The Minnesota Vikings head into a murky off-season with questions surrounding everyone from their offensive line all the way up to their general manager Rick Spielman. Tough decisions will be made across the roster, including with aging players who were a part of the league’s top-ranked defense in 2017. With head coach Mike Zimmer entering the final year of his contract, tensions are rising in Minnesota as the window to win a championship appears to be closing. Here are three Minnesota Vikings players the team will have to look long and hard at about keeping in 2020.
Three Minnesota Vikings Players the Team Should Move on From in 2020
Everson Griffen transformed from a role player into a Pro Bowler when Zimmer arrived in 2014. With 57 sacks in the past six seasons, Griffen has become a vocal leader on a stingy-yet-quiet defense.
But at age 32 heading into the 2020 season, Griffen appears on the downside of his career, and he admitted as much after the season, telling reporters he believes he has three or four years left. Griffen’s contract goes through the 2022 season, but he can opt out of it before March 20th. This would save the team nearly $12.9 million in cap space. Throw in the emergence of young defensive ends Stephen Weatherly (set to become a free agent but would be welcomed back at the right price) and Ifeadi Odenigbo (who had seven sacks in 2019) and it feels like the time is right to part ways with the longest-tenured Viking.
The first free-agent signing of the Mike Zimmer era came when the team signed nose tackle Linval Joseph. The former New York Giant had a decent first season after suffering a gunshot wound to his calf but became borderline unblockable in 2015. As the strongest man on the Vikings, he could beat double-teams with his strength while also making plays outside of the box.
Like Griffen, though, Joseph is going to turn 32 in October. While still a handful, he was never quite his old dominant self while battling injuries in 2019. Cutting him would result in a $2.4 million cap hit in 2020 and $1.2 million in 2021, but those would be small prices to pay to clear his $12.8 million contract in 2020. His backup, Jaleel Johnson, also began to splash on the field in 2019. The former fourth-round pick is entering his fourth season and could finally take over for Joseph at a much more reasonable price.
No one fell from grace more in Minnesota than Xavier Rhodes did in 2019. After years of being considered one of the league’s premier cornerbacks, Rhodes was picked on by opposing quarterbacks in 2019. Frustration mounted after giving up long plays against the Seattle Seahawks and New Orleans Saints, where cameras showed Rhodes irate on the sidelines, yelling at coaches and teammates. While respected among his teammates and coaches, this was a bad look for a cornerback who has not had an interception since week one of the 2018 season.
Unlike Griffen and Joseph, who can still be requisite starters (just at a high price-tag), Rhodes’ ability has appeared to fall off of a cliff. Injuries and a physical style of play look to have taken a toll on his body. While occasionally being completely out of position, Rhodes appeared to be on his assignments most of the time. But a step too slow in the NFL is a big difference. Rhodes is set to make $12.9 million in 2020, and even with a heftier $4.8 million cap hit in 2020 (and $2.4 million hit in 2021), it appears that his time has run out in Minnesota. The Vikings have many young, talented corners who Zimmer will continue to groom into viable replacements. And saving money by cutting Rhodes would also make it easier to bring back fellow starting cornerback Trae Waynes.