Vikings Linked to Veteran Free Agent

Cleveland Browns safety John Johnson III arrives before an NFL football game at FirstEnergy Stadium, Monday, Oct. 31, 2022, in Cleveland, Ohio. Browns. © Jeff Lange / USA TODAY NETWORK.

Six free agents have joined the Minnesota Vikings this offseason — Josh Oliver (TE, Ravens), Marcus Davenport (EDGE, Saints), Byron Murphy (CB, Cardinals), Dean Lowry (DT, Packers), Brandon Powell (WR, Rams), and Troy Reeder (LB, Chargers).

The club doesn’t have much cap space at the moment — it ranks last in the parameter — but a couple of contractual restructures or trades can fix that in a jiffy.

Vikings Linked to Veteran Free Agent

And if the Vikings are interested in adding to the list of six, Bleacher Report offered a suggestion this week, safety John Johnson from the Cleveland Browns.

Linked to Veteran Free
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports.

The Vikings employ these men at safety but apparently could use a hedge to the bet, per BR’s Maurice Moton:

  • S1: Harrison Smith
  • S2: Lewis Cine
  • S3: Camryn Bynum
  • S4: Josh Metellus
  • S5: Theo Jackson

Moton explained, “Johnson could find a home with the Minnesota Vikings, who may need a veteran placeholder at safety while Lewis Cine recovers from a compound fracture in his leg. In 2022, Camryn Bynum started 17 games at safety, but he allowed a 123 passer rating in coverage. Johnson would be an immediate upgrade alongside Harrison Smith.”

Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports.

“Assuming the Vikings trade or release edge-rusher Za’Darius Smith, who wants to play elsewhere, per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, they’ll save $12.2 million in cap space, per Over the Cap, which should leave enough room to sign Johnson,” Moton concluded.

Johnson to Vikings would make sense — if the team doesn’t quite trust Lewis Cine’s injury recovery. Minnesota drafted Cine in Round 1 last year, meaning the man must start before too long, or he’ll nibble at the naughty draft bust category. Cine broke his leg in London six months ago but is progressing well in recovery.

Head coach Kevin O’Connell spoke to the media this week and provided a lengthy Cine update, “Lewis is in a great spot right now. He’s well ahead of his rehab process. I see him [every day]. It’s unique to see a player every single day this time of year at the facility, but that’s been Lew. Been in my office a bunch, asking, ‘Hey, when do we get started? Have you set the schedule for OTAs? What’s training camp going to be like?'”

“I said, ‘Just hold on, man. We’re going to be just fine.’ But he’s doing a great job, really excited about Lewis and his mental growth through how he handled adversity of that injury, stay connected with his teammates, and ultimately hopefully this is just going to be a small bump in a great road to Lew becoming the player he’s going to become,” O’Connell added.

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

So, Cine is on track for his sophomore season, but if Minnesota obliged Bleacher Report and signed Johnson, it would onboard a player with this Pro Football Focus resume:

  • 2022 = 62.8
  • 2021 = 68.7
  • 2020 = 85.6
  • 2019 = 53.5
  • 2018 = 84.1
  • 2017 = 82.9

In six seasons with the Los Angeles Rams and Cleveland Browns, Johnson has totaled 512 total tackles, 41 passes defended, 13 tackles for loss, 12 interceptions, 6 QB hits, and 4 forced fumbles. He’s played in 86 games while starting 80.

Johnson also crossed paths with O’Connell in one season for the Rams before he trekked for Cleveland.

His next contract should fetch $6 to $10 million per season.


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 OverTheCap.com.

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