Now that the Super Bowl has been played and free agency is approaching next month, the Last Word on Sports NFL department will be looking at the top three needs for each team. Today, the Minnesota Vikings are the focus. The Vikings do not hold a first round pick but do posses the 14th pick in the second round (46th overall) in the 2017 NFL draft. Several key players are slated to hit free agency this year, including wide receivers Adam Thielen and Cordarrelle Patterson, slot corner Captain Munnerlyn, and punter Jeff Locke.
Minnesota Vikings: 2017 Off-Season Top 3 Needs
It is well documented that the Vikings offensive line was an unmitigated disaster last season. The team played 12 different linemen over the course of the season, more than teams generally carry on the roster. The line allowed 41 sacks and the team only ran for 3.2 yards per carry.
With three offensive tackles who started games last season, Matt Kalil, Andre Smith, and Jake Long, slated to hit free agency, the team may need two new starting tackles next season. After releasing guards Brandon Fusco and Mike Harris, the team will need a new starting right guard as well.
The Vikings will most likely add talent to the line both in free agency and the Draft, given general manager Rick Spielman’s recent comments on the O-line evaluation process in the draft and the relative lack of talent available in the draft compared to free agency. There are several mid-tier and above average tackles available in free agency, including right tackle Ricky Wagner and left tackles Andrew Whitworth and Russell Okung. The draft offers several strong interior linemen and college tackles who may shift inside to guard in the NFL including players like Dan Feeney and Forrest Lamp, who the team would likely spring for if available in the second round.
Adrian Peterson is as good as gone from the Minnesota Vikings. After Rick Spielman admitted he has not been in contact with the 32-year-old or his agent and given the washed up former star’s $18 million dollar cap hit next season, there is absolutely no reason to hold onto Peterson.
Regardless of if the team moves on from Peterson, they need an infusion of talent at running back. Both Matt Asiata (a pending free agent) and Jerick McKinnon are solid situational players. But neither has shown the consistency, durability, or talent to carry the run game.
In a draft class Spielman called “the deepest I’ve ever seen” at the running back position, the team can find a player or two to greatly impact the offense without expending a high pick or overspending in free agency. Players like D’Onta Forman, Kareem Hunt, Jamaal Williams and several others all have the potential to be game changers in the NFL and most if not all should be available after the first round.
Although the defensive side of the ball is undoubtedly the strength of the Vikings team, they may have some holes to fill in the secondary. Corner backs Captain Munnerlyn and Terence Newman are pending free agents, and at 38 years old, Newman is unlikely to play more than 1-2 more years, if he does not retire this off season. Munnerlyn, one of the top slot corners in the NFL will likely command a high price tag in a league that plays nickel defense 80 percent of the time, but both he and his teammates have expressed a strong desire for him to remain in Minnesota.
At safety, Harrison Smith is a top player at his position, but he is already 28 years old. On the other side, Andrew Sendejo made great improvements last season, but $4 million is a lot to pay a safety who struggles in coverage.
While it is likely for the team to draft at least two defensive backs in the draft, the team may also look to add a more proven commodity in free agency. Players like Tony Jefferson, Stephon Gilmore, Morris Claiborne, or Dre Kirkpatrick all should be intriguing to the Vikings for the right price.