Free-agent exam: Vikings vs. the safeties

The Vikings have a pronounced need at safety with two of theirs scheduled for free agency Tuesday afternoon, but beyond a select few, it isn't a great free-agent market after three of the top options were given the franchise tag. We examine the best scheduled to hit the open market and assess how likely of an option they are for the Vikings.

PURPLE REVIEW

Much like the Vikings' cornerback situation, safety is a spot where they have a lot of question marks heading into free agency.

Jamarca Sanford and Mistral Raymond finished the season as the starters, in part because Husain Abdullah and Tyrell Johnson ended the season injured reserve. Jarrad Page was only an emergency option and has now turned his focus on Minor League baseball, having signed a contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers last week. Eric Frampton is a special-teamer and Andrew Sendejo is a developmental option.

Put succinctly, the Vikings know they need help. The draft isn't heavy with great safeties, but there are a number of options for converting "tweener" cornerbacks to safeties. There are a few starting options in free agency, but even there the outlook isn't plentiful.
FREE-AGENT PREVIEW

LaRon Landry – Landry has started only eight and nine games in 2011 and 2010, respectively, but prior to that he had missed only game in his first three years in the NFL. He has been a big-hitting machine in the NFL ever since the Redskins selected him in the first round of the 2007 draft. Coming of an Achilles' injury in 2011, there has to be concern with Landry's status, but the Eagles, Bears and Jets have all been rumored to be interested. With the Vikings' many needs, Landry's in-the-box, big-hitting style may not be a luxury they can afford in a defense that calls for coverage as much as hitting from its safeties.

Jim Leonhard – Like Landry, Leonhard could be limited at the start of the season. In Leonhard's case, he is recovering from a torn patellar tendon. In 2010, it was a broken leg that ended his season. Given his injury history the last two years and being in the league seven years already, the Vikings wouldn't seem like a prime suitor for Leonhard's services, at least early in free agency.

Dwight Lowery – Concussion, ankle and shoulder injuries have limited Lowery the last three seasons, and he has really only been a full-time starter two of his four seasons in the league – last year with the Jacksonville Jaguars and his rookie season (2008) with the New York Jets. Yet, despite only starting 29 games in four seasons, he still has nine interceptions.

Reggie Nelson – Nelson, the former Florida Gator, might have the most going for him of the safeties that made it to the free-agent market without a franchise tag (a list that included Dashon Goldson, Michael Griffin and Tyvon Branch). Nelson has five years in the NFL, his first three with the Jaguars and the last two with the Cincinnati Bengals, starting 64 games over that period and registering 13 interceptions. The Dolphins and Titans have been two teams rumored to be interested.

OTHER FREE-AGENT SAFETIES

Other safeties scheduled for free agency: Mike Adams, Brodney Pool, Deon Grant, Craig Steltz, Sean Jones, Rashad Johnson, Tom Zbikowski, Haraki Nakamura, Chris Harris, Chris Hope, Jordan Babineaux, Abram Elam, Atari Bigby, Reggie Smith and Steve Gregory.


Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.



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\r\n\r\n","mobileBody":" Much like the Vikings' cornerback situation, safety is a spot where they have a lot of question marks heading into free agency. Jamarca Sanford and Mistral Raymond finished the season as the starters, in part because Husain Abdullah and Tyrell Johnson ended the season injured reserve. Jarrad Page was only an emergency option and has now turned his focus on Minor League baseball, having signed a contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers last week. Eric Frampton is a special-teamer and Andrew Sendejo is a developmental option. Put succinctly, the Vikings know they need help. The draft isn't heavy with great safeties, but there are a number of options for converting \"tweener\" cornerbacks to safeties. There are a few starting options in free agency, but even there the outlook isn't plentiful. LaRon Landry – Landry has started only eight and nine games in 2011 and 2010, respectively, but prior to that he had missed only game in his first three years in the NFL. He has been a big-hitting machine in the NFL ever since the Redskins selected him in the first round of the 2007 draft. Coming of an Achilles' injury in 2011, there has to be concern with Landry's status, but the Eagles, Bears and Jets have all been rumored to be interested. With the Vikings' many needs, Landry's in-the-box, big-hitting style may not be a luxury they can afford in a defense that calls for coverage as much as hitting from its safeties. Jim Leonhard – Like Landry, Leonhard could be limited at the start of the season. In Leonhard's case, he is recovering from a torn patellar tendon. In 2010, it was a broken leg that ended his season. Given his injury history the last two years and being in the league seven years already, the Vikings wouldn't seem like a prime suitor for Leonhard's services, at least early in free agency. Dwight Lowery – Concussion, ankle and shoulder injuries have limited Lowery the last three seasons, and he has really only been a full-time starter two of his four seasons in the league – last year with the Jacksonville Jaguars and his rookie season (2008) with the New York Jets. Yet, despite only starting 29 games in four seasons, he still has nine interceptions. Reggie Nelson – Nelson, the former Florida Gator, might have the most going for him of the safeties that made it to the free-agent market without a franchise tag (a list that included Dashon Goldson, Michael Griffin and Tyvon Branch). Nelson has five years in the NFL, his first three with the Jaguars and the last two with the Cincinnati Bengals, starting 64 games over that period and registering 13 interceptions. The Dolphins and Titans have been two teams rumored to be interested. Other safeties scheduled for free agency: Mike Adams, Brodney Pool, Deon Grant, Craig Steltz, Sean Jones, Rashad Johnson, Tom Zbikowski, Haraki Nakamura, Chris Harris, Chris Hope, Jordan Babineaux, Abram Elam, Atari Bigby, Reggie Smith and Steve Gregory. 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