2 More Vikings Players Quietly Hit Unrestricted Free Agency

Oct 23, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Cam Akers (31) runs with the ball against the San Francisco 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa (97) in the second quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings watched a large chunk of their roster enter free agency on Monday.

Minnesota was able to negotiate new deals with a few Vikings players to ensure that names like Blake Brandel, Jonathan Bullard, Brandon Powell, and David Quessenberry return to Minnesota. However, they also saw major pieces like Kirk Cousins, Jordan Hicks, and Danielle Hunter leave the team. Then, when Wednesday’s new league year date arrived, the Vikings saw two more players officially head to unrestricted free agency.

Those two players are RB Cam Akers and DT Khyiris Tonga, who originally were labeled as restricted free agents. However, neither player was given a RFA tender, thus meaning that they are officially unrestricted and can sign contracts with whichever team they want.

Vikings Players Hit Unrestricted Free Agency

Vikings Players
Nov 5, 2023; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Cam Akers (31) runs with the ball against the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Seifert of ESPN was on the news, tweeting, “The Vikings declined to offer RFA tenders to RB Cam Akers and DT Khyiris Tonga, among others. They’re now free agents. Thus (begins and) ends my RFA coverage for this offseason.”

Akers, 24, is coming off his second torn Achilles during his four-year NFL career. He was acquired by the Vikings this season via trade with the Los Angeles Rams after Minnesota’s lackluster start to the year. Over the course of six games with the Vikings, Akers recorded 38 carries for 138 rushing yards and a touchdown before suffering his season-ending injury in Week 9 against the Atlanta Falcons.

Considering Akers’ injury, it makes sense that the Vikings would avoid offering him a tender. Teams can choose to use the following tenders on restricted free agents:

  • First-round tender: $6.822 million
  • Second-round tender: $4.89 million
  • Original round tender: $3.116 million
  • Right-of-first refusal tender: $2.985 million

Minnesota likely can get Akers for much cheaper if they want to bring the RB back, and they’ve already added another top RB by signing Aaron Jones to a one-year deal.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Carolina Panthers
Oct 1, 2023; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Cam Akers (31) looks to elude Carolina Panthers cornerback D’Shawn Jamison (29) during the second half at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

The Tonga decision is similarly straight-forward. The lineman has provided solid depth over the past couple years, but the Vikings can likely re-sign him for cheaper on the open market.

Tonga joined the Vikings in 2022 after being cut by the Chicago Bears prior to the start of the regular season and beginning the season on the Atlanta Falcons practice squad. Tonga was inactive in each of the first four games before the Vikings signed him.

Over the past two years, Tonga has appeared in 25 games, including four starts, and recorded 43 tackles, two tackles for loss, and half a sack. This past season the defensive lineman played on a contract worth $940,000.

Vikings Continue to Retain Depth in the Trenches by Re-Signing Khyiris Tonga
Nov 13, 2022; Orchard Park, New York, USA;Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Khyiris Tonga (95) against the Buffalo Bills in the fourth quarter at Highmark Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

With the Vikings deciding to release Dean Lowry this week, Minnesota still needs plenty of depth at the defensive tackle spot. Tonga has proven capable of providing that depth, and he should be a priority as a player to bring back this season.

Regardless, the Vikings officially have two more players on the open market.

Editor’s Note: Statistics for this article were found via Pro Football Reference and Over the Cap.

Josh Frey is a Class of 2020 graduate of The College of Idaho and managing editor of PurplePTSD.com. When he’s not writing about the NFL, Josh enjoys running, gaming, or rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks. Check out his Twitter account: @Freyed_Chicken.