The Final List: The Top 32 Free Agents for the Minnesota Vikings (w/ 18 Honorable Mentions)

Oct 27, 2022; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Todd Bowles speaks to cornerback Jamel Dean (35) during a time out against the Baltimore Ravens in the second quarter at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

The Top 32 Free Agents for the Minnesota Vikings – 03.10.2023

On Monday, March 13th at 12 p.m. EST, NFL teams will get to officially begin their free agent negotiations. The Vikings will thus get the chance to start agreeing to deals with this year’s batch of players.

After the Super Bowl, I put together a Top 25 free agents list for Vikings fans (which was updated after some news about some of the league’s players emerged). Those who are familiar with that list will recognize a lot of the names in the Top 32. Cameron Sutton, for instance, takes the top spot in both lists.

That being said, there has been an effort to add new insights and facts for each entry while expanding the list to 32 players (mirroring the number of teams in the league). Major sites like ESPN, NFL, PFF, and CBS offers lists that hit the century mark and are quite helpful, but they’re offering pieces that are meant to appeal to the league as a whole. The PurplePTSD list is all about the Vikings.

A notable addition for each entry is the Spotrac contract projection and the extra reading option. Spotrac is one of the leading salary cap websites out there, so getting their sense of a player’s potential deal adds an extra layer of nuance to the brief player write ups. Though annual average is often very unhelpful when discussing a player’s contract, the projected average is offered as a quick snapshot of the possible contract parameters.

The extra reading is offered up since a lot of these players have been discussed on Vikings Territory or PurplePTSD (or both) by this point in time.

The franchise/transition tag window has now passed. As expected, the Commanders have placed the tag on Daron Payne, meaning the pass-rushing DT isn’t being included. Tony Pollard has been tagged, so he’s also gone. Predictably, Minnesota didn’t apply the tag to any of their players.

Similar to the first list, we’ll be avoiding internal free agents. For the most part, fans already know about Patrick Peterson and Garrett Bradbury. Jamel Dean and Ethan Pocic might be more unfamiliar, so we place the emphasis on those currently outside the organization.

I’ll be leaning on a 5-part criteria to help me build a hierarchy:

  • Position of Need
  • Ability
  • Potential Cost
  • Youth
  • Minnesota Connection

At times, excelling in a single area can help offset concerns in another area. Sure, Justin Houston doesn’t have youth, but he does play a position of need, has great ability, and may be a cheap pass-rush specialist. Nailing 3 of the 5 means he deserves inclusion on the list.

Finally, there are 18 honorable mentions included after the top 32. In total, there are 50 players for Vikings fans to consider from PurplePTSD‘s definitive list of free agents who make at least some sense for the Vikings.

The Top 32 Free Agents for the Minnesota Vikings

1) CB Cameron Sutton: Sometimes the obvious answer is the right answer. At 28, he’s a touch older than some of the other options, but Sutton has the benefit of having played for the Steelers. The Flores connection alongside the (likely) cheaper price means Sutton is a top name to remember. He ticks all the boxes in our criteria.

Extra Reading: Could Cameron Sutton Partner With Brian Flores Once Again?
Spotrac Contract Projection: $7.6 million annual average.

REPORT: Sutton is going to Detroit, per Ian Rapoport.

2) CB Jamel Dean: Dean is possibly the CB1 in this year’s group of FAs. Now, there needs to be some caution since last year’s top corner – J.C. Jackson – didn’t exactly live up to expectations in Year 1 with the Chargers. Nevertheless, Dean is 26 and has the capacity to be a top corner in the NFL. He’s long & strong, blazing fast, and has put together 4 years of strong play. Possibly the main concern rests in him failing to play a full season so far.

Extra Reading: Jamel Dean Ticks All the Boxes as a CB1
Spotrac Contract Projection: $16.5 million annual average.

REPORT: Dean is staying in Tampa, per Ian Rapoport.

3) LB David Long: Vikings fans are covetous of improved linebacker play. He is only 26 but is coming off an injury. Spotrac puts his market value at a $4.9 million per-year average. Coming off the injury dampens the enthusiasm somewhat, but Kendricks has been cut, opening a clear need. The projected average suggests he could be a value addition.

