Vikings Still Have 2 Vital and Unsung Roster Needs

Vikings O-Lineman Out for Remainder of Regular Season
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The 2024 free agency period is now in the latter stages, with teams seeking bargain deals and many remaining players still trying to sign for their asking price.

The New England Patriots used this phase of free agency to find many quality players who helped them win Super Bowls.

Vikings Still Have 2 Vital and Unsung Roster Needs

The Vikings currently have  $17.6 million in salary cap room (per Spotrac) and can gain an additional $10 million of cap space by extending Justin Jefferson’s contract to lower his $19.7 million cap hit under the fifth-year option on his rookie contract.

If the Vikings were to reach $27 million in cap room, they would have the seventh-most in the league.

At this time, the priorities for the Vikings should be to re-sign a quality starting veteran guard and another veteran outside corner who can compete for a starting spot opposite Byron Murphy.

Dalton Risner, who started 11 games last season at left guard and played reasonably well, appears to be the best OG option at this point. Risner has 73 career starts and allowed no sacks last season. He signed last year for $4 million, so he’s certainly affordable, even with a slight raise. The Vikings could sign another quality guard, but there may not be anyone left who is better than Risner.

roster needs
Former Denver Broncos offensive guard Dalton Risner on Monday Night Football during his first start with the Minnesota Vikings. U.S. Bank Stadium, October 23rd, 2023. Risner started for an injured Ezra Cleveland.

The Vikings re-signed 2020 sixth-round pick Blake Brandel to a three-year, $9.5 million deal, which is close to starter pay, and perhaps they think he’s ready to step into a starting role after backing up the past three seasons at guard and tackle (with three starts). The team also signed seventh-year guard/center Dan Feeney, a former third-round pick of the Chargers who was a four-year starter there before bouncing from the Jets to the Bears over the past three seasons.

Risner still seems like the best option between these three players.

The Vikings have added many veterans to the defense in free agency. The most recent addition is linebacker Jihad Ward. Ward started nine games for the Giants last season and had a career-high five sacks, so he adds depth as an edge rusher/OLB behind free-agent signees Jonathan Greenard and Andrew Van Ginkel.

Another vet linebacker—Kamu Grugier-Hill—also has signed and started five games for Carolina last season. He adds depth at inside linebacker and will be a key special teams player (after Troy Dye’s departure).

I think the Vikings must add a top-notch vet corner who can compete with recently signed Shaquill Griffin and young corners Akayleb Evans and Mekhi Blackmon for the second outside corner spot (I’ll be surprised if often injured and inconsistent Andrew Booth Jr. ever reaches the potential he was reputed to have coming into the league as a 2022 second rounder).

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Two former Pro Bowl corners are still available, and it would be very intriguing if the Vikings could sign one of them for a reasonable deal. Stephon Gilmore is 33 but a five-time Pro Bowler and former NFL Defensive Player of the Year who had two interceptions, 13 passes defended, and 68 tackles last season for the Cowboys as he earned $11 million. Xavien Howard, 30, is a four-time Pro Bowler and two-time league interception leader who had one interception, 12 passes defended, and 45 tackles in 13 games for Miami last season. Last year, he was paid $18 million but was a cap casualty in March.

If the Vikings trade their two first-round picks as expected to move up and select a quarterback, they should then grab a couple of corners with two of their four picks in the fourth and fifth rounds to add quality depth and perhaps a future starter at a need position.

Around the NFL Observations:

With Pro Days wrapping up, the pre-draft over analysis continues with teams bringing potential draftees to their facilities for further physical checks and on-field workouts over the next three weeks. As a team exec, this process always drove me crazy as a big waste of money since the vast majority of these players already have been checked out at the Combine and Pro Days, along with at college all-star games such as the Senior Bowl for many of them.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

This is the time when, as a GM and team president, I would remind our player personnel execs, scouts, and coaches that we needed to focus on how the players actually performed on the field in college games and spend less time poring over their measurables in drills such as the 40-yard dash and how effective they are lifting weights.

Yes, it’s great to see a player run a 4.2 – 40 or watch a quarterback with a rocket arm and mobility, but I like what I see in a player such as J.J. McCarthy, who just quarterbacked his Michigan team to a national championship and obviously has the arm strength, running ability, and leadership skills to be successful at the next level.

Jeff Diamond is a former Vikings GM, former Tennessee Titans President and was selected NFL Executive of the Year after the Vikings’ 15-1 season in 1998. He now works for the NFL agent group IFA based in Minneapolis and does other sports consulting and media work along with college/corporate speaking. Follow him and direct message him on Twitter– @jeffdiamondnfl