Your 2023 Vikings Free Agency Handbook

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports.

You need a one-stop shop for all of the Minnesota Vikings 2023 free-agent doings — and this is that, with NFL players soon to be on the move in about two weeks.

In this first annual handbook, we’ll explain existing free agents who are free to sign anywhere, players theorized as cap casualties, men that could be traded, others who could be targeted for contractual restructuring, and realistic external free agents the Vikings could pursue.

Your 2023 Vikings Free Agency Handbook

With free agency’s “legal tampering” period just 16 days away, Minnesota remains about $24 million over the cap, meaning various players will exit the franchise. Others will experience contract finagling. One or two could be traded.

Players will double up on this atlas; that’s just the nature of the beast. Cap-casualty guys could ultimately be traded — or some could expect restructures.

Alas, follow the atlas.

The Free Agents

Your 2023 Vikings Free
Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports.

These are men who played for the 2022 Vikings now able to sign anywhere beginning the week of March 13th.

  • Kris Boyd (CB)
  • Garrett Bradbury (C)
  • Jonathan Bullard (DL)
  • Andrew DePaola (LS)
  • Ben Ellefson (TE)
  • Bisi Johnson (WR)
  • Greg Joseph (K)
  • Alexander Mattison (RB)
  • Nick Mullens (QB)
  • Patrick Peterson (CB)
  • Austin Schlottman (C)
  • Duke Shelley (CB)
  • Irv Smith (TE)
  • Dalvin Tomlinson (DT)
  • Chandon Sullivan (CB)
  • Oli Udoh (OT)

Bradbury, Peterson, Shelley, and Tomlinson headline the list for most implications about the Vikings 2023 roster. If those individuals don’t re-sign in Minnesota, general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah must seek wise replacements. That foursome started games in 2022, and all of them performed wonderfully, especially Peterson, Shelley, and Tomlinson. Bradbury markedly improved, and it felt like a big deal because his pass protection wasn’t woeful.

Mattison, too, is interesting because he could theoretically return at an affordable price and be the Vikings RB1 — if Dalvin Cook departs.

Overall, you should expect about half of the players listed above to leave the team.

The Potential Cap Casualty Players

4 Things to Monitor for Vikings vs. 49ers
Billy Hardiman-USA TODAY Sports.

These are players under contract in 2023 but wouldn’t inspire utter shock if released.

  • Dalvin Cook (RB)
  • C.J. Ham (FB)
  • Jordan Hicks (LB)
  • Eric Kendricks (LB)
  • Chris Reed (G/C)
  • Za’Darius Smith (OLB)
  • Adam Thielen (WR)

News broke a week ago that Za’Darius Smith put his house for sale on the market, but he actually did that about a month ago. That tidbit should not be considered a precursor to leaving Minnesota. Perhaps he wants a different house in the Twin Cities.

Still, the Vikings have seven honest-to-goodness cap-casualty candidates, as Adofo-Mensah effectuates his slide under the NFL’s salary cap.

Jordan Hicks is likely a goner. C.J. Ham is too expensive for a fullback not utilized much in a Kevin O’Connell offense. Big questions surround the futures of Dalvin Cook and Adam Thielen. And then it’s anybody’s guess on the Vikings preferences regarding Eric Kendricks and Za’Darius Smith.

Chris Reed is only a possibility because he’s a backup offensive line on tap for a $2.75 million cap number. Is that necessary for a guard who may not play?

The Trade Candidates

The Vikings -- Recipients of Atonement?
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.
  • Dalvin Cook (RB)
  • Kirk Cousins (QB)
  • Danielle Hunter (OLB)
  • Harrison Smith (S)
  • Za’Darius Smith (OLB)
  • Adam Thielen (WR)

The only “serious” or realistic trade nominees above are arguably Cook and Thielen. In theory, contract talks involving Cousins or Hunter could sour, later resulting in a trade. But such trades are doubtful.

The Smiths are on the list because folks don’t know the mindsets of new defensive coordinator Brian Flores or the aforementioned Adofo-Mensah. There is a world where one or both could be traded.

For clarity, if Cousins were on the trade block, it would probably be out in the open by now, and it is not.

The Restructure Candidates

Thing at Stake for
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Again — names double up here; that’s just how it works in the offseason. These are players who Adofo-Mensah wants on the 2023 roster but targets for moving money into the future when the salary cap inevitably inflates.

  • Dalvin Cook (RB)
  • Kirk Cousins (QB)
  • Eric Kendricks (LB)
  • Brian O’Neill (RT)
  • Harrison Smith (S)
  • Za’Darius Smith (OLB)
  • Adam Thielen (WR)

Cousins is the number-one-with-a-bullet elephant in the room. Extending his contract could create north of $23 million in 2023 cap space. If Minnesota isn’t interested in letting Cousins play on the final year of his deal in 2023, he should kick off the contractual restructures.

Don’t get spooked by O’Neill on the list — he’d be an example of “moving money around.” He’s not going anywhere.

The rest are fundamental questions of how much do the Vikings want these players back?

Looking for Large Extensions

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports.

Consider these players already under contract but looking to secure their next big contract. Cousins is listed because he’s obviously-and-maybe in line for a one or two-year extension.

  • Kirk Cousins (QB)
  • T.J. Hockenson (TE)
  • Justin Jefferson (WR)

Cousins will seek between $35 and $40 million per year — if the Vikings indeed want more years from the QB1. Hockenson should fetch around $15 million annually, perhaps a bit more. And Jefferson will set the market for wide receivers, sitting on $30 to $35 million per season arrangement for the next four to five years.

The Free Agent Targets

Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports.

Admittedly, this is a crapshoot because one must hijack Adofo-Mensah’s psyche to know his wishlist. But keep these names in mind. Relatively obscure names are excluded.

Running Back

  • Kenyan Drake (BAL)
  • Myles Gaskin (MIA)
  • D’Ernest Johnson (CLE)
  • Ronald Jones (TB)
  • Marlon Mack (DEN)
  • Samaje Perine (CIN)
  • Devin Singletary (BUF)

Wide Receiver

  • D.J. Chark (DET)
  • Mecole Hardman (KC)
  • Deonte Harty (NO)
  • Allen Lazard (GB)
  • Darius Slayton (NYG)
  • JuJu Smith-Schuster (KC)
  • Robert Woods (LAR)


  • Austin Blythe (SEA)
  • Connor McGovern (NYJ)
  • Ethan Pocic (CLE)

Defensive Tackle

  • Taven Bryan (CLE)
  • Michael Brockers (DET)
  • Sheldon Rankins (NYJ)
  • Chris Wormley (PIT)

Off-Ball Linebacker

  • Devin Bush (PIT)
  • Tremaine Edmunds (BUF)
  • David Long (TEN)
  • Kyle Van Noy (NE)


  • James Bradberry (PHI)
  • Jamel Dean (TB)
  • Jonathan Jones (NE)
  • Byron Murphy (ARI)
  • Nik Needham (MIA)
  • Cameron Sutton (PIT)

**The Vikings have the third-least cap space leaguewide as of February 25th.

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