Extra Reading: LB David Long Provides Youth, Speed, & Pass Rush Upside
Spotrac Contract Projection: $4.9 million annual average.

REPORT: Long will be heading to Miami, per Jordan Schultz.

4) CB James Bradberry: Basically every defensive coordinator wants long and strong corners. At 6’1″, 210 pounds, Bradberry certainly lives up to the ideal. He is 29, so this would be about securing strong play over the next couple seasons. Give him credit for accepting responsibility for the really poor penalty call in the playoffs. He’d be the Vikings’ CB1.

Extra Reading: James Bradberry Would be a Home-Run Swing at Corner
Spotrac Contract Projection: $15.1 million annual average.

REPORT: Bradberry is remaining in Philadelphia, per Adam Schefter.

5) LB Tremaine Edmunds: Youth and speed for the former first-round linebacker. He ran a 4.54 leading up to the draft; folks, he’s 6’5″, 250 pounds. He’s only 24, so he could plausibly partner with Brian Asamoah for several more years. Giving Brian Flores several defensive weapons seems like a wise move. The new DC wants to have an attacking defense. In a league full of unusually gifted athletes, Edmunds stands out.

Extra Reading: 4 Replacement Options for Eric Kendricks.
Spotrac Contract Projection: $11 million annual average.

REPORT: He’s heading to Chicago, per Adam Schefter.

6) iDL Dre’Mont Jones: Obviously, moving on from Ed Donatell means that the connections aren’t as strong, but the scheme can still have similarities. The 26-year-old DT can help; every scheme needs pressure up the middle. He has 22 sacks in his four-year career. The concern is that he’ll be too expensive.

Extra Reading: N/A.
Spotrac Contract Projection: $17.1 million annual average

REPORT: Jones is heading to Seattle, per James Palmer.

7) EDGE Ogbonnia Okoronkwo: He should be cheaper than a lot of the other edge rushers and is familiar with the coaching staff due to their shared time with the Rams. He finished 4th in ESPN’s run stop win rate. His deal had a cap hit at $3.25 million last season.

Extra Reading: Ogbonnia Okoronkwo Could be a Pass-Rush Specialist for the New DC
Spotrac Contract Projection: N/A.

REPORT: Okoronkwo is heading to Cleveland, per Mary Kay Cabot.

8) LB Bobby Wagner: For some, moving on from Eric Kendricks and (potentially) Jordan Hicks for another veteran LB would be a confusing decision. Why not commit to getting younger? Well, the reason is because youth isn’t in an of itself the goal. The goal is improved play. Per Jourdan Rodrigue, Wagner and the Rams have decided to move on. The man has been an All Pro for 9 years in a row (as Field Yates points out). In 2022, Wagner had a remarkable 90.7 grade on PFF. He had 140 tackles, 6 sacks, 10 TFLs, 5 PDs, and 2 INTs. Oh, and he only missed a measly 2 tackles. Truly an elite player.

Extra Reading: Supercharging the Vikings Defense for Just $15 Million in 2023.
Spotrac Contract Projection: N/A.

9) iDL Javon Hargrave: The main concerns are price and age, not talent and production. His 91.1 pass rush grade on PFF is eye popping, and so too are his 11 sacks in 2022. A home-run swing if the goal is to load up in 2023. He finished 3rd in ESPN’s pass-rush win rate for DTs.

Extra Reading: The 5 Most Tantalizing Free Agents Vikings Can Pursue.
Spotrac Contract Projection: $20.1 million annual average.

REPORT: He will sign with San Francisco, per Adam Schefter.

10) CB Rock Ya-Sin: The 34th pick in the 2019 Draft, Ya-Sin is 26 years old. He has yet to play a full NFL season and only has 2 interceptions in his career (with 27 PDs across 4 seasons). Nevertheless, he’s a long corner who may go cheaper than the projected price. PFF notes his ability to play man coverage. Mr. Flores may be intrigued.

Extra Reading: N/A.
Spotrac Contract Projection: $10.8 million annual average.

