EAGAN, Minn. — Don't look now, but the 2021 edition of free agency is upon us.
The 2021 league year officially begins at 3 p.m. (CT) tomorrow.
Over the past two weeks, Vikings.com has been providing an in-depth look on where each position stands entering free agency. We've looked at which Vikings are scheduled to become free agents, where potential needs might be and note players from other teams that are set to become free agents.
We are concluding this series with safeties.
View the best safety photos of the 2020 season from Vikings photographers.
Harrison Smith, Josh Metellus, Myles Dorn, Luther Kirk
2020 Stats: 16 games (16 starts); 89 tackles (league stats); 5 interceptions returned for 33 yards; 2 tackles for loss; 5 QB hits; 0.5 sacks; 10 passes defensed; 1,030 defensive snaps (96.0 percent); 80 special teams snaps
Advanced stats from pro-football-reference.com: 21 completions allowed on 32 pass attempts by opponents for 338 yards and an allowed passer rating of 71.6
Smith missed the Pro Bowl for the first time after five-straight selections to the all-star game, but he proved a vital part of a young Vikings secondary. The 32-year-old led the team in interceptions and passes defensed, and his tackles ranked fourth.
View the best photos of Vikings S Harrison Smith from the 2020 season.
2020 Stats: 15 games (0 starts); 9 tackles (league stats); 2 fumble recoveries; 16 defensive snaps (1.5 percent); 262 special teams snaps
Advanced stats from pro-football-reference.com: 1 completion allowed on 1 pass attempt by opponents for a 7-yard touchdown and an allowed passer rating of 135.4
A sixth-round selection by the Vikings last spring, Metellus was able to learn from the likes of Smith and Anthony Harris ahead of year two. Metellus contributed mostly on Minnesota's special teams, playing 59 percent of the unit's snaps. He was targeted just once throughout the season, giving up a short touchdown at Green Bay in Week 7. Metellus entered the game at safety after Minnesota had to slide Harris to the nickel corner role because of injuries.
2020 Stats: None
The Vikings signed Kirk to their practice squad after Week 3. The former Illinois State standout spent Weeks 1 and 2 on the Cowboys practice squad before being released by Dallas. He agreed to a Reserve/Future contract in January.
2020 Stats: None
The son of former NFL defensive back Torin Dorn, Myles joined the Vikings as an undrafted free agent last spring. He spent the entirety of his rookie campaign on Injured Reserve.
SCHEDULED TO BECOME FREE AGENTS:
Anthony Harris (unrestricted free agent)
2020 Stats: 16 games (16 starts); 104 tackles (league stats); 2 tackles for loss; 7 passes defensed; 1,074 snaps (100 percent) on defense; 99 special teams snaps
Advanced stats from pro-football-reference.com: 21 completions allowed on 36 pass attempts by opponents for 262 yards and an allowed passer rating of 118.1
View the best photos of Vikings S Anthony Harris from the 2020 season.
George Iloka (restricted free agent)
2020 Stats: 4 games (0 starts); 6 tackles (league stats); 1 tackle for loss; 45 snaps (4.2 percent) on defense; 8 special teams snaps
Advanced stats from pro-football-reference.com: 1 completion allowed on 1 pass attempt by opponents for 13 yards and an allowed passer rating of 118.7
Smith and Harris each started all 16 games, but the depth at safety behind them drastically dropped off.
By the conclusion of a 2020 season riddled with struggles, Metellus was Minnesota's only healthy safety (on the active roster) besides the pair of starters.
The Vikings safeties in 2021 will be under new guidance, since the team hired Karl Scott to coach defensive backs following Daronte Jones' hiring by LSU.
Scott will definitely be working with a young secondary group, with the exception of Smith and if the Vikings re-sign Harris or Iloka. If neither returns to Minnesota, it will be interesting to see if General Manager Rick Spielman targets a veteran safety in free agency or relies on the position pool in the upcoming NFL Draft.
One thing seems certain, though: the Vikings will need to add to the group in the next several weeks.
WHO'S POTENTIALLY OUT THERE?
NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal released his list of the top 101 potential free agents, which has been updated multiple times and has seven safeties as of Monday, before the legal tampering period started, including Harris:
23. John Johnson III, 37. Anthony Harris, 57. Jaquiski Tartt, 64. Xavier Woods, 68. Keanu Neal, 85. Malik Hooker and 99. Rayshawn Jenkins
A third-round pick in 2017, Johnson has spent the past four seasons with the Rams. He started all 16 games for the Los Angeles Rams last season and racked up 105 tackles (league stats); he also added two tackles for loss, eight passes defensed and his eighth career interception.
Tartt has spent all six seasons of his career thus far in San Francisco, but he has yet to play all 16 games in a season. He started all seven of the games he played in 2020 and snagged an interception and four passes defensed, but turf toe sent Tartt to Injured Reserve in November.
The 2020 season marked Woods' fourth with the Cowboys – and first without an interception. He had a down year stats-wise, despite starting 15 games for a Dallas defense that struggled.
Neal was highly touted as the 17th overall draft pick by Atlanta in 2016, but he's also missed significant time due to injury. He totaled just four games in 2018 and 2019 but started 14 of 15 games played last season. He recorded 100 tackles (league stats), an interception, 1.0 sack, nine tackles for loss, two passes defensed and a fumble recovery.
Hooker played in just two games for the Colts in 2020, totaling seven tackles. He was added to Injured Reserve after rupturing his Achilles against the Vikings. The 2017 first-round pick will turn 25 on April 2.
A fourth-round pick in 2017, Jenkins became a starter in 2019 and recorded three interceptions. He added two more last season and has recorded four passes defensed in each of the past two seasons.