Dec 6, 2020; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Cleveland Brown’s wide receiver Jarvis Landry (80) is stopped short of the goal line by Tennessee Titans strong safety Kenny Vaccaro (24) during the first half at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
The 2021 outdoor season was a very successful one for the Vikings to say the least. We went into this winter under the assumption that the Vikings should be making a lot with very little given their cap situation. However, with a little help from Anthony Barr and Danielle Hunter in restructuring their contracts, the Minnesota Vikings had a lucrative free brokerage on top of a promising draft class.
After the disaster of 2020 at the defense, the Vikings backed that side of the ball with multiple veterans. Patrick Peterson, Bashaud Breeland, Mackenzie Alexander and Xavier Woods bring some experience to a very young high school. Dalvin Tomlinson and Sheldon Richardson bring beef to the defense line. Finally, most recently, Everson Griffen’s return helps stabilize the RDE spot.
That said, there are still some questions that keep Vikings fans up at night regarding depth. Of course, almost every team not called the Tampa Bay Buccaneers has this question. However, not many people have the resources to answer these questions. The Minnesota Vikings are one of the few to do so, with over $13 million in cap space to their name. With that, there are still a few free agents on the board for the Vikings to keep their eyes on for the coming weeks.
S Kenny Vaccaro
The Vikings have a solid duo to start in both safety positions, but throughout the competition we see what injuries can do to teams with no depth. The Vikings are already trying to push their way through their attack without LT Christian Darrisaw or TE Irv Smith Jr. Finding a veteran to take some reps to safety could help another shallow position for the Vikings.
Kenny Vaccaro isn’t just any journeyman player either. The former first round pick was a consistent starter in his team in the competition. Before the Titans released him this spring, Vaccaro started 13 games in 2020 in strong safety. He has now also started 109 of the 110 games he has played in the NFL.
Not only is Vaccaro exceptional in pass coverage, but his ability to blitz and play behind the line of scrimmage has been amazing over the years. His covering skills have been inconsistent at times, but there is no doubt that he brings a toughness and desirable attitude to a team. Last season, Vaccaro registered six TFLs and a sack. Bringing him in for crucial attacks would help the Vikings’ defenses immensely.
TE Tyler Eifert
I went into more detail on this during an analysis of the tight end situation of the Vikings on VikingsTerritory. However, Tyler Eifert is a name Minnesota should keep an eye on, especially as Irv Smith Jr. would miss a lot of time.
Eifert is bringing a CVS receipt with injury history, but there’s no doubt he poses a threat if he’s healthy. In addition, the past two seasons have brought the 30-year-old tight end to good health, having played in 31 of the 32 games.
The Vikings are probably okay to make Tyler Conklin the TE1 for now, but with their propensity to run double tight end sets, Eifert is a solid option to play against him. The Vikings may have to act quickly as the New Orleans Saints are undoubtedly eyeing many of the same players after injuries to Adam Trautman and Nick Vannett. Fortunately for the Vikings, they can offer much more lucrative money.
WR Golden Tate
The Vikings have some intriguing options at a wide receiver, but none have really come through so far. We’ll have to wait and see who’s on the roster tomorrow, but they may want to try and find another veteran option.
Minnesota has already tried this once with Dede Westbrook, but he is still in the process of recovering from a torn ACL that kept him out for much of the 2020 season. He didn’t take a single photo during the preseason and the Vikings may not want to risk keeping him around. Likewise, while Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson both have positive injury prospects, we’re not quite sure of their standings ahead of the season opener.
Golden Tate can come in as a player who has seen many playoffs and is a Super Bowl champion. Even if he doesn’t offer much production, especially when Thielen and Jefferson are back at full strength, you can’t say enough about what kind of presence that would be in the locker room.
OLB KJ Wright
For a larger overview of this, check out Dustin Baker’s article at VikingsTerritory The Seahawks and KJ Wright have been embroiled in a financial dispute for much of this season, which has resulted in Wright remaining a free agent despite a hugely productive 2020 season. The 10-year veteran started all 16 games last year and scored 11 TFLs, while also having 10 pass defenses to his credit.
The Vikings and Seahawks are in a similar situation, but Minnesota has slightly more money as of now ($13.3 million compared to Seattle’s $13.1 million). Anthony Barr’s status is also uncertain going into week one against Cincinnati, leaving the Vikings with very young options at OLB.
This is probably the most unlikely of the group, especially with growing reports that Seattle and Wright will reach an agreement at some point, but consider the embarrassment of wealth the Vikings’ defense would have with Barr/Eric Kendricks/ Wright at linebacker and Nick Vigil as backup.