With the NFL Scouting Combine in the rearview mirror, 2020 free agency is just around the corner. That period will officially begin at 3 p.m. (CT) on March 18 when the new league year begins.
Over the next two weeks, Lindsey Young, Craig Peters and I will dive into Minnesota's current roster status by position. We'll offer a refresher on 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.
One of the Vikings most-discussed positions heading into free agency is up next.
2019 Stats: 15 starts; 84 total tackles (according to coaches' stats), five tackles for loss, 1.0 sack, three interceptions, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, 12 passes defensed
Yes, Smith is the only safety who is currently scheduled to be on the team when free agency opens next week. Smith turned 31 years old in early February, but is still among the league's best at his position, as his play in 2019 earned his him fifth straight Pro Bowl appearance. The Vikings have used a handful of safeties next to Smith in his eight-year career, and he has helped elevate the play of those next to him. While it remains to be seen what happens in Minnesota's secondary next to Smith, the Vikings know that No. 22 can be counted on in 2020 and beyond.
SCHEDULED TO BECOME FREE AGENTS:
Harris still might have a relatively low profile around the league — even after tying for the league lead with six interceptions in 2019 — but he has generated the biggest buzz among all Vikings players who are scheduled to be free agents. Harris joined the Vikings as an undrafted free agent in 2015 and worked himself into a role as a special teams standout before cracking the starting lineup midway through the 2018 season. He's recorded nine picks since then and delivered a handful of game-changing plays. Harris has certainly earned a larger contract, but it's still up in the air if he will be with Minnesota or not for the foreseeable future.
Kearse was a 2016 seventh-round pick out of Clemson who improved his all-around game over the past four seasons. After some ups and downs as a rookie, he became a star on special teams in recent years, primarily on kickoff and punt coverage. He also made timely defensive plays when called upon, including in the fourth quarter in back-to-back wins over the Cowboys and Broncos in 2019.
It seemed as if Sendejo's time with Minnesota was over a year ago when the Vikings chose to move on from him after eight seasons in Purple. But as fate would have it, Sendejo returned for the final six games of the 2019 season in mostly a reserve role, although he did make two starts. Oddly enough, Sendejo's biggest contribution last season came at slot cornerback rather than safety, when he provided a surprise performance for a depleted secondary in the playoff win against the Saints.
There is a chance that Smith remains as the only safety on Minnesota's roster by the end of next week. Of course, due to the unpredictability of free agency, there's a chance that all four of the above players are wearing Purple when the 2020 season begins.
From a numbers standpoint (and considering the Vikings current salary cap situation), it's likely that the Vikings will have to add a fresh face or two to this position group, either through free agency or the draft.
A handful of current college players have been linked to the Vikings in recent mock drafts, but the Vikings need at that position could fluctuate based on what happens over the next week or two in free agency.
WHO'S POTENTIALLY OUT THERE:
NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal and Chris Wesseling teamed up again this year to rate their top 101 potential free agents.
The following safeties are listed in order of their overall rankings: 6. Justin Simmons, 18. Anthony Harris, 29. Devin McCourty, 33. Vonn Bell, 42. Jimmie Ward, 51. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, 53. Damarious Randall, 60. Karl Joseph, 69. Rodney McLeod, 77. Adrian Phillips and 95. Clayton Geathers
Other safeties set to become free agents that didn't crack the top 101 are as follows (listed in order of 2019 team): Chris Banjo (AZ), Kemal Ishmael and Johnathan Cyprien (ATL), Anthony Levine (BAL), Kurt Coleman (BUF), Tre Boston (CAR), Juston Burris and Eric Murray (CLE), Jeff Heath and Darian Thompson (DAL), Will Parks (DEN), Tavon Wilson (DET), Will Redmond (GB), Jahleel Addae (HOU), Jaylen Watkins (LAC), Marqui Christian (LAR), Adrian Colbert* (MIA), D.J. Swearinger (NO), Michael Thomas (NYG), Andrew Adams and Darian Stewart (TB).
* Restricted free agent
** Exclusive rights free agent
Vikings fans will recognize a handful of these names, as the likes of Banjo, Clinton-Dix, Randall, Redmond and Wilson have spent time in the NFC North in recent years. Coleman spent the 2014 offseason program with the Vikings, and Murray is a former Golden Gopher.
While there are some established veterans listed above, the majority of safeties available are players who are just finishing up their first NFL contracts.