The Vikings go into their week 17 with very little on the line after being eliminated from playoff contention. It’s a gloomy last couple weeks of the NFL season in Minnesota, and my apologies, but this article probably won’t change that. When the Vikings play Detroit on January 3rd, pay a little extra attention to these players listed below. It may be the final time we see them rocking the Purple and Gold.
Harris enters free agency after the conclusion of this season, and the 29-year-old veteran should command a ton of attention from contending teams. Last season he burst onto the scene with a breakout year in which he intercepted a league-high six passes and defended 11.
This year has gone differently. Harris has quietly been one of the issues with the Vikings defense this season. He is PFF’s 37th ranked safety this season, with a grade sitting merely at 66.3 and has struggled mightily in pass coverage. He has not intercepted any passes this year and has defended just five. That said, Spotrac still calculates his market value to be at $15.6 million this offseason given the demand for safeties and his past success.
To put it lightly, the Vikings have a lot of things to focus on prior to the 2021 season. Given the fact that Harrison Smith is still around, and has performed well despite the secondary’s struggles around him, the Vikings will be content to let Harris walk if he gets a big offer from another team.
Hopefully this won’t be the case, but it’s something to prepare for. The Vikings have a choice to make at the outside linebacker position. Anthony Barr has a massive contract with the team, but until his season ending injury earlier this year, he had performed well at the position for years. Barr made four straight Pro Bowls from 2015-18 and has been the anchor for Minnesota’s defense. If he stays healthy, you know you will get production from him.
That said, Eric Wilson is performing valiantly as his replacement in his first year as a full-time starter. His three interceptions are more than Barr has in his entire career, and his three sacks are as many as any Barr season since 2015. Wilson is also the younger option as Barr is set to enter his age-29 season in 2021.
At the end of the day, all this may not matter if Wilson finds a big enough offer in free agency. Try as they might to free up cap space, they just don’t have the means to match offers with everyone, and with Wilson showing he can be a competent linebacker, he may garner more money than Minnesota can justify paying. However, if it comes down to it, the Vikings absolutely should choose Wilson over Barr every day of the week.
Rudolph has been with the Minnesota Vikings for 10 years and has made a lot of memories with this franchise and its fans. Because of that, it may be the saddest cut to see, but also one that is the most necessary. Outside of the Carolina game, Rudolph has been shut out of the passing game for the majority of the season. He was targeted four or fewer times in 10 of his 12 games this year, and I would go so far as to say he would be TE3 on this team in 2021.
Irv Smith Jr. and Tyler Conklin have proven valuable and productive in the passing game lately, and they make a much smaller dent on the team’s cap. The two of them have a cap hit that combines to around $2.5 million next season whereas Rudolph carries a cap hit of $9.45 million by himself. The Vikings save over $5 million in cap by cutting him, and they get to develop two young options (Smith is 22 and Conklin is 25). It sucks, but it makes the most sense to let the veteran go.