EAGAN, Minn. – Which of the current Vikings is the most likely to end up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame?
At this point, 15 individuals who spent most of their careers with the Vikings have been elected. That includes former guard Steve Hutchinson, whose scheduled enshrinement in 2020 was postponed to this summer. Defensive end Jared Allen was a finalist for the 2021 class but didn't make the cut this time around.
Bryan DeArdo of CBS Sports took a look across the league and named every team's "most likely future Hall of Famer," and he labeled 17 of the 32 "locks" to make it.
For the Vikings, DeArdo pointed to safety Harrison Smith and also gave an early nod to running back Dalvin Cook.
Smith joined Minnesota as the 29th overall selection of the 2012 NFL Draft. Over the past nine seasons, he's totaled 747 tackles (league stats), 39 tackles for loss, 31 quarterback hits, seven forced fumbles, eight fumble recoveries, 66 passes defensed, 28 interceptions and four touchdowns.
DeArdo did not tab Smith as "a lock" but said he's well on his way to Canton. He wrote:
Smith's career is following a similar trajectory to that of Eric Weddle, a 14-year veteran who retired last offseason. Weddle's career, which included six Pro Bowl and two All-Pro selections, could be described as "on the fence" as it relates to his future Hall of Fame odds. That means that Smith, a five-time Pro Bowler and one-time All-Pro, will likely need to rack up more individual accolades if he wants to improve his future Hall of Fame odds. Given his age (he turned 32 earlier this month), Smith should have several more productive seasons ahead of him. On Smith's heels is Dalvin Cook, who last season finished second behind Derrick Henry for the NFL rushing title.
View the best photos of Vikings S Harrison Smith from the 2020 season who signed a contract extension with the team.
Another name on DeArdo's list will be plenty familiar to Vikings fans.
DeArdo highlighted Lions running back Adrian Peterson among the 17 locks to end up in the Hall of Fame. Although Peterson has played for four teams since 2017, including Detroit in 2020, the work he did with the Vikings from 2007-16 positions him on track for Canton.
A unanimous member of the NFL's All-Decade Team for the 2010s, Peterson is fifth all-time on the league's career rushing list. He earned MVP honors in 2012 after rushing for 2,097 yards, the second-highest total in league history. Peterson, who will turn 36 next month, is slated to become a free agent on March 17.
As for the other NFC North teams, DeArdo said that Bears pass rusher Khalil Mack is "very close" to being a sure thing in the Hall, and Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was among the certain category.
Bleacher Report names Bengals CB as 'ideal' free agent target for Vikings
Don't look now, but the start of a new league year just a couple of weeks ago.
Free agency is set to kick off on March 17, and it will be interesting to see what moves the Vikings make. Will they re-sign any of their own players slated to hit the open market? Will they sign any new names?
Bleacher Report's Kristopher Knox recently opined the “ideal target” in free agency for every NFL team. He made the case for Minnesota to bring in Cincinnati cornerback Williams Jackson III. The 24th overall draft pick in 2016, Jackson has started 48 of 59 games played for the Bengals over the past four seasons.
In that time, he's recorded 150 tackles (league stats), five tackles for loss, 41 passes defensed, three interceptions and a touchdown. Knox wrote:
[The Vikings will] need to create cap space and chase budget-friendly options in free agency. While William Jackson III shouldn't be considered purely a bargain-basement option, he's not one of the bigger cornerback names headed to market.
Jackson is, however, a fine young cover corner. The 28-year-old has never quite played at a Pro Bowl level, but he did allow an opposing quarterback rating of just 88.2 this past season. He has 48 games of starting experience and should have an early impact on Minnesota's defense.
This is important because the Vikings need help in the secondary. Despite using first-round picks on cornerbacks Mike Hughes and Jeff Gladney in the last three years, Minnesota's pass defense remains a massive question mark.
In 2020, the Vikings ranked 25thin passing yards allowed and 30thin yards allowed per pass attempt. Adding Jackson to the mix could help the secondary trend in a better direction.
Meanwhile, Knox said the Browns should go after Vikings safety Anthony Harris in free agency.
The Cleveland Browns proved that their offense is playoff-caliber this past season, but there's work to do on the other side of the ball. The Browns ranked 21stin points allowed and 22ndagainst the pass in 2020. A versatile safety like Anthony Harris would go a long way toward straightening out Cleveland's defense.
Harris, who was given the franchise tag in 2020, is a ball-hawking free safety with nine interceptions, four fumble recoveries and 33 passes defended in his six-year career. He's a commodity that will be well-known to Cleveland [Head Coach] Kevin Stefanski, who was previously with Harris with the Vikings.