Free agency is an interesting time of the year for players and fans alike. Although it’s always nice re-signing your own players who deserve the love, there’s nothing like wooing a hot commodity into the fold. Unfortunately for the Vikings, their salary cap limitations will prove to be an obstacle in luring many of the pricey names throughout the free agency period. What Minnesota needs to do is figure out which of their own should be kept in the purple and gold. Sheldon Richardson is the star-studded defensive tackle that the Vikings brought in to put them over the edge last season, and although Richardson delivered the goods, the team did not. Retaining the 28-year-old defensive standout will take oodles of cash that the Vikings will need to dole out to others, therefore it is more likely than not that Richardson fetches a long-term deal elsewhere.
But even if the Vikings lose Richardson, all is not lost. If you were to take a look at some of the best online sportsbooks, like Bookmaker you will find that the oddsmakers are fairly bullish on Minnesota’s chances this season as most of those books are offering the Vikings as the third choice, tied with the Bears, at 8-1 to win the NFC next season. There is cause for optimism but like all teams, the Vikings need to concern themselves not just with the household names but the complementary pieces that provide depth and good salary cap value.
Although Richardson is projected to live up to his lofty contract, one member of the Vikings who is suspect, may not. Linebacker Anthony Barr may be out the door if his agent takes a firm stand and demands his client be paid among the best at his position. Barr is a former first-round pick of the Vikings and one who is looking to score big in free agency. The issue is that Barr is a good player to have on your team but not if he is to be paid among the elite. Pro Football Focus graded Barr at 71.4 this past season, which is slightly above average. The chances of Barr readily accepting a slightly above average paycheck is slim and none – and Slim just left town.
The 29-year-old Latavius Murray is also a free agent looking for a home and a starting role with any team that will cede to his request. Notice we said request and not demand. According to market projections, Murray will earn in the $1.6 million range which, quite frankly, seems low for a running back who has been a reliable stablemate in the Vikings backfield. If Minnesota can get him that cheaply then it should be a done deal. Another veteran looking to return will be lineman Nick Easton, who was out all last season with a neck injury. Easton was sorely missed last season and his return would be welcome if the price is right.
Defensive end Everson Griffen is a jump ball. The Vikings scored a gem in the fourth round of the 2010 draft when they plucked Griffen from the talent pool. All he did was produce over 300 tackles and 66 ½ sacks over his career, all in a Vikings’ uniform. However, his production dipped last season and at 31-years-old he is slated to make about $11 million next season which ain’t gonna fly with the Minnesota bean-counters. It is expected that the Vikings will look to restructure his contract but whether Griffen is amenable to such an overture will tell the tale of whether he stays or goes. Of course, there are more Vikings players who the team will be, or not be, negotiating with like Anthony Harris, Dan Bailey, Tom Johnson, Aldrick Robinson, and Marcus Sherels. Others could be released if their contracts are deemed too steep. The picture will become clearer as the weeks and months progress.