5 Vikings Remain in Free Agency Pool

1 Vikings Free Agent Wants to Come Back
Minnesota Vikings cornerback Duke Shelley (20) signals an incompletion after breaking up a pass intended for Green Bay Packers wide receiver Christian Watson (9) on Sunday, January 1, 2023, at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis. Tork Mason/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin.

The Minnesota Vikings entered free agency with many question marks surrounding their own players. Releasing the two stars, Adam Thielen and Eric Kendricks, wasn’t surprising but still sad to see for fans of the purple team. Players in the NFL come and go. The roster turnover is fascinating and really fast.

The new regime around general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah started the job last January, and only 27 of the 64 players currently under contract were brought in by the former GM, Rick Spielman. The roster wholly changed in a span of 14 months and will continue to do so with more free agents and draft picks on their way to Minnesota.

5 Vikings Remain in Free Agency Pool

5 Vikings Remain in Free Agency Pool
Nov 13, 2022; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Minnesota Vikings center Garrett Bradbury (56) on the sidelines during a game against the Buffalo Bills at Highmark Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports.

Garrett Bradbury, Nick Mullens, Alexander Mattison, Austin Schlottmann, Oli Udoh, Greg Joseph, Andrew DePaola, and Jonathan Bullard re-signed with the Vikings.

Dalvin Tomlinson signed a huge deal in Cleveland, in the same division as Patrick Peterson, who joined the Steelers. Thielen is playing with the next first-overall pick in Carolina, while Kendricks will play at home in Los Angeles with the Chargers. Unlike those players, a handful of 2022 Vikings remain un-signed.

Chandon Sullivan

The cornerback was a free agent signing in 2022 and was the man in the slot all season for a horrendous Vikings defense. While he was an upgrade over Mackensie Alexander’s dreadful 2021 campaign, Sullivan left much to be desired. The cornerback is a low-end slot cornerback in the NFL.

The NFL Had the Gall
Nov 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; New England Patriots tight end Hunter Henry (85) catches a pass originally ruled as a touchdown as Minnesota Vikings cornerback Chandon Sullivan (39) defends. Instant replay would overturn the call and rule the play an incompletion during the third quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

However, the Vikings don’t have anyone on the roster who can play the nickel CB position, so a reunion can’t be ruled out. Sullivan played in all 18 games, defended a career-high 7 passes, recovered one fumble, and made 60 tackles. He didn’t record an interception.

The most memorable game was the comeback win against the Colts when he returned two fumbles for scores, but neither counted because of bad calls by the officials.

Slot cornerbacks usually have to wait until teams find their outside guys, so his availability in the second week of free agency isn’t shocking, but it would be surprising if he had a huge market.

Kris Boyd

Like Sullivan, Boyd is a cornerback, in theory. Boyd entered the league in the seventh round of the 2019 draft and secured a roster spot. However, he hasn’t been used much on defense in years. In his second season in 2020, Boyd started five games for the Vikings and one more in 2021.

Only 7 Vikings
Dec 9, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings defensive back Kris Boyd (29) celebrates during the third quarter against the Pittsburgh Steelers at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports.

He played on over 500 combined defensive snaps in 2020 and 2021 but only 37 in 2022 under the new coaching staff. Most came in the meaningless Week 18 game in Chicago when the Vikings rested most starters in the second half.

However, Boyd is a special teams demon. He is the gunner on punts and pretty good at it. The Vikings may want him back as a special teamer.

Duke Shelley

Another cornerback, Shelley, played fantastic in 2022. The Bears waived him after the preseason after using him in the slot for years, a position he never liked. Minnesota used him on the outside after injuries decimated the CB group, where he thrived. Shelley is an undersized cornerback but is as good as anyone at contesting catches and jump balls against bigger receivers.

watch against giants
Dawson Knox and Duke Shelley. © JAMIE GERMANO / USA TODAY NETWORK.

Considering the bad shape of the CB room in Minnesota, the front office should strongly consider bringing him back for another season to start until one of the 2022 rookies, Andrew Booth and Akayleb Evans, is ready to take his spot.

Irv Smith

The tight end was a second-round pick in 2019. He was the annual projected breakout star, but it has not happened yet. At first, he was in a tight end committee with veteran Kyle Rudolph and then missed all but eight games in the last couple of seasons. Smith has the upside to be a productive tight end, but it requires some projection.

Once Again, Irv Smith Is Injured.
Oct 30, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings tight end Irv Smith Jr. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

It is unlikely that the Vikings would re-sign him after adding T.J. Hockenson and Josh Oliver to the tight end group in the last five months unless he is willing to sign an extremely team-friendly deal because the market is not there for him and tight ends in general.

Olabisi Johnson

Like Boyd, Johnson was a seventh-round selection in the 2019 draft and had a promising career start when he slipped into the starting lineup for six games because of an Adam Thielen injury. He recorded 294 yards and 3 touchdowns as a rookie. In his second season in 2020, his production dipped to 189 scoreless yards, followed by ACL tears in consecutive preseason.

Nov 29, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Bisi Johnson (81) catches a pass during the third quarter against the Carolina Panthers at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Johnson recently visited with the Patriots, but a deal has not been signed. He probably has to settle for a contract near the veteran minimum and prove that he can stay healthy after not playing a game since January 2021. The Vikings currently have only six receivers on the roster, which is very light for this offseason stage.

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