A Realistic Free Agent Wish List for the Minnesota Vikings, Based on Cap Space
Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports
With the Minnesota Vikings' making a big improvement from last year and exceeding expectations, don't expect general manager Rick Spielman and head coach Leslie Frazier to make any big splashes with a free agent signing for next season. It's not their style.
The Vikings have 16 players that will become free agents in 2013, including six starters. That means t that even though they have not made significant free agent signings in the past, they will still need to address some needs on both sides of the ball this offseason.
The Minnesota Vikings' payroll is between $105 million (according to msn.foxsports.com) and $112 million (if you believe osmguy.com). Between the two is $109.9 million, which is being reported by Spotrac.com.
Taking into account the increase in salaries for each Vikings player for 2013, as listed on Spotrac.com, as well as the free agents contracts that will be taken off the books, the Vikings' remaining payroll heading into the offseason will be approximately $101 million. The NFL is imposing a minimum payroll of $107 million, which is 88.8 percent of the $121 million ceiling in 2013. That means the Vikings will have to increase their payroll by at least $6 million in order to fill out their roster, but they can spend as much as $20 million if they wanted to.
The Vikings will need to address vacancies or make improvements at linebacker, cornerback, wide receiver, and along the offensive line.
Here's a list of some realistic free agents that the Vikings might add to their roster in 2013.
Jerome Felton, FB
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Adrian Peterson doesn't flirt with 2,000 yards in a season without a decent fullback in front of him.
The Vikings signed Jerome Felton to a one-year contract for $750,000 for 2012. He was the Lions' fifth-round draft pick in 2008, and Minnesota is his fourth team in three years.
Felton, the only true fullback on the roster, made six starts this season. The success in the Vikings' running game makes his re-signing a no-brainer for Rick Spielman, assuring that he remains in Minnesota in 2013.
After signing a one-year contract for $750,000, Felton has earned an increase for 2013.
In an article by Joe Oberle on CBSSports.com, head coach Leslie Frazier calls Felton the Vikings' unsung hero.
“Our offensive line has obviously done a great job in opening up some holes for Adrian. Kudos to those guys. But Jerome at the fullback position is an unsung hero.”
Felton appreciates the chance to block for Peterson.
“I remember when I was sitting in Detroit, we always had tough games against Minnesota, and I used to watch when Minnesota's offense was on the field and I was like, 'Man, if I could ever team up with him, I think it could be something special.' That was a big thing. Just to have the opportunity to come here and be able to block for him, he's obviously a future Hall of Famer. That was something special and something I was obviously very interested in doing.”
The Vikings would be wise to lock him up for as long as they intend to keep Peterson.
A.J. Jefferson, CB
A.J. Jefferson and Josh Robinson are part of a youth movement to the Vikings defensive backfield.
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The plan was most likely to use A.J. Jefferson as a backup to veterans Chris Cook, Antoine Winfield and rookie Josh Robinson this season, but when Cook broke his arm in Week 8, Jefferson got the nod to take his place in the starting lineup.
The Vikings acquired the undrafted free agent from the Cardinals for an undisclosed, conditional draft pick. The 24-year-old, in his third NFL season, has started six games this season for the Vikings. He is credited with defending five passes and has made 31 tackles.
Last season in Arizona, he played in all 16 games, starting seven of them.
The Vikings must re-sign Jefferson, especially with Winfield currently playing in his 14th season at 35 years old, and with Cook, the team's second-round draft pick in 2010, still unable to play an entire season.
Jefferson only cost the Vikings $548,000 this season, and the team should be able to re-sign him to a reasonable contract with the chance to compete for a starting role next year.
Kyle Arrington, CB
Kyle Arrington was a rookie free agent from Hofstra in 2009.
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Don't look for any of these guys to be in purple next season.
Instead, the Vikings' shopping list will include players like E.J. Biggers. Tramaine Brock, Dominique Franks and Mike Jenkins. All are younger players, with Jenkins being the oldest at 27, and all were paid less than $2 million this season.
Kyle Arrington would be a very good signing for the Vikings, especially if they do not re-sign A.J. Jefferson. Arrington has started 39 of 47 games over the last three seasons for the New England Patriots. In 2011, he led the NFL with seven interceptions.
This season he has started 11 games for the Patriots. In Week 6, he was temporarily benched in favor of rookie Alfonzo Dennard, and was demoted to nickel back.
The 26-year-old is in the last year of a two-year contract that will pay him $1.85 million this season.
Donnie Avery, WR
Donnie Avery caught nine passes for 111 yards against the Vikings in Week 2.
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What the Minnesota Vikings do at wide receiver will depend a lot on the future of Percy Harvin. His outburst at head coach Leslie Frazier in Week 9 in Seattle is the last time we've seen Harvin in a game.
Even if Harvin remains with the Vikings, they need an upgrade at wide receiver.
