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Minnesota Vikings

Five pending free agents the Vikings should consider signing

(Steve Nurenberg/Icon Sportswire)

The Minnesota Vikings finished with the dullest record in the NFL, going 8-8, but they didn’t get there through normal circumstances.

The Vikings lost Teddy Bridgewater and Adrian Peterson to early-season knee injuries, crippling their offense, but rode one of the league’s best defenses to a 5-0 start. Once teams realized that Minnesota couldn’t run the ball and Sam Bradford couldn’t stretch the field, things changed quickly. The Vikings lost eight of their next 10 games and had to beat Chicago on New Year’s Day to salvage a .500 season.

Most of the defense will be back, so general manager Rick Spielman and head coach Mike Zimmer will have to build an offense that can keep pace. The problem is that Bridgewater’s knee injury could keep him out for another year and both Bradford and Peterson have $18 million cap hits if they stay in Minnesota.

That’s too much to pay for questionable performance, but letting both of them go means adding a quarterback and a running back while also finding three offensive-line starters. With no first-round draft pick, Spielman can’t afford to miss the shots he takes in free agency.

Here are five players that might grab his attention on the open market:

OT Andrew Whitworth, Cincinnati Bengals

The Vikings don’t have a starting-quality tackle on the roster, and no matter who plays quarterback, they have to find a left tackle to protect him. Wentworth has been a consistent presence for the Bengals for the last 11 seasons, and is Pro Football Focus’ highest-rated free-agent tackle. The Vikings would have a lot of competition for his services, but with the money they could save by cutting Peterson and Bradford, they will be able to stay in the bidding.

Another tackle possibility would be a divisional rival, Detroit’s Riley Reiff. He’s played both the left and right sides for the Lions, and grabbing him would help Minnesota while hurting another NFC North contender.

RB DeAngelo Williams, Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers will be spending big money to keep Le’Veon Bell, which will leave Williams on the market. He’ll be 34 this season, and he’s coming off a banged-up year that saw him only play eight games, but he rushed for 11 touchdowns in 2015. He’s not a long-term solution, but he could come in for a year to pave the way for a rookie runner.

Other options include New England’s LeGarrette Blount or a pair of backs from Minnesota’s biggest rivals — Eddie Lacy and Christine Michael. The last possibility is bringing Peterson back at a greatly reduced price. He’s said he wants to stay in Minnesota, so there’s a chance.

Pittsburgh Steelers Running Back DeAngelo Williams (34) [7710] in action during a game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, PA.

(Icon Sportswire)

QB Kirk Cousins, Washington

As the only proven starter on the free-agent market, Cousins is going to be expensive, and he has flaws. He turned the ball over 21 times last season — 12 interceptions and nine fumbles — but the Vikings have big-play receivers and Cousins could take advantage of them in a way that Bridgewater and Bradford haven’t been able to do. He will probably end up making more than $21 million, but that’s not much more than Bradford’s $18 million.

CB Captain Munnerlyn, Minnesota Vikings

A big part of Minnesota’s defensive success came from the play of their top three cornerbacks, Xavier Rhodes, Terence Newman and Munnerlyn. Rhodes will be back as the No. 1 cover corner, but the other two are unrestricted free agents. They could go after someone like Brandon Carr of the Cowboys or Prince Amukamara of the Jaguars to start alongside Rhodes, but the easiest solution is to keep the same chemistry by bringing back Munnerlyn.

The ageless Newman is another candidate to return, but Leon Hall of the Giants would also get a long look.

OG T.J. Lang, Green Bay Packers

Lang has been a staple for the Packers since being drafted out of Eastern Michigan in 2009, but it appears that Green Bay is ready to move on going into 2017. He won’t turn 30 until early in the regular season, and would solidify another spot in Minnesota’s offensive line. He’s also got a lot of experience playing against the defensive linemen in the NFC North.

Lang’s career took off after his freshman year in high school. He spent that season at Lakeland High School in suburban Detroit. It isn’t exactly a sports powerhouse — Lang’s the only Eagle who has ever played in the NFL, NHL, NBA or MLB — but he transferred to one of the state’s best programs in Birmingham Brother Rice and turned into a Division I prospect.

(The above paragraph is probably more interesting to the writer, a Lakeland graduate, than most of the readers. We apologize for the minor digression.)

Kevin Zeitler of the Bengals is another top guard in free agency, but he might be too expensive for a team with as many needs as the Vikings.

10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Josh

    Feb 14, 2017 at 9:19 am

    Fix the offensive line and we are good,the guy who wrote this article is an idiot.

  2. Ruto

    Feb 14, 2017 at 12:20 am

    I see none of them. As for the Captin he is gone, so is Newman. We need more speed a lot more.

    • Daniel Van Steenwyk

      Feb 15, 2017 at 7:12 am

      Newman was really good last year. He should be back for 1 more. Greenway too.

  3. Eric

    Feb 13, 2017 at 9:17 pm

    It’s pretty hard to evaluate a QBs deep ball with the 4th worst oline. Keep in my mind he was learning a new system and had two weeks to prepare. Then throw in a new offensive coordinator half way through and 4 different left tackles and he still throw for 20 td against 5INT. I’ll grant u the lions game was painful to watch that many check downs was ridiculous. But u need to look at the season as a whole and the circumstances that surrounded it. Don’t judge base on two games against the Lions. Bradford does need to step up more in the pocket and take off when needed. But his accuracy is the best I’ve seen in a long time has a Vikings fan. The bears game was a perfect example of him doing this. So Bradford ain’t going no where, rest easy skol nation

    • James

      Feb 14, 2017 at 9:05 am

      His accuracy was actually the best anyone has ever seen period. Not just in a long time or in just Minnesota. That was a record for most accurate season in the history of the nfl

  4. Doug

    Feb 13, 2017 at 8:11 pm

    The Vikings have their first proven QB since Favre and you want to dump him and then overpay for Cousins? Wow. Do you work for the other teams in the NFC north? Haha

    • Eric

      Feb 13, 2017 at 8:51 pm

      Right on Doug…This article has no credibility when talking about releasing Bradford. This article is truley a special kind of stupid. Everyone is now dumber as a football fan and pissed off as a Vikings fan reading this garbage. Im usuallly not one to relpy in the comments, but I couldn’t ignore this.

    • Dave Hogg

      Dave Hogg

      Feb 13, 2017 at 8:52 pm

      My issue with Bradford is that he can’t stretch a defense. I know the offensive line was a huge problem this season, but look at the two losses to Detroit. The Lions couldn’t cover anyone deep, and he couldn’t put them away. At $12 million, I’d keep him. If the Vikings aren’t interested in Cousins – and he’s a risk – I’d probably pay the $18 million. I just want someone who can average more than 10 yards per completion.

      • Chris

        Feb 13, 2017 at 11:53 pm

        Bradford throws a nice deep ball, but he needs a little time for the play to develop. There was no chance of that as the injuries piled up on the offensive line and the Vikings were starting what amounted to minor league lineman aside from Alex Boone of course. Bradford has a strong and accurate deep ball and always has. The Vikings receivers are the best he’s played with, but thielen ,though sure handed, is basically a small TE, Patterson can’t run routes correctly, and Rudolph is decent but not a great TE. No running game and poor blocking means no possibility to stretch the field. Brady and Rodgers couldn’t stretch the field under those circumstances. Bradford had a good year, give him and the Vikings a chance to build on it.

      • Josh

        Feb 14, 2017 at 9:17 am

        Your a retarded cowboy

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