader, is a player you keep on board when trying to be competitive.

It will be expensive to keep him in Minnesota, but it will also be expensive to try and replace him. There are some important contracts that Kwesi Adofo-Mensah needs to finalize before next season, none more so than Hunter’s.

D.J. Wonnum

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A fourth-round draft pick in 2020, D.J. Wonnum has proved to be a good depth player capable of filling in as a starter when needed. He currently has a starting role with Marcus Davenport on IR, and 25 of his 56 games as a Viking have been starts. Wonnum has four sacks this season and 19 sacks across his three-and-a-half seasons in Minnesota. He also has 21 tackles for loss, 44 QB hits in his career, and a fumble recovery that he returned 51 yards for a touchdown this season.

With Hunter and Davenport both free agents at the end of the season, the Vikings depth chart at OLB for 2024 looks slim. Only Patrick Jones, who isn’t having a great season, and undrafted rookie Andre Carter are set to return. It’s a position that the Vikings will need to strengthen, possibly starting with Hunter returning and maybe an early draft pick. Bringing back Wonnum on a reasonably cheap deal will help with depth.

Dalton Risner

Former Denver Broncos offensive guard Dalton Risner on Monday Night Football during his first start with the Minnesota Vikings. U.S. Bank Stadium, October 23rd, 2023. Risner started for an injured Ezra Cleveland.

After trading Ezra Cleveland to Jacksonville, the path was left clear for Dalton Risner to make the right guard spot his own. Risner has played well since getting his chance in Week 7 deputizing for the injured Cleveland. Having been on the teams and fans’ radar for weeks, Risner finally signed for the Vikings after the Week 2 loss to the Eagles.

The guard penned a one-year deal that could be worth up to $4 million with a cap hit of $2.625 million this season. If Risner and the Vikings OL continue to perform well, then re-signing him should be one of the first pieces of business on the agenda for Adofo-Mensah in the offseason. The rest of the Vikings OL is contracted for next season; securing the signature of Risner for longer will keep the gang together.

Brandon Powell

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Brandon Powell signed a one-year contract for this season, primarily as the Vikings punt returner. Aside from a fumble in Week 2 against the Eagles, Powell’s punt returning had been solid yet unspectacular. He has returned 18 punts for 143 yards with a long of 24 and an average of 7.9 yards per return.

After receiving just one target in the first games, Powell has grown into a steady role on offense, stepping up when players have got injured. Since Week 5, he has 14 receptions on 21 targets for 152 yards and the game-winning touchdown catch in Atlanta last week.

He also has four rushing attempts for 15 yards, proving a useful option on jet sweeps where he has a long of nine yards and converted a 3rd and short to gain a first down. With no confirmation of when Justin Jefferson is coming off IR, K.J. Osborn in concussion protocol, and Cam Akers out for the season, the table is set for more opportunities for Powell. He could be the Vikings WR2 against the Saints on Sunday. If he continues to perform on offense and be reliable as the punt returner, bringing him back next season will be a no-brainer.