The 2021 NFL offseason is about to be in full swing, as the next six-plus weeks will be a whirlwind for each team around the league.
The league year (and the start of free agency) officially begin at 3 p.m. (CT) Wednesday, and the 2021 NFL Draft will be held from April 29-May 1.
And while the Vikings have already begun reshaping their roster with a handful of moves, there is certainly more work that lies ahead for Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman and his staff.
Chad Graff of The Athletic recently made some mid-March projections for what the offseason will bring in Minnesota, including that Olisaemeka Udoh could vie for playing time in 2021.
There are still so many different ways the Vikings can go with their offensive line. After they cut Riley Reiff, many (including Arif Hasan and I in our predictions) assumed that Ezra Cleveland would probably slide over to offensive tackle. But that's not a sure thing.
Depending on how free agency and the draft fall, I think the Vikings will give Udoh a chance to compete for a starting job. I'm not sure yet whether that will be at tackle or guard, though my inclination is his best opportunity would be at tackle.
The Vikings drafted Udoh in the sixth round in 2019 with the understanding that he would take time to develop. Two years later, I think they're going to give him the opportunity to compete for a starting job.
Udoh has played just 35 offensive snaps in his first two seasons after being a sixth-round pick in 2019. He has appeared in seven games with no starts
Graff also opined that Spielman will make a first-round trade on Day 1 of the draft, and move back just like he did in 2020.
Spielman wants a second-round pick, which the Vikings don't have after trading for Yannick Ngakoue last year. How he tries to get one is still unclear. He could use some of his two third-round picks and four fourth-rounders to try to trade up. Or, perhaps more likely, he could try to trade down in the first round. For now, that's my guess as to what happens. We all know Spielman likes to trade down in the draft, and with quite a few offensive-line and defensive-line prospects projected to go in the back half of the first round, that scenario could work quite well for the Vikings.
Minnesota currently has 12 total draft picks after the Vikings were awarded a pair of compensatory picks last week. The Vikings currently have seven of their dozen picks in the first four rounds.
Graff also projected that Anthony Harris and Eric Wilson, who are both slated to be free agents, will head to other teams this offseason and that the Vikings will take a cornerback in the second or third round of the draft.
Graff's list of 10 offseason predictions can be found here.
NFL.com offers quick guide to free agency
As mentioned above, free agency begins Wednesday afternoon at the start of the league year.
But the fun has already began, as the league's "Two Day Negotiating Period" actually opened Monday morning at 11 a.m. (CT).
Anthony Holzman-Escareno of NFL.com recently broke down what that means, as well as other key terms to know during free agency.
Teams are allowed to negotiate with the agents of upcoming unrestricted free agents during the "Two Day Negotiating Period," a window prior to the start of free agency (in 2021: from noon ET on March 15 until 4 p.m. ET on March 17). Self-represented players ("Unrepresented Player") can now speak with members of team front offices (but not coaching staffs) during this period, which was previously prohibited.
Holzman-Escareno also explained the differences between an unrestricted free agent (UFA), a restricted free agent (RFA) and an exclusive-rights free agent (ERFA).
[An UFA is] any player with four or more accrued seasons and an expired contract; free to negotiate and sign with any team.
[An RFA is] a player with three accrued seasons and an expired contract. RFAs are free to negotiate and sign with any team, but their original team can offer them one of various qualifying offers ("tenders") that come with the right of first refusal and/or draft-pick compensation. If the tender is withdrawn by a team, the RFA becomes an unrestricted free agent.
[An ERFA is]any player with fewer than three accrued seasons and an expired contract. If his original team offers him a one-year contract at the league minimum (based on his credited seasons), the player cannot negotiate with other teams.
The Vikings currently have 11 players set to become UFAs on Wednesday, including Harris, Wilson, Jaleel Johnson and Dakota Dozier.
Minnesota also has a quartet of RFAs: Chad Beebe, Mike Boone, Ifeadi Odenigbo and Eddie Yarbrough.
Cornerback Chris Jones is an exclusive rights free agent.
All of the Vikings offseason moves can be found in the Minnesota Vikings 2021 Free Agency Tracker.
Holzman-Escareno's piece also included information on terms such as the franchise tag (which the Vikings did not use), contract language and rookie contracts.