11) S C.J. Gardner-Johnson: The versatile safety had 6 interceptions last year. At 25, he still has a lot of ball left in him. Last year, he had 443 snaps at free safety, 208 in the slot, and 202 in the box (playoffs included). Safety is an overlooked need. Harrison Smith getting older, Cam Bynum struggled in 2022, and Lewis Cine is coming off a major injury. For a deal to make sense, it’d have to be as a hybrid defender who can line up in the slot a bunch.

Extra Reading: N/A.
Spotrac Contract Projection: $13.3 million annual average.

REPORT: Gardner-Johnson is heading to Detroit, per Tom Pelissero.

12) LB Lavonte David: An error from the first list was leaving David in the honorable mentions. Upon first glance, I concluded that his age and price made him a less likely fit, but a few minutes perusing how the Rams structured Wagner’s contract made me more hopeful. To be clear, cheaper youth may be the way to go, which is why Long and Edmunds are higher. Nevertheless, the veteran can still play at a high level and is coming from an aggressive defense. He was PFF’s 3rd-best LB, finishing the year with 124 tackles, 3 sacks, 5 PDs, 1 FF, and 10 TFLs.

Extra Reading: N/A.
Spotrac Contract Projection: $9.7 million annual average.

REPORT: David is staying in Tampa Bay, per Tom Pelissero.

13) CB Byron Murphy: He’s only 25 and was picked in the second-round of the 2019 Draft. He played 423 snaps out wide and 130 in the slot. He was limited to just 9 games in 2022. The year prior, Murphy played in 16 games. In 2021, he snagged 4 INTs, scored a TD, and added 12 PDs to go alongside his 64 tackles. There are some rumblings he could receive a very large contract.

Extra Reading: Vikings Fans Want Major Free Agency Upgrades at 1 Position.
Spotrac Contract Projection: N/A.

REPORT: Murphy is going to be a Viking, per Ian Rapoport.

14) LB T.J. Edwards: PFF credits him with a great 81.6 grade (playoffs included), a number that will bring back memories of vintage Eric Kendricks. His size – 6’1″, 242 pounds – also makes one think of the Vikings’ LB. He had 159 tackles, 7 PDs, and 2 sacks in 2022. Might he be the Kendricks replacement?

Extra Reading: 9 Bold Predictions for Vikings Free Agent Targets.
Spotrac Contract Projection: $11.9 million annual average.

REPORT: Signing with the Bears, per Ian Rapoport.

15) iDL David Onyemata: He has long played for a dreaded rival. He has long been a productive DT, especially against the pass. Given that he’s 30, Onyemata may be cheaper than some of the aforementioned pass-rushing DTs. Spotrac predicts a $9.6 million salary. If that’s the case, the Vikings could be scared off unless there is some salary cap shenanigans.

Extra Reading: What are Minnesota’s Main 3 Roster Needs?
Spotrac Contract Projection: $9.6 million annual average.

REPORT: Onyemata is going to Atlanta, per Mike Garafolo.

16) RG Isaac Seumalo: The 29-year-old played 1134 snaps at RG for the Eagles last season. He put together an impressive 75.2 PFF grade during that time. His pass blocking – 79.1 – was the most impressive part of his game. He allowed 1 sack and 3 QB hits all season (alongside 20 pressures). Ed Ingram, in contrast, allowed 11 sacks and 18 QB hits (alongside 58 pressures).

Extra Reading: RG Isaac Seumalo Could Significantly Upgrade the OL
Spotrac Contract Projection: $12.1 million annual average.

REPORT: Seumalo is heading to Pittsburgh, per Jordan Schultz.

17) EDGE Justin Houston: The veteran has been on my radar for a little while. Last season, Houston rewarded the Ravens with a 9.5-sack, 7-TFL season. Though he’s already 34, Houston can still thrive in a rotational role. He only had a $3.5 million cap hit in 2022.

Extra Reading: The 1 Thing the Vikings Can Do to Set Up the New DC for Success.
Spotrac Contract Projection: $5.3 million annual average.

18) CB Jonathan Jones: Versatile and potentially affordable, the 29-year-old Jones is someone to remember for the Vikings. Since he’s coming from the Patriots, Flores may have the inside scoop. He had a career-high 4 INTs and 11 PDs last season. Matt Fries highlighted him on a recent episode of Notes from the North.

