The Minnesota Vikings had a very underwhelming 2018 season. Now, they are face-to-face with contract issues that may hold them back from making a run in the future. The team is in the midst of their Super Bowl window. Here is how the Vikings can make the most of their off-season.
Minnesota Vikings Off-Season: Retooling the Roster for Success
The Vikings enter the 2019 off-season with roughly $5.823 million in cap space. In order to clear up some space, they are likely to cut a few veterans. The most likely candidate to be released is safety Andrew Sendejo. Cutting Sendejo would free up nearly $5.5 million, and Anthony Harris could take over the reins as the starting safety.
Next up is Mike Remmers. The Vikings have their fair share of struggles along the offensive line. Still, the team could look to move on from Remmers, who will be 30 years old by the time the new season rolls around. The Vikings already have a couple young pieces in place on the line that makes this move easier. Brian O’Neill and Pat Elflein seem to be the anchors moving forward. Releasing Remmers would free up about $5.75 million as the team prepares for the draft.
One shocking move still remains. Everson Griffen being let go would free up an additional $11 million in space. The Vikings already have their star pass rusher of the future. Moving on from Griffen would be an easy transition into the new era.
The Vikings may also look to restructure offensive tackle Riley Reiff. Reiff is set to make $9.4 million in 2019, but restructuring his deal would save the Vikings another $5.7 million. This would keep Reiff under contract and give Minnesota a veteran talent along the offensive line.
The big question will come down to wide receiver Laquon Treadwell. Cutting the former first-round pick won’t do Minnesota many favors. However, trading Treadwell would likely net the Vikings a late-round draft pick in return and save about $500k in cap.
After all of these moves, the Vikings are looking at $34.2 million in cap heading into free agency.
Upcoming free agent Anthony Barr is going to demand a lot of money on his next contract. The Vikings must let him walk and find a replacement elsewhere. Barr is a great talent, but his cost will be too high to build a quality roster around in the off-season.
Sheldon Richardson had a stellar season in 2018, but he didn’t show up on the stat sheet. He was a dominant force up front for the Vikings, and he’s deserved another shot with the team. Richardson could strike a deal to stay in Minneapolis, something short but valuable. Realistically, Richardson would sign for two years and $19-21 million, with most of that guaranteed.
Kwon Alexander would be a nice replacement for Barr, and he could be picked up on the cheap. After an ACL injury in 2018, Alexander is set to hit the open market. A deal for him would likely fall in the three-year, $4.5 million range with $3 million guaranteed.
Kwon Alexander is a top 10 free agent IMO – if he comes back healthy his recognition and speed is a game changer pic.twitter.com/2NTHGpsGTK
— Connor Rogers (@ConnorJRogers) February 11, 2019
Anthony Harris is set for a big raise. After filling in for an injured Andrew Sendejo last season, Harris earned a starting role moving forward. His new deal would land him similar money to that of Sendejo. Something in the range of four years and $23 million would probably be enough to bring Harris back.
A splash deal of sorts would be Jamison Crowder. Crowder missed seven games in 2018, but he has been a very solid wide receiver throughout his career. Not to mention he has familiarity with Kirk Cousins, as they spent three years together in Washington. He caught 192 passes for 2,240 yards and 12 touchdowns with Cousins throwing to him. Crowder is an excellent slot option alongside Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen. Given that he was injured last season, Crowder could be looking at a deal worth $9.5-10 million over two years.
7 catches. 141 yards. 1 TD.
— Washington Commanders (@Commanders) November 24, 2017
Drafting the Rest of the Way
There is speculation that Kyle Rudolph is in danger of being a cap casualty, but not so fast. While the Vikings may look to a new tight end in the draft, Rudolph should be around as a mentor for at least one more season. That said, drafting a tight end seems very likely in this draft. The 2019 tight end class is one of the best, with plenty of talent to be found throughout all seven rounds. Using a mid-round pick on Dawson Knox or Dax Raymond sets the Vikings up nicely moving forward. Their scouting reports can be found here.
The Vikings need to address the offensive line at some point in the draft as well. Andre Dillard would be an excellent pick in the first round, giving Minnesota a left tackle of the future. Jawaan Taylor is also an excellent option, but either he or O’Neill would have to move to the left side. Interior options include Beau Benzschawel and Dalton Risner. Both guys are great in the run game and have starting talent right away.
Kansas St. OT Dalton Risner hasn’t allowed a sack since Week 5 of the 2016 season (@PFF_College). A span of 942 pass blocking snaps. That happened to be the only sack that he surrendered during his entire collegiate career.
— Jordan Reid (@Jordan_Reid) January 10, 2019
Finally, the Vikings must look for a running back in the later rounds of the draft. Latavius Murray may not be back as he looks for a larger role. Minnesota lacks a gimmicky playmaker that can spell Dalvin Cook, but this draft has plenty of those guys. Justice Hill is an option to consider, as he offers quickness and agility in the open field. Another option is Bryce Love, who will fall after a career plagued by injuries, including a torn ACL at the end of the 2018 season.
With a few minor moves, the Minnesota Vikings can reshape their future. It all starts with making the tough decision to move on from veteran pieces and looking at younger, cheaper options.