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With quite a few Vikings players becoming free agents, who should we be prioritizing to re-sign? Is the team facing any tough choices in regards to free agents?
— Bethany N.
Can you believe that free agency is already here? (Or that the Vikings 2021 season has already been over for more than two months).
But, as usual, the NFL's cycle keeps on spinning, as we have now arrived at one of the most frenzied weeks of the offseason.
A quick recap of how free agency works.
The legal tampering period begins today at 11 a.m. (CT), and might have already started depending on what time you're reading this. That window goes until 3 p.m. (CT) on Wednesday, when the NFL's New League Year begins.
At that time, teams can officially sign free agents they have negotiated with the past two days, and all teams must also be below the league's set salary cap of $208.8 million (plus any money teams rolled over).
And oh yes, any potential trades that are in the works can now become official, too. (Wonder if there will be any of the latter around the league?)
View the best photos of Vikings CB Patrick Peterson from the 2021 season.
From a Vikings standpoint, the team is scheduled to have about 20 players become free agents if deals aren't reached with Minnesota by Wednesday afternoon. Notable names include the following: Patrick Peterson, Anthony Barr, Tyler Conklin, Mackensie Alexander, Xavier Woods, Everson Griffen, Rashod Hill and Dede Westbrook, among others.
Here is one man's take on what the priorities could be in the coming weeks.
First, the Vikings must get under the salary cap. As of early Monday morning, according to overthecap.com, the Vikings are roughly $15 million over the cap, so the front office will have to make some moves — by either releasing players, restructuring contracts or making trades — to get below the $208.8 million figure.
View the best photos of Vikings LB Anthony Barr from the 2021 season.
The Vikings on Sunday night announced they agreed in principle to a one-year contract extension with QB Kirk Cousins. While terms were not announced by the team, it is expected that part of the deal is helping with the salary cap situation.
After getting under the salary cap, they can spend whatever money they have left over on free agents. For example, if they get their salary cap down to roughly $200 million, they would have about $8 million to sign players for the 2022 season.
If we're being honest, the Vikings aren't exactly in an ideal cap situation, but from a curiosity standpoint, it will be intriguing to follow Vikings General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah's first set of big moves in charge.
As for positional needs, cornerback could top the list, simply because of the lack of sheer numbers of that group. As it stands today, the Vikings only have four corners (Kris Boyd, Cameron Dantzler, Harrison Hand and Parry Nickerson) under contract.
That number will change, of course, but right now the group has Peterson and Alexander scheduled to become free agents.
I'd also put the interior of the offensive line as an area to watch. The Vikings are set at the tackle spots and left guard, but center and right guard could see some changes from previous seasons.
Garrett Bradbury and Olisaemeka Udoh were starters in 2021 and are still under contract, but Mason Cole is scheduled to be a free agent.
We'll see how that group shakes out, but that's an area to watch.
Lastly, a few other position groups the Vikings could target in free agency include defensive end, linebacker and wide receiver.
All of this depends on what roster moves the Vikings make to get under the cap, and if they suddenly have some money to spend and need to add talent at a certain position.
Everyone wants to either blame or reward the quarterback for the team performance. The Vikings in their early days had one of the teams to beat year after year, but what is seldom acknowledged it the fact that those teams had a defense that was second to none. For example, the 1970 team allowed less than 11 points per game! If Kirk Cousins had that type of support, what would our record have been since his arrival?
— Ken Maus
Before I get to Ken's question, which was sent before Sunday's news, a quick note of thanks for the kind words from many of you regarding last week’s Mailbag that looked at the options the Vikings considered with Cousins.
I do agree with Ken's point that the Vikings defense has been subpar the past two seasons. The performance of that unit certainly factors into the reasons why Minnesota made big changes this offseason and why the team has missed two consecutive postseasons.
However, I think it's a little far-fetched to just state that Cousins would dominate with a Vikings old-school defense behind him. Wouldn't most quarterbacks do the same?
While Ken mentions the Vikings 1970 defense that allowed just 10.2 points per game, the 1969 group was even better at just 9.5 points allowed per game!
There's no understating how dominant it is to allow just 133 points all season. For comparison's sake, the 2021 Vikings allowed 128 points inside all 2-minute warnings this past season, which was an NFL record (since the 1970 merger).
Of course the Vikings record would be better if the team had that level of defense in recent seasons. But scoring is up across the board in recent years as rule changes have tipped scales to help offenses. Buffalo (289) was the only team with fewer than 300 points against in 2021, and 15 teams scored more than 419 points.
Plus, and I don't mean this as a knock on Cousins, but you usually have to pay high-end players big money. With Cousins making so much money himself, that he rightfully earned, it's tough to spread the talent around when one player is taking up more than 20 percent of the salary cap.
How is it that Cousins' contract is considered such a salary problem, yet QBs with the same or higher salaries such as Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes, Dak Prescott, Aaron Rodgers, etc., are thought to not be a cap problem for their respective teams?
— Jeff Wolfe in Jackson, Mississippi
Jeff's email is a nice transition from the end of my previous answer (and also was sent before the news), so let's dive into it.
Players should try to get every dollar possible during their time in the NFL, and that approach shouldn't change whether you're a starting quarterback or exclusively a special teamer/depth option on offense or defense.
I think the perception that Cousins' contract hampers the Vikings stems from the fact that those other quarterbacks lead their teams to the playoffs on a regular basis. Again, it's not solely Cousins' fault that the Vikings have missed the playoffs in three of his four seasons so far.
But if the Vikings had made the postseason in three of four seasons, there wouldn't be as much chatter about it. Winning solves a lot of issues in this league.
Can you please tell me what happened to Janarius Robinson? He was such a promising rookie.
— Ernie in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota
Robinson was among the most intriguing prospects the Vikings drafted a year ago. Unfortunately, his rookie season ended before it really began as he was put on Injured Reserve at the end of training camp and missed the entire 2021 season.
Robinson certainly showed promise at Florida State and could have potentially pushed for a reserve spot had he not gotten injured last summer.
Now, we'll have to see what the new coaching staff thinks of him and how he fits into Ed Donatell's scheme.
I mentioned defensive end above as a spot the Vikings could address in free agency. But no matter what they do there, Robinson will be a name to watch this spring and summer as he makes his return to the field.
Is it possible to trade Cousins and try to get Kyle Sloter back?
— Nancy Vlaisavljevich
Even before the agreement with Cousins, this was highly doubtful. No matter what you think of Cousins, and your emails continue to show your passion for different opinions, there's a general consensus that he is better than Sloter.
The infatuation with Sloter from some is unblinking. He has bounced from team to team in recent seasons and still has never played in an NFL game, let along started one, despite being in the league for five years.
Sloter had some nice highlights in preseason games, but a team is yet to hand him the keys to the car. The Vikings agreement with Cousins will give him another key on the keyring.