Extra Reading: ESPN Tabs Free Agent CB as a “Must-Sign” Player for the Vikings.
Spotrac Contract Projection: $12.4 million annual average.

REPORT: Returning to the Patriots, per Ian Rapoport.

19) EDGE Melvin Ingram: Similar to Houston, Ingram has been an impact edge rusher for a long time. His age (33) is a concern but his production and cost aren’t. He had 6 sacks and 7 TFLs last season for the Dolphins. He carried a modest $4 million cap hit.

Extra Reading: N/A.
Spotrac Contract Projection: N/A.

20) WR Mecole Hardman: Speed scares defenses. Hardman, who is coming off his rookie deal, has speed to spare. The 24-year-old WR ran a 4.33 forty. As a rookie, he was a second-team All Pro because of his work as a kickoff returner. He also has experience returning punts. Hardman, in short, could fulfill the role Jalen Reagor was brought in for.

Extra Reading: Mecole Hardman Can Complement Jefferson, Hockenson
Spotrac Contract Projection: $10.3 million annual average.

21) LB Azeez Al-Shaair: An excellent player, Al-Shaair could thrive in the Flores defense. He’s still only 25 and was used in a few different ways with the 49ers. He had 75 snaps in the slot (playoffs included). The 49ers sent him on 13 regular-season blitzes last year, a season when he was only involved in 42% of the defensive snaps (12 games, 9 starts). He had a strong 86.5 pass-rush grade on PFF (which is to say nothing of his 82.1 grade against the run).

Extra Reading: N/A.
Spotrac Contract Projection: N/A.

REPORT: Al-Shaair will be heading to Tennessee, per Dianna Russini.

22) EDGE Arden Key: He’s 6’5″ and still (somehow) only 26. He has already played 5 seasons in the NFL, starting in Oakland before journeying with them to Las Vegas and then getting single seasons in San Francisco and Jacksonville. He had 6.5 sacks in 2021 and 4.5 sacks in 2022.

Extra Reading: N/A.
Spotrac Contract Projection: $11.3 million annual average.

REPORT: Key is going to Tennessee, per Mike Garafolo.

23) WR D.J. Chark: You can’t teach 6’4″. Either you have it or you don’t. Chark has it. His 30 catches went for 502 yards last season, meaning he had an impressive 16.7 yards per catch. He hasn’t yet played a full season in his 5 years in the NFL but he has the capacity to blow the lid off a defense, largely due to his size and 4.3 speed. Brad Spielberger previously connected him to the Vikings.

Extra Reading: The 1 WR That Keeps Popping Up for Vikings in Free Agency.
Spotrac Contract Projection: $9.5 million annual average.

24) WR Darius Slayton: At 26, Slayton still has a lot of football left. He has already been in the NFL for 4 seasons, picking up 170 caches, 2554 yards, and 15 TDs. On average, that’s 42.5 catches, 638.5 yards, and 3.75 TDs per year. Not too bad for a WR3 (at least in MN’s offense). Most impressive is the yards-per-catch average: 15.0 for his career. His 15.7 yards-per-catch average in 2022 was the 6th-best mark in the NFL.

Extra Reading: 5 WR Targets for Vikings in Free Agency.
Spotrac Contract Projection: $3.5 million annual average.

REPORT: Slayton is staying in New York, per Mike Garafolo.

25) EDGE Marcus Davenport: Fresh off a 0.5-sack season, Davenport is likely heading toward some reasonably modest contract offers. Making matters even more challenging is that the talented pass rusher has yet to play in a full season in his 5-year NFL career. New Orleans is likely disappointed with this reality given that they chose him 14th overall in 2018. Nevertheless, the 6’6″, 265 pound pass rusher still has a lot of ability. After all, he piled up 9 sacks in 2021 while finishing 8th overall in the PFF edge rusher rankings. A prove-it deal in Minnesota could be a nice arrangement for both sides.

Extra Reading: N/A.
Spotrac Contract Projection: $23.2 million annual average.

REPORT: Davenport is signing with the Vikings, per Ian Rapoport.

