The Minnesota Vikings’ Free Agency Board: 25 FA Fits, Possibilities, & Options

Oct 29, 2023; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Christian Wilkins (94) takes on the field prior to the game against the New England Patriots at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Nailing two or three names would be a win.

The Minnesota Vikings are going to be active in free agency, but NFL teams are limited by the salary cap; there’s only so much that can be accomplished. Last offseason, PurplePTSD offered a list of 32 free agents and then 18 honorable mentions. Corner Byron Murphy (#13) and edge rusher Marcus Davenport (#25) were included, but tight end Josh Oliver was nowhere to be found. Clearly, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah is capable of making moves that elude our best guesses and prophecies.

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Minnesota Vikings
Sep 10, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings tight end Josh Oliver (84) runs for yards after the catch against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the second quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Fast forward a year and things are looking exciting for Minnesota. Free agency is going to officially arrive in a week and the team is sitting on $37 million in cap space. Go ahead and partner the reasonably beefy cap space with a roster that needs plenty of help and then leadership that’s aiming to compete in 2024. What kind of possibilities emerge once we plug in all of those details?

Very likely, the Vikings are going to make a notable signing or two. The question at this stage rests on who is going to be signed.

The free agency discussion has been ongoing for a little while. PurplePTSD has ventured into the topic at various points, but two of the more recent forays involved the 15-name “Vikings FA Board & Wish List” and then the “5 More Free Agent Fits for the Minnesota Vikings.” And, to be sure, the conversation has spiralled into numerous other piece (such as Example A, Example B, Example C, and several other pieces).

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Las Vegas Raiders
Dec 10, 2023; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Minnesota Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell (left) and general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah react during the game against the Minnesota Vikings at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Of course, there are ample resources online to help guide readers when it comes to considering the NFL’s free agents. Notable examples include the work of Brag Spielberger on PFF, Matt Bowen on ESPN, Pete Prisco on CBS Sports, and Sheil Kapadia on The Ringer. Spielberger, in particular, was helpful. His contract projections often helped to delineate between players ranking higher or lower on the list (or, in some cases, not at all).

I’ve looked at these pieces to help guide my understanding of player availability. The angle we’re providing on PurplePTSD is more specific than these other spots. For our purposes, players who look like the strongest fits in Minnesota get considered for the list below.

A quick note on a notable name that isn’t included: Chris Jones. The veteran defensive tackle is an absolute stud and would instantly become the team’s best defender if he were signed. In fact, his excellence on the roster as a whole would only be surpassed by Justin Jefferson; he’s that good, folks. And while he could be available since the Chiefs used their franchise tag of L’Jarius Sneed, there is very little chance Mr. Jones leaves Kansas City. So, he is being omitted even though he’s very likely the best free agent.

Vikings Get a Decent Grade
Dec 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah looks on before the game against the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Helping to sift through the voluminous pile of free agents is a five-part criteria. Take a look:

  1. Ability
  2. Contract Cost
  3. Position of Need
  4. Age
  5. Minnesota Connection

In reality, the opening three items — ability, cost, & need– are inextricably intertwined. Failing in one aspect can often be enough to eliminate someone. The hierarchy then gives way to a player’s age (younger is better) and connection (familiarity is often preferred).

Applying that jumble has led to plucking out 25 names to consider. Read on to see some of the players who look like strong fits in Minnesota. Note: free agents internal to the Minnesota Vikings are excluded.

The Minnesota Vikings’ Free Agency Board — 25 Players to Monitor

1) Christian Wilkins — 28 — Defensive Tackle: The defensive line will be undergoing an overhaul. Does adding the 6’4″, 310-pound Wilkins help? He’s coming off of a season where snagged 65 tackles, 9 sacks, 23 QB hits, and 10 TFLs. Partnering him with Harrison Phillips would instantly make the middle of the Vikings’ defense considerably more imposing, especially if there’s an upside youngster or two layered into the rotation. Age and cost are the main concerns. He was picked 13th back in 2019 when Flores was in charge in Miami.

2) Josh Uche — 25 — Edge Rusher: A buy-low candidate. The simple fact that he’s coming from the Patriots means that there’s at least some intrigue. The likeliest outcome for Mr. Uche may be to snag a prove-it deal with the hope that a pile of 2024 sacks will lead to a pile of 2025 dollars. He had 3 sacks last year but was sitting at 11.5 in 2022.

3) Patrick Queen — 24 — Linebacker: How does a young do-it-all defender sound? The 6’0″, 230-pound Patrick Queen is a modern linebacker: less of a thumper and more of a playmaker. His coverage numbers are pretty tidy and he gobbles up tackles (250 over these past two seasons). He snagged 3.5 sacks last season and 5 the year prior. Last season, he was a second-team All Pro. The GM loves “blue” players and Queen qualifies.

