Note: This article originally appeared on our flagship site, vikingsterritory.com
March struck the calendar for the Minnesota Vikings, and that ensures the most eventful offseason month to date is underway. The league was rattled on Monday by the bombshell news that three-time Defensive Player of the Year, J.J. Watt, is joining the Arizona Cardinals. In the desert, Watt will reunite with departed-from-Houston star DeAndre Hopkins and previously-affiliated defensive coordinator, Vance Joseph.
What a way to kick off March festivities.
For the Vikings, the offseason has hit a lull. Indeed, wild rumors have engulfed the franchise – primarily the quarterback position – but the last bit of real news occurred when Klint Kubiak was promoted to offensive coordinator. And that was three weeks ago, so Vikings enthusiasts are starved for driblets of information.
Rest assured, pieces of change are coming. Some brutal-but-necessary moves are afoot in terms of the personnel trimming. The franchise needs solutions at offensive guard, defensive end, defensive tackle, free safety, and perhaps will splurge for a veteran cornerback presence. Some of this can be addressed before the NFL draft – which takes place in eight weeks.
Therefore, here is the timeline to expect and various items that will probably shakedown in March.
Release of Players (around March 12)
Free agency formally commenced on March 18th in 2020. It happens one day sooner on the calendar in 2021 – March 17th.
Last year, the news of releases for Xavier Rhodes and Linval Joseph happened on March 13th. It is thus reasonable to expect Vikings news about cuts to emerge around March 12th this month.
Among the names of players expected to exit the franchise: Kyle Rudolph, Shamar Stephen, and maybe movement with Riley Reiff. The Vikings left tackle is the big question mark this offseason because he earns a bundle of money that is a bit more generous than his performance mandates.
As for Rudolph, his exodus will be emotional and bittersweet. Minnesota is expected to let him walk to a team of his choosing, presumably to chase a Super Bowl elsewhere. Although, it would not unfathomable for Minnesota to fetch a low-round draft pick for his services.
Rudolph has graced the depth chart for a decade. The emanation of tight ends Irv Smith Jr. and Tyler Conklin, though, enable the team to wiggle out of his contract because the budget is snug. The same goes for Stephen – he has played 83 games with the franchise. But his cap hit of $5 million is likely too hefty for the 2021 squad.
In any event, the news of departures for some players is less than two weeks away.
Legal Tampering and Official FA Start (March 15-17)
On to the additions.
Legal tampering begins on March 15th, and this is when teams and players can converse without fear of nefarious trifling. Leaks will occur during this period, and full-scale news will materialize on the afternoon of March 17th.
Minnesota – on a strict budget – can pursue names to fill the aforementioned roster holes: OG, RDE, 3DT, FS, and CB. The Vikings will not likely fill all of these roster craters due to lack of available funds and will hence turn to the draft as a supplementary tool.
Some names to keep an eye on for free agency: Brian Winters (OG), Forrest Lamp (OG), Nick Easton (OG), Olivier Vernon (DE), Bruce Irvin (DE), Stephen Weatherly (DE), Everson Griffen (DE), Kawann Short (DT), Shelby Harris (DT), Abry Jones (DT), Tre Boston (FS), Dre Kirkpatrick (CB), Jonathan Joseph (CB), and Mackensie Alexander (CB).
This is where the pre-draft magic happens, and the Vikings will do their damndest to conduct some wizardry on a slim budget further slashed by the coronavirus cutbacks.
Unofficial Next Wave of Free Agency
Then comes the anecdotal stuff. The Vikings and all other NFL teams will survey the landscape of free agency and pluck players previously unsigned during the first wave of free agency. Think reservist players and the reservist-to-the-reservist players.
Of course, there is no official start date for this, but by default, this period usually happens during the last week of March. This is the week when players like DE2s or CB4s/CB5s are inked if the team prefers veteran players to rookies for roster depth.
It is impossible to know “who will be left” during this second free-agency wave, but diligence will be enacted to fill out the roster in a preliminary sense.
After that, the league is about one month from the NFL draft.