26) C Ethan Pocic: At 27, the center still has a fair bit of youth left (for reference, Bradbury also comes in at 27). He started 13 games for the Browns last season, finishing 3rd overall in the PFF center rankings with an excellent 79.0 grade. At 6’6″, Pocic possesses unusual length for a center. Regardless, he played well for Kevin Stefanski over in Cleveland and plays a position of need.

Extra Reading: N/A.
Spotrac Contract Projection: $7.2 million annual average.

REPORT: He’s remaining in Cleveland, per Josina Anderson.

27) EDGE Frank Clark: A great vet who helped Patrick Mahomes climb Mount Lombardi (twice), Clark could conceivably have a role in a Vikings defense looking to show significant improvement. Previously, he signed a 5-year, $104 million deal, but that was back in 2019 following his 13-sack effort in 2018. He hasn’t surpassed 6 sacks in any of the past 3 years and is heading into his 30th year on the planet. A rotational edge rusher role may work well for both team and player.

Extra Reading: N/A.
Spotrac Contract Projection: $12.4 million annual average.

28) WR Odell Beckham Jr.: Truth be told, I’m surprised that I’ve convinced myself into including him, but here we are. OBJ’s friendship with Justin Jefferson is well-established. Adding to the intrigue is that he has a history with Kevin O’Connell and Wes Phillips. If Adam Thielen ends up going elsewhere, could OBJ be a strong WR2 in the short term? If so, the Vikings may be inclined to go for it if the dollars and cents make sense.

Extra Reading: No Time Like the Present for The Vikings & Odell Beckham Jr.
Spotrac Contract Projection: $13.1 million annual average.

29) RB David Montgomery: Moving on from Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattion isn’t a guarantee, though it is plausible. Montgomery is a solid RB, someone who could plausibly introduce some balance to Minnesota’s offense. The team’s leadership will know him well given that he has played for the Bears. He is 25.

Extra Reading: N/A.
Spotrac Contract Projection: $7.2 million annual average.

REPORT: Montgomery is going to Detroit, per Adam Schefter.

30) K Robbie Gould: A kicker? A kicker. Mr. Gould has been doing it at a high level for a long time. In fact, the man has never missed a kick in the playoffs; he has played in 16 playoff games, so that’s no small feat. If Kevin O’Connell is able to get his team back into the final tournament, he’ll want someone who can drill a kick to win a close game. Gould has been that player for a long time. The veteran only missed a single extra point last season.

Extra Reading: The Overlooked Free Agent the Vikings Should Seriously Consider
Spotrac Contract Projection: N/A.

31) RG Will Hernandez: The monstrous RG could come cheap. Last year, he carried a very modest cap hit that just exceeded $1 million. It’s thus quite notable that he finished the year with a 65.4 PFF grade, an overall mark that was buoyed by the very strong 79.1 pass blocking grade. He allowed 3 sacks and 16 pressures in Arizona’s sinking ship. At 6’2″, 335 pounds, Hernandez would add some notable size to the Vikings’ OL.

Extra Reading: N/A.
Spotrac Contract Projection: N/A.

REPORT: Hernandez is staying in Arizona, per Ian Rapoport.

32) WR Parris Campbell: Speed can kill a defense in a hurry. Currently, the Vikings don’t really have a true burner to take the top off the defense. Adding one – especially for cheap – would be a wise move. In theory, a track star would allow Justin Jefferson and T.J. Hockenson to have more room to work underneath. Plus, Kirk Cousins throws a great deep ball. Keep an eye on Campbell as a sneaky add. He ran a 4.31 forty and is 6’0″, 208 pounds.

Extra Reading: N/A.
Spotrac Contract Projection: $2.5 million annual average.

REPORT: Campbell will be going to the Giants, per Jordan Schultz.

Honorable Mentions: iDL Zach Allen, LB Germaine Pratt, LB Devin Bush, RG Nate Davis, WR Allen Lazard, EDGE Jadeveon Clowney, S Jessie Bates III, LB Drue Tranquill, LB Leighton Vander Esch, C Connor McGovern, iDL Sheldon Rankins, EDGE Samson Ebukam, CB Marcus Peters, S Taylor Rapp, DT Larry Ogunjobi, DE DeMarcus Walker, S Devin McCourty, & S Vonn Bell.

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