This is the most wonderful time of the year. I say that because it almost feels like Christmas. Every team full of optimism as the new NFL year starts on March 9th. Before that, there is a brilliant two day window where teams can freely begin talks with free agents. The NFL calls this legal tampering. Most deals are hammered out during this period, and it always has me scouring Twitter, looking for any reliable sources connecting my beloved Vikings to some of the top free agents. Some may not pan out as we had hoped. Fred Smoot and Madieu Williams come to mind. Others like Steve Hutchinson, Antoine Winfield, Pat Williams, and most recently Linval Joseph have become building blocks of the team.
The Vikings are coming off of a pedestrian 8-8 record that saw the loss of a young, upcoming quarterback, plenty of offensive lineman hit the IR, a coordinator resign midseason, and even a head coach miss time due to injury. There are plenty of holes to fill and luckily after declining Adrian Peterson’s 2017 team option, the Vikings have some money to spend on those needs. According to spotrac.com, the Vikings have just over 38 million in salary cap space this offseason. Being that the Vikings don’t have a first round pick, I feel like they may need to be more active in free agency. With that being said here are five players that Rick Spielman may want to pursue.
Andrew Whitworth, Cincinnati Bengals OT: I don’t think I would have to argue with many people if I said Left Tackle should be the number one priority this offseason. Why not shoot for the moon and land one of the elite Left Tackles in the game. Even at the age of 35, he is still one of the best at his position. He graded out as the second best Tackle in football last year after Trent Williams with a grade of 91.3 according to pro football focus. Cincinnati is still talking about re-signing the pro bowl Left Tackle, but it sounds as though he wants to see what his market value is, as it will likely be his last big money contract. If he does hit free agency, it may be worth giving him a two year deal worth 12-14 million annually.
Riley Reiff, Detroit Lions OT: Sticking with the tackle theme, I believe the addition of Riley Reiff would be good for the Vikings. Riley Reiff has shown in his career the ability to play both tackle positions. He had a bit of a down year according to pro football focus’s numbers. If he shows a willingness to come to Minnesota on a 3 year deal worth around 5-7 million a year, it may be a bargain.
Dre Kirkpatrick, Cincinnati Bengals DB: The connection here is pretty obvious. Dre Kirkpatrick was a first round draft pick of the Cincinnati Bengals in the 2012 NFL draft. He is a guy that has underwhelmed to a certain extent after being an exceptional corner for the Crimson Tide. He was drafted by the Bengals while Mike Zimmer was the Defensive Coordinator for the Bengals. Dre has flashed some of that first round ability at times. Kirkaptrick may have to settle for a 3 year 15 million dollar deal.
Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers RB: Eddie Lacy is a name I’m sure I will get some crap over. I am sure Packer fans have had enough of the oft injured running back. I see him as almost a perfect fit to be the thunder to Jerick McKinnon’s lightning, for the right price. Being a Viking fan, I know the kind of player Eddie can be when used right. At times, he seems virtually unstoppable when he has gone up against the Vikings. Unfortunately for Eddie, running backs are just about a dime a dozen, and he has a checkered past with injuries. Lacy could be looking at a 2 year 4 million dollar pact.
Malcolm Smith, Oakland Raiders LB: Linebacker may be a position worth addressing this offseason. It is an area that lacks talent after Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr. Chad Greenway sounds like he might be hanging up the cleats after a solid ten year career. Malcolm Smith would be a decent addition to the linebacker group. The former Super Bowl MVP had an up and down couple of seasons with the Oakland Raiders, as they appear willing to allow the Linebacker walk in free agency. Over the last two seasons he has 225 tackles showing that he has been productive. Adding him would allow the Vikings to play in their base defense without having a major liability at the WLB.