The Top 3 Prominent Ex-Vikings Scheduled to Hit Free Agency

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The Minnesota Vikings are at a foundational intersection this offseason, hoping to subtract the “rebuild” label from their competitive rebuild philosophy.

The Top 3 Prominent Ex-vikings Scheduled to Hit Free Agency

Other teams, of course, will also fill out their rosters, and the process begins in five weeks when free agency kicks off.

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Meanwhile, several ex-Vikings players will hit free agency, many nearing the end of their respective careers. Anthony Barr and Linval Joseph are examples. But per prominent former Vikings who will assuredly latch onto new teams, these are the top three. They’re listed alphabetically.

1. Ezra Cleveland (G)

Top 3 Prominent
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The Vikings vamoosed Cleveland via trade in October, grabbing a 6th-Round pick from the Jacksonville Jaguars for their troubles. The club pulled the trigger on the move because Dalton Risner was chomping at the bit to start, and generally speaking, Risner played quite well, meaning Cleveland would’ve sat on the bench down the stretch of 2024. So, it made sense to trade him for draft capital.

Cleveland played over 350 snaps for the Jaguars before Jacksonville melted down in December and missed the postseason. He fetched a 59.5 Pro Football Focus grade altogether in 2023.

Unless the Jaguars bring him back, he’ll hit open free agency in five weeks. In theory, if the Vikings don’t re-sign Risner, who is also a free agent, Cleveland could return to Minnesota. Just a possibility, not a prediction.

2. Yannick Ngakoue (EDGE)

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This man is an EDGE-rushing mercenary, one year at a time. Take a peek at Ngakoue’s career resume:

  • Jacksonville Jaguars (2016–2019)
  • Minnesota Vikings (2020)
  • Baltimore Ravens (2020)
  • Las Vegas Raiders (2021)
  • Indianapolis Colts (2022)
  • Chicago Bears (2023)

Every year, Ngakoue packs his bags and has joined a new team over the last four seasons. Minnesota traded for Ngakoue before the start of the 2020 season, but the experiment didn’t last long. Former general manager Rick Spielman turned around about two months later and shipped the pass rusher to the Jaguars.

Ngakoue excels at pressuring quarterbacks — and then that’s it. He’s not much of a run-stuffer, probably why he hops from team to team.

The 2024 offseason will be no different.

3. Za’Darius Smith (EDGE)

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Smith produced a marvelous season if one enjoys PFF grades and a ho-hum campaign if the beholder is fixated on sacks. He logged 5.5 sacks in 2023 but recorded a dazzling 82.6 score from PFF.

At age 31, Smith can likely secure one more substantial contract, and it is unclear if the Browns will oblige. Some team, however, will splurge for his services because pass rushers are ultra-vital in the pass-happy NFL.

Smith will be a “good get” for a defense-needy team, perhaps a playoff contender, so he can chase rings during his career twilight.


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,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

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

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