CBS Sports Nails Vikings’ Free Agency Needs

Cap Increase
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings enter a crucial offseason in franchise history. Currently without a quarterback, that essential position must be filled one way or another. The decision surely impacts all other moves as the front office must account for the potential cap hit of the new starter, but it also shows how serious the Vikings will be in the upcoming season or if it’s just a rebuilding year.

CBS Sports Nails Vikings’ Free Agency Needs

CBS Sports Nails Vikings Free Agency Needs
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah will continue to be in charge. All his criticized moves will be forgotten if he finds a franchise QB in the draft. But his first job will be to guide the organization through the free agency period and re-sign his guys or properly replace them. Filling the holes before the draft is crucial to keep the flexibility to draft the best player available, regardless of position.

The pending exit of some significant contributors opens some big holes on the roster. Jeff Kerr from CBS Sports detailed those for all NFC teams, and his analysis of the Vikings hit the nail on the head. He nominated the following five positions:

  • QB
  • EDGE
  • CB
  • DT
  • RB

About the quarterback vacancy, Kerr wrote:

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The Vikings are going to have to decide whether they want to retain Kirk Cousins or not. Minnesota doesn’t have a quarterback in the pipeline to start if the Vikings decide to move on from Cousins, yet could get creative with the No. 11 pick and attempt to find a franchise quarterback there (or trade up for the quarterback they want). 

It is THE most important move the Vikings will make. Do they keep Kirk Cousins, who ensures decent play, but his age and the season-ending injury result in the risk that an age-related decline is possible at some point? The other option is to let him walk and try to find a successor. Either option is understandable, but the demanded fully guaranteed contract could potentially be a negotiation breakpoint.

a Pivotal Vikings
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If the Vikings don’t re-sign Cousins, they might still be in the market for a different veteran to be the bridge quarterback until a rookie is ready, although they might just hand the keys to Nick Mullens, who is already on the roster.

Danielle Hunter’s potential departure is the main reason why Adofo-Mensah must sign a new edge defender (or Hunter). Kerr commented: “Minnesota also needs to find a pass rusher in case Danielle Hunter walks. Even if Hunter comes back, the improved defense under Brian Flores will need more pass-rushing help.”

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports.

Hunter isn’t the only pass-rusher in the final weeks of his contract as fellow linebackers Marcus Davenport and D.J. Wonnum are also scheduled to be off the team in March, leaving Andre Carter and Patrick Jones as the two remaining ones under contract.

Signing a pair of guys who can get after the quarterback and perhaps adding someone with one of the first two picks could be a reasonable approach. Hunter’s return would be a significant step towards competitiveness in 2024.

The cornerback spot is fascinating. All four top guys return for another season, but besides Byron Murphy, none is a proven starter. Akayleb Evans was up and down in his first season as a starter, while Andrew Booth and Mekhi Blackmon showed flashes but played just minor roles.

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Defensive coordinator Brian Flores might insist on a second veteran to play on the opposite side of Murphy. That would undoubtedly help the defense, as his scheme only works if the cornerbacks can hold up for a couple of seconds. On the flip side, Flores might see potential in the three young defenders and put faith in them.

The defensive line is a disaster, with Harrison Phillips as the only difference maker up front. Jaquelin Roy and Dean Lowry are the only other players under contract. It is a loaded defensive tackle class, and the Vikings must snatch one of them, primarily a pass-rusher, which could unlock more things for Flores.

Another spot that must be addressed is the backfield. Alexander Mattison and Ty Chandler are under contract, but adding either a veteran to take some load off them or drafting someone is without alternative, too bad was the running game last season.

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

The Vikings currently have roughly $24 million in cap space, not enough to fill all those holes. However, the team can free some more by re-signing Cousins or Hunter, and even Justin Jefferson’s looming contract extension would give them more room to operate. Deals of new signings can also be backloaded, something Adofo-Mensah has done in previous seasons.

Free agency opens on March 11 with the negotiation window. Contracts can be signed two days later.

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