Devin Aromashodu and Jerome Simpson are both free agents, and neither has done enough to merit a contract offer from the Vikings. Aromashodu has only 11 catches in 14 games, and Simpson, playing on a one-year contract, has only 23 receptions. Neither has scored a touchdown this season.
Don't look for the Vikings to throw any big contracts in the direction of Dwayne Bowe, Victor Cruz or Mike Wallace—not that anyone will be offering Wallace a lot of money at this point anyway.
If Harvin is traded away, Donnie Avery would be a candidate to replace him on the roster. Both are listed at 5'11" and 200 pounds. In Week 2, Avery lit up the Vikings with nine catches totaling 111 yards.
The Rams' second-round draft choice in 2008, Avery is currently second on the Colts with 60 receptions. In a post on Rotoworld.com, he is identified as one of the weakest No. 2 receivers in the NFL and has been outplayed at times by T.Y. Hilton.
He signed a one-year contract for $615,000 with the Colts for the 2012 season. The Vikings should be able to add the 28-year-old to a reasonable contract.
Domenik Hixon, WR
Domenik Hixon is fourth on the Giants with 37 catches.
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No doubt Victor Cruz, their leading receiver with 82 catches heading into Week 17, will be their top priority. Along with Cruz, Ramses Barden and Domenik Hixon will also be available.
At 6'6", Barden presents a huge target, but the 6'2" Hixon has outplayed him this season. Hixon has made three starts for the Giants as the third receiver and is fourth on the team with 37 catches for 526 yards and two touchdowns.
Both backups are being paid $615,000 this season. With the promise of a starting role with the Vikings, either one could be added at a reasonable price.
Jasper Brinkley, LB
Jasper Brinkley is in his first year as the Vikings' starting middle linebacker
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Two-thirds of the Vikings starting linebacing corp will become free agents at the end of the season.
Last year, the Vikings had the opportunity to lock up weakside linebacker Erin Henderson for a long time. Instead, they agreed to a one-year contract with him for $2 million.
This season, Jasper Brinkley took over the starting middle linebacker position from Henderson's older brother, E.J.
Brinkley, a fifth-round draft pick of the Vikings in 2009, got four starts to close out the 2009 season while filling in for an injured E.J. Henderson. After not making a start in 2010, he missed the entire 2011 season with a hip injury that required surgery.
As part of an improved defense, Brinkley is fourth on the Vikings with 96 tackles. He is at the end of a four-year contract that pays him $565,000 this season.
As a one-year starter, the Vikings should be able to re-sign him for close to the average salary for a linebacker in the NFL, which is $1.2 million, according to SI.com.
Rey Maualuga, LB
Linebacker Rey Maualuga leads the Bengals in tackles with 112.
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For some reason, the Vikings only signed Erin Henderson to a one-year contract following his first season as a starter. If they do not re-sign him following this season then they will need to find another starter. Seventh-round draft pick Audie Cole has been inactive more than he has been active this season, and he isn't ready to take over on defense.
Rey Maualuga leads the Cincinnati Bengals with 112 total tackles. As Cincinnati's second-round draft pick in 2009, he's started in 58 out of 59 games in four years. Maualuga is part of a Bengals' defense that is ranked sixth overall in yards allowed and eighth against the run. He would have to make the transition from an inside linebacker to an outside linebacker in the Vikings' if he were to replace Henderson.
In the last year of his rookie contract, he is making $615,000 this year. He will most likely be looking for a substantial increase, and the Vikings have enough cap space to be able to make a competitive offer.
The 25-year-old would fit nicely in the team's youth movement.
Geno Hayes, LB
Geno Hayes has started two games this season for the Bears after starting 13 for Tampa Bay in 2011.
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Geno Hayes might be another option for the Vikings at linebacker. A sixth-round draft pick of Tampa Bay in 2008, Hayes broke into the starting lineup in 2009. From 2009 to 2011, he started 42 of 47 games for the Buccaneers.
He signed a one-year contract with Chicago for $750,000 this season. He is Lance Briggs' backup on the weak side, and has made only two starts on the year.
With a chance to start again in Minnesota, the Vikings would be able to sign him for a reasonable contract, probably in the neighborhood of the $2 million they paid Erin Henderson this year.
Sebastian Vollmer, OT
After an injury plagued season in 2011, Sebastian Vollmer has started 14 games this season.
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It will be interesting to see what the Vikings do about the right tackle position. Phil Loadholt has started all but one game since being drafted in the second round of the 2009 draft out of Oklahoma.
If the Vikings decide to look elsewhere, a good place to start is with Sebastian Vollmer. The problem is that they will have to sign him away from the Patriots.
A 2009 sixth-round pick by New England, Vollmer started all 16 games in 2010 at right tackle. Injuries last season limited him to five starts in six games. This year he has made 14 starts for the Patriots.
Doug Kyed of NESN.com calls Vollmer one of the most consistent players on the New England offense. On the last year of his rookie contract, Vollmer is being paid $675,000 this year.
From the same draft as Loadholt, it will take about the same amount of money to sign either Loadholt or Vollmer.