4) Saquon Barkley — 27 — Running Back: When healthy, Barkley is one of the most talented running backs in the NFL. He can churn out yards as both a ball carrier and receiver. He’s 27 and was the 2nd overall pick back in 2018. His 2022 season featured 1,312 rushing yards and 338 receiving yards. Cutting Alexander Mattison clears the way for an addition at RB. Buy low on Barkley?

5) Bryce Huff — 25 — Edge Rusher: Every single NFL teams wants double-digit sack players who are in their mid-20s. Those basic facts will make Mr. Huff a very popular man in less than a week. He has good size at 6’3″ and 255 pounds and piled up 10 sacks in just 480 snaps last season. Concern is cost.

6) Jonathan Greenard — 26 — Edge Rusher: There is going to be competition for Mr. Greenard. Every team in the NFL is interested in employing 26-year-old edge rushers capable of picking up 12.5 sacks (See: Huff, Bryce). His 22 QB hits from last season matches Danielle Hunter’s total and his 15 TFLs — while not on Hunter’s level — are similarly impressive. ESPN’s pass-rush win rate has Greenard in a tie for 6th overall among edge defenders. Of note: he piled up the gaudy stats while only playing 632 snaps.

7) Sean Murphy-Bunting — 26 — Corner: A versatile corner who is capable of lining up in the slot and along the outside. He has experience playing within a super aggressive defense given his experience working under Todd Bowles. Plus, he’s a Super Bowl champion. The defender is 26. PFF puts the contract estimate at a single season and $4 million.

8) Chase Young — 25 — Edge Rusher: Young ticks a lot of the boxes for Kwesi. The defender is young and supremely gifted. He was chosen high (2nd overall in 2020) and could benefit from another change of scenery. Does the Davenport decision, though, cause the GM to hesitate? A prove-it deal looks like the likeliest outcome for Young. He won the Defensive Rookie of the Year Award, an indication of the potential that’s still in the pass rusher.

9) Denico Autry — 33 — Defensive End: Autry is old. At 33, the defensive end is closer to the end than the beginning. Even still, he’s super productive from within a position where the Vikings are desperate for help. The defender snagged 11.5 sacks last season as a 3-4 DE. Since taking over, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has tried and failed to address the position in the draft (Esezi Otomewo) and free agency (Dean Lowry). Autry looks like an excellent option who could be relatively cheap (his previous deal was at 3 years and $21.5 million). If the PFF projection — a single season at $7.25M — is accurate, the Vikings should be interested.

10) Kendall Fuller — 29 — Corner: Does Brian Flores like deploying versatile defensive backs? If so, then Fuller is someone to monitor. He’s an eight-year vet, picked 84th overall in 2016. The first four seasons featured him spending the majority of his time in the slot; the past four seasons have featured more time along the outside. In total, Fuller has 2,413 slot snaps and 3,671 boundary snaps. He has cleared 1K snaps in each of the past three seasons, so the 29-year-old has been durable.

11) Devin White — 26 — Linebacker: The linebacker ran a faster forty time than Justin Jefferson. He has a history of blitzing a ton and is still only 26. Putting him alongside Ivan Pace may lead to some dicey moments for the pass coverage but some wonderful moments for the pass rush.

12) Derrick Henry — 30 — Running Back: Want to load up on Justin Jefferson and Jordan Addison down the field? Fine, go nuts. Derrick Henry can overwhelm a team’s defensive front, especially if there aren’t enough bodies near the line of scrimmage. The age is a concern, yes, but he looks like a nice complement to the smaller, speedier Ty Chandler. Josh Frey has had his eye on Henry for a while (as explained on PurplePTSD).

13) Gabriel Davis — 24 — Wide Receiver: Just 24 and tipping the scales at 6’2″, 225, Gabriel Davis looks like he would be a nice complement to the Vikings’ receiver room. He can score with some decent proficiency (27 career TDs) and has a career yards-per-catch average sitting at 16.7 yards. For reference, Justin Jefferson’s career average sits at 15.0.

14) Jon Runyan — 26 — Left Guard: The 26-year-old offensive lineman has picked up snaps at all five OL positions in his NFL career. Arguably his best work occurred while he was playing left guard, a spot that’s open within the Vikings’ front five. Time to plunder the Packers?

15) Jonah Jackson — 27 — Left Guard: Minnesota will know him well since he was chosen 75th overall by the Lions back in 2020. Since then, he has been putting in work in Michigan, picking up a Pro Bowl along the way. He’s 27 and has good size at 6’4″, 311. He allowed 2 sacks to go alongside 24 pressures in 2023. The hope would be that he continues progressing in his development while working under the tutelage of Chris Kuper and alongside Christian Darrisaw.

