After winning the NFC North thanks to a 13-win season, the Minnesota Vikings entered the offseason needing to reduce spending. Since then, we’ve seen Adam Thielen, Eric Kendricks, and Za’Darius Smith all either cut or traded.
In a perfect world, the Vikings wouldn’t have moved on from any of their former Pro Bowl players, but doing so has helped the roster get a lot younger heading into a new season. In Smith’s case, the Vikings had the potential to save as much as $9 million, but as Mary Kay Cabot reports, the Vikings paid some of Smith’s tab with the Browns.
Still, the Vikings now have more cap space than hey had before, which could lead to a number of follow up moves, including a potential free agent signing. Here are three available players who could still fill a need on coach Kevin O’Connell’s roster.
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While Matt Ioannidis played 13 games with the Carolina Panthers in 2022, he is most-known for his six-year tenure with the Washington Commanders. The 29-year-old lineman plays multiple positions in the trenches, switching back and forth from defensive end and tackle, both areas that lack depth in Minnesota.
Having tallied 25.5 sacks, including 20.5 over a three-year stretch from 2017-19, Ioannidis would give defensive coordinator Brian Flores another chess piece to bring in on pass-rushing situations, anywhere along the line. Having never posted a Pro Football Focus pass-rushing grade below 69.1 since his rookie year, adding Ioannidis would be a low-risk move aimed at boosting the floor of a defense that struggled to generate consistent pressure a season ago.
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Depending on what happens with Dalvin Cook and how quickly Jordan Addison can adjust to the NFL, the Vikings’ offense has few questions entering the season. One potential area of concern could show up along the interior offensive line, where second-year pro Ed Ingram remains a big question mark.
The recently released Chase Roullier grew up in Burnsville, Minnesota, less than ten miles from where the Vikings practice. He’s started 63 games at center for Washington dating back to 2017 and even spent his rookie season snapping the ball to Kirk Cousins.
But Roullier has also played a few snaps (192) at left guard and even 27 at right guard, giving him a bit of positional versatility in areas where the Vikings could need some help in 2023. Behind starters Ezra Cleveland, Garrett Bradbury and Ed Ingram, the Vikings have two veterans in Austin Schlottmann and Chris Reed, but little else.
Adding Roullier injects a more than capable backup who not only can play the center position well, but perhaps even manage to push Ingram at right guard too. At the very least he’d be a high-level backup who not only has familiarity with Cousins, but also plenty of experience to step in for a pinch should an injury strike.
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The Vikings have once again overhauled their secondary, leaving free agent signee Byron Murphy II as the one guaranteed starter in a cornerback room full of competition. Recent draft selections, led by 2022 second-round pick Andrew Booth, fourth-round pick Akayleb Evans, and rookie third-round pick Mekhi Blakmon will all make the roster, but their playing time will have to be earned under coach Flores.
Another wrench that could get thrown into the mix is adding a veteran to this youthful group. Someone like 30-year-old two-time All-Pro Marcus Peters could trade in his Ravens purple for a Vikings jersey, and he has a strong resume as a playmaking cornerback that makes defenders think twice before targeting him in coverage.
Peters has tallied 32 interceptions in his seven-year career, and while he and the Ravens struggled at times in pass coverage last season, he still held receivers to 11.8 yards per reception, per PFF. As Mike Zimmer used to say, you can never have too many cornerbacks, and Peters has at least shown the ability to play at an elite level in the past. Adding him to a group full of unproven players would only breed more competition, even if it takes valuable reps away from players who desperately need them.
Chances are, the Vikings didn’t move on from Za’Darius Smith to suddenly start spending cash in free agency. Instead, look for them to reach contract extensions with Pro Bowl pass-catchers Justin Jefferson and T.J. Hockenson. The latter of which is entering the final year of his rookie contract and is set to make $9.3 million this season. Another item likely on the offseason task list is getting Danielle Hunter under contract for more than just the 2023 season as well.
Yet, adding one of the above or another veteran at this stage of the offseason can’t be ruled out either. Players who sign after the draft is over rarely land contracts that break the bank when it comes to managing a team’s salary cap.
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