Minnesota Vikings Free Agents: Who Is in Play for the Franchise Tag?

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Minnesota Vikings Free Agents: Who Is in Play for the Franchise Tag?
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Jared Allen (69) and Kevin Williams (93) may have played their last games with the Minnesota Vikings.

According to Spotrac, the Minnesota Vikings have 21 free agents heading into the 2014 season—and not one of them is a candidate to receive the team's franchise tag designation in order to retain their services. That's not just my opinion. Former sports agent Joel Corry listed the 10 NFL players most likely to be franchised on CBS Sports and, to no surprise, there was not a single Viking.

Some big names that top Corry's list include New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham, Denver wide receiver Eric Decker and Carolina defensive end Greg Hardy—all top performing players, and all under the age of 27.  

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Carolina defensive end, Greg Hardy led the Panthers with 15 sacks in 2013.

The simple reason is that there is not a single pending free agent that the Vikings need to keep on the roster for this coming season—at least not one that deserves a salary worth the average of the top-five contracts at their position.

Looking back at the history of their transactions listed on Vikings.com, the Minnesota Vikings have only used the franchise tag once since 2008. On March 1, 2011, they designated linebacker Chad Greenway as their franchise player. In September of that year, they signed him to a five-year, $40.6 million contract. Last season, Greenway's $6.9 million base salary ranked second among outside linebackers—only Tamba Hali of the Kansas City Chiefs was paid more. 

Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
Has strong-side linebacker Chad Greenway lived up to his current contract?

The Vikings have four starters from 2013 that are free agents this year—five if you include wide receiver Jerome Simpson, who lost his starting job to rookie Cordarrelle Patterson. If they used their franchise tag on any of them, they could lock that player for another season. 

Minnesota Vikings: Key 2014 Free Agents
Player Position Age 2013 Cap Hit 2014 Franchise Tag Salary
Jared Allen DE 31 $17.1 million $12.5 million
Kevin Wiliams DT 33 $5.0 million $9.2 million
Charlie Johnson OG 29 $3.8 million $11.1 million
Jerome Simpson WR 27 $2.1 million $11.5 million
Chris Cook CB 26 $1.3 ,illion $11.2 million
Toby Gerhart RB 26 $1.0 million $9.1 million
Everson Griffen DE 26 $765,000 $12.5 million

Spotrac / CBS Sports

Looking at the numbers from the table above, the only player that even comes close to making sense to receive the franchise tag is defensive end Jared Allen. Allen has led the Vikings in sacks since they acquired him in a trade from Kansas City in 2008. His 85.5 sacks are the most in team history as recorded by Pro Football Reference

Since signing a six-year contract worth $73.3 million in 2008, each of Allen's sacks has cost the Vikings approximately $856,000. If the Vikings were to use their franchise tag on Allen, they would have to pay him 120 percent of his salary from 2013. With a base salary of $14.3 million last season, that means he would cost the Vikings $17.2 million. 

In order for the investment to bring the same return, Allen would need to record 20 sacks next season—a total he has only exceeded once in his career. In 2011, he set the franchise record with 22 sacks. 

The problem is his sack numbers have declined for three consecutive seasons since 2011. That, plus the fact Allen will turn 32 in April, reduces the likelihood the Vikings will tag him. 

A quick scan of the Twitterverse shows there is plenty of interest in Allen. There is plenty of speculation that has him winding up in Tampa Bay, where the former Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier has been named the defensive coordinator. 

Unfortunately, there are no indications that the Vikings are interested in keeping Allen, or perhaps they think they can get him for less than the cost of using the franchise tag on him.

It's highly unlikely the Vikings will be interested in giving Allen a raise. The Vikings' release of cornerback Antoine Winfield last March indicates a decreased value the team has for their veterans. 

Don't look for any of the Vikings' free agents to end up getting tagged this year. 

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