16) Josh Jacobs — 26 — Running Back: Are his best days behind him? He’s not old but he has done some heavy lifting in Sin City. There’s quite a bit of upside given his age and history of elite production. He averaged just 3.5 yards per carry for 805 rushing yards last season but he put together a monstrous 2022: 340 carries, 1,653 rushing yards (4.9 average), & 12 TDs. He even snagged 53 passes and had 400 passing yards. Jacobs comes in at 5’10” and weighs 223.

17) Jordyn Brooks — 26 — Linebacker: The 27th pick in 2020 is coming off his rookie contract. In the past, he has put up truly eye-popping stats, piling up 184 tackles in 2021 and 161 tackles in 2022. Last season, his tackles dipped down to 111 but he increased his sacks to 4.5 (getting sent on blitzes 22 times). PFF makes note of his coverage abilities.

18) Baker Mayfield — 28 — Quarterback: I get it. Why go for Mayfield when Cousins could be kept? There are a few reasons. He’s younger and likely cheaper. He has a bit more mobility and has the potential to be a QB solution for 10 years instead of just 3 years. He could be a strong bridge QB if that’s the desire among Minnesota’s front office. I don’t foresee a deal materializing but he would ensure the skill guys keep getting fed if Cousins walks.

19) Javon Kinlaw — 26 — Defensive Tackle: He’s 6’5″ and weighs 319 pounds. Back in 2020, Kinlaw got scooped up by the 49ers at 14th overall. And while he has been a disappointment, Kinlaw offers intriguing potential as a DT capable of creating pressure. The defender snagged 3.5 sacks last season. Youth, upside, position of need, and a cheaper contract.

20) Xavier McKinney — 24 — Safety: Is he this year’s version of Josh Oliver? No one saw the Vikings sinking major money into a TE and yet that’s what happened. The young defensive back is someone who certainly sounds like a Flores safety. He picked up 464 snaps as a free safety, 388 in the box, 167 in the slot, 82 along the defensive line, and 27 at corner. Oh, and he was blitzed 42 times. Again, I don’t see this one happening, but it also wouldn’t be shocking given what the DC wants out of his defensive backs (which is to say nothing of a GM who isn’t afraid of being bold).

21) Sheldon Rankins — 29 — Defensive Tackle: Getting more pressure from the interior of the defensive line is a must. Rankins, though older, might be able to help. Across 597 snaps in 2023, Rankins snagged 6 sacks, 10 QB hits, 9 TFLs, and even had a touchdown. He’ll turn 30 in April, so the Vikings likely wouldn’t commit major money to the DT. Needs to be a value deal.

22) Frankie Luvu — 27 — Linebacker: He certainly sounds like a Flores Fiend. Spielberger describes him as “a menace coming forward and rushing the passer or shooting through gaps to rack up tackles for loss.” Last year, the defender snagged 5.5 sacks (alongside 125 tackles). The year prior, Luvu snagged 7.0 sacks (alongside 111 tackles). He wasn’t drafted high like Queen or White — originally, the Jets brought him in as an UDFA — but he’s someone to monitor.

23) Darious Williams — 30 — Corner: The recently-released corner won a Super Bowl with Kevin O’Connell in Los Angeles. Last season, he was up over 1,000 snaps with Jacksonville and did some impressive work. QBs completed just 55.0% of passes into his coverage and he allowed just a 63.9 pass rating. He finished the year with 19 PDs and 4 INTs.

24) Dorance Armstrong — 26 — Edge Rusher: Easy to be overshadowed by Micah Parsons but Armstrong has some sneaky stats in limited snaps. His 2023 season featured 446 snaps and 7.5 sacks; his 2022 season featured 543 snaps and 8.5 sacks. He’s coming from a 3-4 defense and has good size at 6’4″, 255. The Vikings must get deeper on the roster when it comes to pass rushers.

25) Marquez Valdes-Scantling — 29 — Wide Receiver: No coach can teach what MVS has: towering height and blazing speed. He’s 6’4″ and ran a 4.37 forty. Those twin realities have combined to give him a career 17.0 yards-per-catch average. Overcommitting to Jefferson could lead to Valdes-Scantling breaking loose down the field. Minnesota will know him well given his history as a Packer. Note: his YPC average has been declining since 2020 and was recently cut by KC.

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

K. Joudry is the Senior Editor for Vikings Territory and PurplePTSD. He has been covering the Vikings full time since the summer of 2021. He can be found on Twitter and as a co-host for Notes from the North, a humble Vikings podcast.