Free agency is rapidly approaching, and the Vikings will have to make several crucial decisions with their roster this offseason on both sides of the ball.
Brad Spielberger of Pro Football Focus recently looked at one free agent on offense and defense that each NFL team could pursue.
Offensively, Spielberger wrote wide receiver D.J. Chark Jr., is a potential option for the Vikings.
Minnesota has a very solid trio of wide receivers in place, but Adam Thielen is starting to show signs of aging and K.J. Osborn is entering the final year of his contract in 2023, so Chark represents a solid depth option who perhaps earns himself a bigger role in 2024 and beyond. Chark was also teammates at LSU in 2017 with Vikings superstar Justin Jefferson.
Chark signed a one-year flier for 2020 with the Detroit Lions after an up-and-down rookie contract spent with the Jacksonville Jaguars, and he may not have done enough to earn himself the substantial multi-year deal he's looking for. Minnesota tried to bring a speed element on the outside when they signed Dede Westbrook in 2021, and Chark represents a major upgrade.
Chark's 14.1-yard average depth of target and 14.5 yards per reception over the past four seasons are both top-20 marks among wide receivers. He would add another element to the Vikings high-flying passing attack.
View photos of the Vikings 53-man roster as of Jan. 14, 2023.
On defense, Spielberger noted Minnesota should pursue cornerback Byron Murphy. He wrote:
Minnesota's struggles in the slot were exploited by nearly every team it faced in 2022, and its best cornerback all year was 32-year-old Patrick Peterson, who is a free agent in his own right. Murphy's 2022 season was cut short by a back injury, but the former second-rounder has otherwise been durable throughout his rookie contract.
Murphy isn't just a slot cornerback and earned a career-best 66.7 overall grade through Week 9 while playing primarily out wide, but his versatility will be an asset to a defense that has question marks throughout its cornerback room. Minnesota's decision to run it back once more in 2022 was arguably a success depending on your perspective, but it will now have to deal with the ramifications of a tough salary cap situation and an aging and very porous defense.
Furthermore, edge defender Danielle Hunter still needs his contract situation to be addressed, and he earned his third straight 75.0-plus pass-rush grade (not including 2020 when he missed the season due to an injury), racking up 70 quarterback pressures and 10.5 sacks. The Vikings front office will have to be methodical with how it improves the defense this offseason, and Murphy brings a lot to the table as a high-floor player with a diverse skill set.
Another Award for Jefferson
Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson on Wednesday was announced as a finalist for The Associated Press' NFL MVP and Offensive Player of the Year Awards, which will be announced during NFL Honors before Super Bowl LVII.
He didn't have to wait as long to learn he has been named as Offensive Player of the Year by the Pro Football Writers of America.
The PFWA announced Jefferson's selection, as well as the naming of San Francisco's Nick Bosa as the Defensive Player of the Year and Kansas City's Patrick Mahomes as its MVP on Wednesday. Earlier this week, Jefferson had been named to PFWA’s All-NFL and All-NFC teams.
Jefferson became the second Viking to win Offensive Player of the Year from the PFWA, joining Adrian Peterson in 2012, and the second receiver to garner the award, following Cooper Kupp last season.
He led the NFL with 128 receptions and 1,809 yards through the air, adding eight touchdown catches and one rushing score.
The PFWA is in its 59th season and is composed of accredited writers who cover the NFL and its 32 teams.