Vikings Free Agent Grades for 2023
Along with re-signing several existing free agents this year, the Minnesota Vikings welcomed six notable newcomers to the roster from free agency.
And through 14 games, the club has a 7-7 record to show for it, battling through a campaign that featured the loss of quarterback Kirk Cousins to a torn Achilles. Minnesota has a coinflip’s chance of reaching the playoffs, and that probability will swing wildly depending on this week’s game between the Vikings and Detroit Lions.
Vikings Free Agent Grades for 2023
But with most of the 2023 regular season in the books, these are the grades for free-agent newcomers. Players are listed alphabetically.
1. Marcus Davenport (OLB)
Davenport has played in the better part of three Vikings games this season, his first season with the club. Overall, Minnesota is 82% through the regular season, and Davenport has played 21% of it. Not ideal.
When he did play — Weeks 4 through 6 — Davenport was quite effective, especially at the Carolina Panthers in the Vikings’ first win of the season.
However, his pricetag was $13 million for one season, and it hasn’t been worth the squeeze. It’s also unclear when Davenport will return from a high ankle sprain — suffered in October. December is almost over.
2. Dean Lowry (DT)
Lowry was lost for the season, too, but played nine games before the exodus. He injured his pectoral muscle. The former Packer saw action on 237 defensive snaps before hitting injured reserve, a worthwhile amount.
His performance didn’t move the needle on statsheets and box scores, but Lowry was a decent defender in Brian Flores’ much-improved defense. He signed a two-year deal in March and should be back with the Vikings in 2024.
3. Byron Murphy (CB)
Murphy’s performance has improved in the last month, always shadowing the opposing team’s best wide receiver. He was the Vikings’ keynote cornerback signing in an offseason where Patrick Peterson, Duke Shelley, Cameron Dantzler, Chandon Sullivan, and Kris Boyd departed to new teams.
Offseason hype propped Murphy up for months, and he hasn’t quite lived up to a shutdown corner billing. But he’s sturdy enough to start 14 games in Minnesota during his maiden voyage campaign.
He’s notched a 57.9 PFF grade and will miss Week 16 due to injury.
4. Josh Oliver (TE)
PFF calls this man the seventh-best tight end in the NFL after Week 15, which is particularly neat because T.J. Hockenson ranks sixth via the same metric. So, yes, Minnesota employs two Top-7 TEs at the moment.
Oliver only has 18 receptions in 2023, manning a TE2 role and run-blocking specialist assignments. He could play TE1 for the Vikings in a pinch, but Hockenson has that gig all wrapped up.
On the whole, however, Oliver has done what’s asked of him in the Vikings’ offense.
5. Brandon Powell (WR)
The team’s defacto WR3 and punt returner, Powell scored a game-winning touchdown at the Atlanta Falcons in early November. And if Minnesota wiggles into the postseason, the win at Atlanta will probably be the difference maker.
Meanwhile, Vikings fans don’t have to worry about tomfoolery during punt returners; Powell doesn’t dink around with fumbles and such.
All told, Powell has 235 receiving yards on 35 targets. His affordability, one year and $1.2 million, has nominated the 28-year-old as a steal of a deal in 2023.
6. Dalton Risner (LG)
It took a while for Minnesota to insert Risner into the starting lineup, but thereafter, the group stabilized as one of the NFL’s best, especially via pass protection. The Vikings front office even traded former left guard Ezra Cleveland to the Jacksonville Jaguars at the Halloween deadline.
Risner loves it in Minnesota and will probably stick around beyond 2023. That means the Vikings have a real shot at total offensive line continuity, as Christian Darrisaw, Garrett Bradbury, Ed Ingram, and Brian O’Neill are under contract for 2024.
The newcomer Viking isn’t quite a Pro Bowler, but he does jell nicely in the offense.
Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).