The 5 Most Tantalizing Free Agents Vikings Can Pursue

As of early February, the Minnesota Vikings have the fourth-least available cap space, but the team is expected to restructure, trade, or outright release expensive veteran players this offseason.

The Vikings finished the 2022 season with an impressive 13-4 record — about four more wins than most pundits and sportsbooks foresaw — but flumped in the first round of the playoffs.

The 5 Most Tantalizing Free Agents Vikings Can Pursue

So, the team must improve — especially on defense — if it wants to [once again] renew all-in Super Bowl stakes. And adding one or some of these five free agents could realistically help. Of course, Minnesota may not make any splashy free-agent moves with limited cap space, but if they do, these are the big-name possibilities, ranked in no particular order.

Jamel Dean (Cornerback, TB)

The 5 Most Tantalizing
Oct 23, 2022; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Jamel Dean (35) leaves the field after the game at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Expected Yearly Salary as Free Agent = $16-$17 million
2022 PFF Grade = 77.9
Age = 26

The Vikings have five men in their current CB orbit — Andrew Booth, Akayleb Evans, Cameron Dantlzer, Patrick Peterson, and Duke Shelley. Peterson and Shelley are free agents, like Dean, and it is unclear if one or both will return in 2023.

Somehow, whether via free agency or draft guarantees that don’t usually exist, Minnesota must obtain one certifiably good CB1. Peterson and Shelley were the only semblances of this in 2022, and they’re now free agents.

One damn-steady CB — like Dean — could make Booth, Evans, and Dantzler feel like decent roster depth. Dean is faster than lighting and produced a career-best year in 2022.

Tremaine Edmunds (Linebacker, BUF)

Jan 22, 2023; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Buffalo Bills linebacker Tremaine Edmunds (49) looks on during warmups before an AFC divisional round game between the Buffalo Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals at Highmark Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Expected Yearly Salary as Free Agent = $10-$11 million
2022 PFF Grade = 79.0
Age =

Eric Kendricks and Jordan Hicks became old — quickly — in 2022, and the Vikings defense generally seemed slow accordingly. Signing Edmunds in free agency would change that with the snap of two fingers.

Edmunds entered the NFL as a 20-year-old, so he’d almost seem like a rookie age-wise if he joined Minnesota in 2023. In 13 games this season, he logged 102 tackles and 7 passes defended.

Javon Hargrave (Defensive Tackle, PHI)

Dec 6, 2020; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) is sacked by Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Javon Hargrave (93) in the first quarter at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports.

Expected Yearly Salary as Free Agent = $19-$20 million
2022 PFF Grade = 78.2
Age =

Probably a longshot because of the price tag, Hargrave would instantly upgrade the guts of Minnesota’s defensive trenches. For too long, the Vikings have said, “this will work” at defensive tackle, employing players like Shamar Stephen, Armon Watts, and Jonathan Bullard at Hargrave’s position as of late.

In fact, Kevin Williams may be considered the last superstar non-nose-tackle DT utilized by the Vikings.

Hargrave notched 11 sacks in 2022 and might win a Super Bowl in one week.

David Long (Linebacker, TEN)

Nov 27, 2022; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Tennessee Titans linebacker David Long Jr. (51) waits to take the field before the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports.

Expected Yearly Salary as Free Agent = $4-$5 million
2022 PFF Grade = 76.2
Age =

Cheaper than the aforementioned Edmunds, Long is a steady and affordable off-ball linebacker the Vikings could implement if Kendricks and Hicks depart.

Trotting into Week 1 of 2023 with David Long and Brian Asamoah would cause excitement, or the very least, contentment.

Daron Payne (Defensive Tackle, WAS)

Jun 14, 2022; Ashburn, Virginia, USA; Washington Commanders defensive tackle Daron Payne (94) jogs on the field during drills on day one of minicamp at The Park Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports.

Expected Yearly Salary as Free Agent = $19-$20 million
2022 PFF Grade = 58.4
Age =

Another bank-breaker, Payne is mean, strong, and productive. PFF evidently isn’t a fan of Payne, but the Commanders lineman tallied 11.5 sacks and a Pro Bowl in 2022.

His 18 tackles for loss ranked fourth in the NFL, and he can stop the run to go along with all of the sacks.

Acquiring Payne would take pressure off Danielle Hunter and Za’Darius Smith — or whoever becomes the Vikings EDGE rushers in September — as those defenders were the sole source of quarterback pressure this season, especially when Dalvin Tomlinson was injured.

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,’ and The Doors (the band).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by