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4 Vikings Share Perspectives on Possibility of Free Agency

PRIOR LAKE, Minn. —Adam Thielen took off one week, Captain Munnerlyn allowed himself a little longer, and Zach Line used the early part of the season to take care of a nagging hip.

The three Vikings reconnected with teammates Charles Johnson and C.J. Ham on Friday during public appearances that were part of Polaris Vikings Winterfest, an annual festival that raises money for charities.

In addition to appearances on KFAN 100.3-FM's Power Trip and 9 to Noon live broadcasts, the players greeted Vikings fans and spoke with reporters, providing updates on their offseason and answering questions on the possibility of free agency.

Thielen and Johnson are restricted free agents; Line and Munnerlyn have contracts that are set to expire next month.

All made it clear that they've enjoyed their time with the Vikings and would be happy to return.

Here are their perspectives.

1) Thielen (joined Vikings practice squad in 2013; played in all 48 games since 2014)

Thielen followed his most prolific season — one in which he caught 69 passes for 967 yards and five touchdowns — by taking one week off and then launching his personal offseason workout program with long-time trainer and business partner, Ryan Englebert, at **ETS Thielen** in Lakeville. Unlike a year ago, when Thielen had shoulder surgery, he was clear this offseason.

He also was unproven in the eyes of some after combining for 20 catches, 281 yards and a touchdown in 2014-15. Thielen said he doesn't have specific statistical goals, but he does want to be a starting receiver.

"I've never been a numbers guy because there's so many factors that lead into those things," Thielen said. "I've always been the type of person that my goals are based on how hard I'm working, if I feel like I'm in the best shape I can possibly be in and making sure that I'm busting my tail and doing everything that my trainer is asking me to do.

"I guess the biggest goal would be playing time," Thielen added. "The closest thing to a number goal that I have is, last year, it was being the number three to number two guy and getting those opportunities and seeing where it takes me. My goal is to be a starter, and I feel that I have the ability and have put up the film that proves I can do that in this league."

As for any contract negotiations, Thielen is fine with continuing to work out and let his agent work on the details.

"It's interesting. There's not a lot I can control," Thielen said. "I'm just busting my tail in the weight room and trying to become the best football player I can be. Obviously, I'd like to be here long term, but that's really not in my control. For me, it's about going about my business and letting my agent earn his money."

Thielen said he's happy with what he's delivered so far and placed on film last season but doesn't plan to be complacent here or anywhere else.

"If it works out, and they give us the deal in our ballpark, absolutely, that's the goal, to be here long-term," Thielen said. "This is my team. I love this team and have put in a lot of time and effort to help this football team win games, and I'd love to be here. At the same time, I want to be respected for what I've done, and I feel like I've proven that I'm a starter in this league, so I want to be respected in that way."

2) Munnerlyn (joined Vikings as free agent in 2014; played in 47 games since)

Munnerlyn managed to miss one full game in 2016 despite suffering an ankle sprain on Nov. 13 against Detroit. He said he didn't need surgery but did give himself time to recover at seasons end before getting back on the workout wagon.

Originally drafted by Carolina in 2009, Munnerlyn spent five seasons with the Panthers before being one of the first free agents to play for Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer.

The nickel cornerback is the most experienced of the four players, and he is quite possibly the most "anxious."

"I've been counting the days," Munnerlyn said. "I get anxious because I want to know my next move. You definitely want to know your next move. I definitely would love to stay here, but at the same time, I know it's a business and things can get tricky.

"Money does play a little issue, but at the same time, you want to be happy," Munnerlyn continued. "I want to be able to take care of my family, and at the same time, I want to be happy. If I'm back here, I'm definitely pulling for that. Hopefully they'll bring me back, and I get to play with my teammates. I'm used to them now and have been playing with them for three years. I've definitely got my feet wet and I'm willing to stay here."

Asked what aspects he'd consider if his toe is placed in the free agency waters, Munnerlyn said, "the defensive scheme, the coaching staff, where the team is going."

He likes all of those criteria in Minnesota.

"I'm an older guy. I want to win. I definitely want to win, and in Minnesota, I feel like we have a chance to win," Munnerlyn said. "Every time we play, I feel like we're going to win because we've got a great defense, a great head coach, a great organization, guys in the locker room who want to win. Everybody is hungry, so I look at where the team is going, if they're rebuilding or if they want to win now."

3) Johnson (arrived before the 2014 season as a free agent; originally drafted by Green Bay in 2013; signed with Cleveland in October 2013; has played in 39 games with Vikings)

Johnson posted 20 catches for 232 yards in 2016 and has 60 catches for 834 yards and two scores in three seasons. Johnson said he's "chilling" with regard to what might happen.

"Whatever happens, happens. I'm confident in my ability and whatever decisions are being made," Johnson said. "All I can do is control what I can control. Whatever happens, I know I'm going to be OK. I've just got to approach it that way. I'm going to be all right. I know I can play this game at a high level. It's all about opportunity and the right situation. I'm happy to be here. I'm blessed to be here, and we'll see what happens."

Johnson, whose family makes its home in Minnesota during the offseason, said there's "certainly" an opportunity to be back with the Vikings and do more here.

"It's been kind of crazy the last couple of years, but I think it certainly is. I'm a confident individual," Johnson said. "I feel like there's so much more I have to touch that I haven't touched in my own game. I feel like there's so much I can do that other people can't do. I've just got to be able to reach that maximum ability and find that within myself. If I'm able to do that, the sky is the limit for me. I've just got to continue to be me and outwork anybody else."

4) Line (joined Vikings as an undrafted rookie in 2013; has played in 31 of 32 games since becoming the team's top fullback in 2015)

Line said he underwent a "little cleanup, nothing major" on his hip, explaining his use of crutches that he doesn't expect to use much longer.

Line said tightness in his hip nagged him down the stretch of 2016. Line made the trip for the weekend from his home state of Michigan where his wife is expecting the couple's second child.

"I obviously want to be back here. This is where I've spent my time for the past four years, and my wife loves it here," Line said. "A lot of us started out here engaged or just getting married, and now we're all having kids, so our wives are all close. This organization has treated me really well.

"As far as football goes, I like the coaches that we have right now. I love the players," Line continued. "Pretty much the reason you play hard for this team and play through injuries is because of the guys in the locker room that you like. I think we've got a really good group of human beings here."

Some have wondered how Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur might incorporate a fullback, but Line said that he was used to those questions when Norv Turner was in the role with the Vikings. Line, who played running back in college, said he's willing to do what it takes to help the team in any way.

"I like the fullback role, but I'm going to go in the same way I went into the draft and combine and all that. I want to be universal," Line said. "If they want me to play fullback, I can do that. If they want me to run the ball a little more, I had four years of doing that with success at SMU. It's still a valuable trait that I have.

"I'm really open to anything when it comes to what you want me to do, but it's got to be legal," Line quipped.

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