The Minnesota Vikings are on a youth-movement like we haven't seen in quite some time. The young team will only get younger with their 10 draft picks in 2012 and plenty of room to improve.
Speculation has surfaced over the possible releases of Vikings guards Steve Hutchinson and Anthony Herrera and cornerback Cedric Griffin. Though these cuts would free up a lot of cap space, it would leave the Vikings with very few veterans on their roster.
The secondary and the offensive line are two position groups that could seriously use some veteran presence and depth.
With free agency starting later this year (March 13th) than usual, teams do have the opportunity to sign players that have been released by other teams.
Here are 5 veteran players that could be or already have been released by other teams that the Vikings should consider targeting this offseason.
Max Starks was cut a couple of weeks ago by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The cut was presumably due to Starks' age and proneness to injury, but he showed in 2011 that he can add depth for a struggling offensive line.
The Vikings tried to make a run at Starks in 2011, before the Steelers snatched him up for the remainder of the season.
Starks wouldn't add starter production for the Vikings, but more depth certainly couldn't hurt as the team tries to rebuild its team starting with the offensive line.
Jim Leonard is a free agent for the New York Jets this offseason.
Though they'll probably make it a priority to retain his services, the Vikings thought they'd be able to retain Darren Sharper after the 2008 season. With the Jets in somewhat of a downward spiral, I wouldn't put it past Leonard to walk—especially when a team like the Vikings could be willing to throw a bunch of money at him.
The 29-year-old former Wisconsin Badger would bring some accountability to an utterly pathetic Vikings secondary.
If the Jets completely drop the ball re-signing Leonard, I'd fully expect the Vikings to make a run at him.
Anthony Adams is another guy that wouldn't necessarily be a starter if the Vikings could sign him, but he would make for some nice depth considering the free agents the Vikings might lose on the interior of their defensive line.
He played with the Bears from 2007-2011 after having a nice stint with the 49ers. Though Adams only recorded 16 tackles with the Bears in 2011, he could still offer some value as a backup—especially considering the fact that he might come pretty cheap.
Chris Cooley is in an interesting situation. On one hand, he's one of the only "franchise-type" players the Redskins have on offense. On the other hand, he's been banged up pretty bad in the last few years and only had eight receptions in 2011.
Cooley is a long-shot to get cut by the Redskins, but in order to make some cap space for some younger, healthier players, it wouldn't be unheard of to find Cooley released in the coming weeks.
The Vikings have already lost TE Jim Kleinsasser to retirement and will likely lose Visanthe Shiancoe to free agency (or just won't want to re-sign him, whichever way you want to look at it). That being said, Kyle Rudolph has great potential, but is not ready to be the No. 1 TE on the roster.
If utilized in the Vikings two-TE sets correctly, the team could potentially limit Cooley's injuries and get some vertical production out of him—not to mention the fact that he could be a mentor for the Vikings young TE Rudolph.
The Oakland Raiders are in full-rebuilding mode. Free safety Michael Huff is set to make a base-salary of $4 million and that could be an issue for new Raiders G.M. Reggie McKenzie.
Without the opportunity to make a selection in the first round of the next two NFL drafts, the Raiders will likely try to rebuild extensively through free agency. If that becomes the case, they will have to make some cap space by letting go of guys like Huff.
If the Vikings were able to bring in Huff, who would be extremely expensive, they could still have one of the best free agent signings of the offseason.
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