Unsung FA Could Be Patch Gap Solution for Vikings

Use Unusual Tactic
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Heading into the 2024 offseason, the Minnesota Vikings have two tight ends under contract: T.J. Hockenson and Josh Oliver.

The duo is productive, and generally speaking, most Vikings fans should consider this spot on the depth chart as equipped.

Unsung FA Could Be Patch Gap Solution for Vikings

But Hockenson was injured and lost for the season in December after a dirty hit by Detroit Lions safety Kerby Joseph. Los Angeles Rams tight end Tyler Higbee was injured by the same Joseph a few weeks later. Now, Hockenson — and probably Higbee — may not be ready for the 2024 regular season.

Accordingly, Minnesota might need a patch-gap solution at tight end, especially if it doesn’t re-sign Johnny Mundt or Nick Muse. And per Bleacher Report, Harrison Bryant could be the right guy for the assignment.

Unsung FA Could
Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield chats with tight end Harrison Bryant before a game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022, in Cleveland. © Jeff Lange / USA TODAY NETWORK.

BR‘s Kristopher Knox analyzed “bargain-bin” free agents this week and connected Bryant to the Vikings as a temporary solution. Knox wrote, “Bryant would make the most sense for a team short on cap space and/or a team that only needs temporary help at the tight end position. The Minnesota Vikings are firmly in the latter category, as they have an elite tight end in T.J. Hockenson who suffered a torn ACL and MCL in December. Adding Bryant would give Minnesota an insurance policy at the position early in the 2024 season.”

And Knox isn’t coming out of left field. Indeed, the Vikings may fancy Mundt and Muse, in-house solutions while rolling with Oliver at TE1. But Bryant would hedge the bet against a Hockenson recovery hiccup and help keep the enterprise afloat until his return.

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Knox added about Bryant’s career production, “Aside from being an occasional red-zone threat, Bryant was rarely featured. He played a career-low 33 percent of the offensive snaps this past season and finished with just 13 catches for 81 yards, although three of those catches went for touchdowns. Bryant’s dip came after Cleveland signed Jordan Akins in the 2023 offseason and paired him with budding star David Njoku.”

All told, Bryant has registered 89 receptions for 791 yards and 10 touchdowns in 65 career games. The man has started 30 contests. Meanwhile, Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah came to Minnesota from Cleveland, where Bryant just spent four decent seasons. Adofo-Mensah will know Bryant and his scouting report. The connection checks out.

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During Justin Jefferson’s absence last year, Hockenson was the only consistent pass-catcher universally targeted by an assortment of Vikings quarterbacks, including Kirk Cousins, Joshua Dobbs, Nick Mullens, and Jaren Hall. Bryant won’t mirror Hockenson’s play level, but at least Cousins or the next quarterback could utilize Bryant in the meantime.

What’s more, Bryant will be affordable. TE2 types never really break the bank, and Bryant isn’t likely to command TE1 dollars at his next destination.

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Most wouldn’t balk at Minnesota re-signing Mundt + Muse and “calling it good” until Hockenson’s return, but Bryant is a wise option if either tight end bolts to a new team.

NFL free agency kicks off on March 11 with the “legal tampering” phase.

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.