A Word of Wisdom Before The Vikings’ Free Agency Bonanza

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Jan 15, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah looks on before a wild card game between the Minnesota Vikings and the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

In roughly a month and a half, the NFL world will be set ablaze with free agency craziness. Truthfully, it’s one of my favorite parts of the NFL calendar. Every team (pretty much) gets a fresh infusion of hope as deals are signed left and right. The Vikings’ free agency will likely feature more than one or two exciting deals.

Nevertheless, it’s important to get our heads screwed on straight before March 15th hits.

The Vikings’ Free Agency Bonanza

Quite often, the “best” free agent deals end up going poorly.

Consider Exhibit A: the NFL’s list of top free agents going into 2022. Right at the top is J.C. Jackson, who ended up going to the Los Angeles Chargers to take over CB1 responsibilities. The Chargers – the AFC’s equivalent to the Vikings – tossed a 5-year, $82.5 million deal in his direction.

How did it turn out in Year 1?

Dec 6, 2021; Orchard Park, New York, USA; New England Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson (27) hits Buffalo Bills running back Matt Breida (22) during the first half at Highmark Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Well, Jackson only got onto the field for 5 games since he battled injury. In his time on the field, Jackson didn’t play particularly well. From 2020-21, the corner had 17 interceptions and 37 PDs. In 2022, Jackson had 0 interceptions and a pair of PDs. His PFF grade tumbled from 78.9 in 2021 to 28.7 in 2022.

Players like Chandler Jones, Allen Robinson, and Jameis Winston also struggled to live up to the free agency hype.

Now, on the other side of things are players like Stephon Gilmore, Za’Darius Smith, Bobby Wagner, and James Bradberry. These are all players who more than lived up to the deals they signed, making positive contributions to their teams in 2022.

Jan 8, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; New York Giants wide receiver Kenny Golladay (19) celebrates his touchdown with teammates during the fourth quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

One more example, though, to encourage caution. I’d like to submit Exhibit B into the official evidence for the court proceedings. It’s a list of the top free agents heading into 2021. Once again, it comes from the NFL’s website.

Kenny Golladay – who comes in as the 6th-best FA – goes to the Giants for 4 years and a whopping $72 million. He had a humble 37 catches and 521 yards during the 2021 season. He didn’t score a single touchdown. Last year, his stats dropped down to 6 catches for 81 yards. He did score a touchdown, though.

Where Does that Leave Us?

The point, folks, is that free agency deals don’t always work out. The best analysts out there can unanimously applaud a move and that player can still go on to struggle. Mightily.

It’s worth remembering that the top-listed free agent from that same 2021 NFL piece was OT Trent Williams. Put simply, it’d be hard to overpay someone so sensational at football. We can be certain that the 49ers are very happy to be paying a boatload of dough to the veteran tackle.

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Jan 8, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Minnesota Vikings cornerback Patrick Peterson (7) celebrates his interception during the second quarter against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports

Over the past couple seasons, perhaps the most notable free agent move from the Vikings has been for Patrick Peterson, the ageless corner. His 2021 featured him playing on a 1-year. $8 million deal. Last year, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah brought him back on a 1-year, $4 million deal (with a void year tacked on to massage the salary cap).

For the most part, Peterson has been a success in purple. True, the defense has played poorly over these past couple seasons, but the veteran has been solid. In 2022, he was actually really good.

With needs all over the roster, Minnesota will be looking toward free agency to improve the purple personnel (we’ve written about LB David Long & EDGE Ogbonnia Okoronkwo as potential fits). In the coming weeks, we’ll certainly be discussing many more options. Amidst all the speculation, though, it’s important to remember that free agency provides very few assurances, so we’d be wise to guard our optimism.

Editor’s Note: Information from Pro Football Reference and Over the Cap helped with this piece.