So far, they have re-signed both defensive tackle Tom Johnson and long snapper Cullen Loeffler and not come to an agreement with any outside free agents.
Johnson and the Vikings agreed to a three-year deal worth $7 million with $3 million guaranteed. This was an important signing for the Vikings because Johnson has a good ability to rush the passer from the defensive tackle position. Last year, Johnson was second on the team with 6½ sacks, and he also provided head coach Mike Zimmer with a valuable rotational player along the defensive line.
Six or seven other teams were reportedly interested in signing Johnson, but he wanted to give the Vikings the first chance at signing him. He said he enjoys the team and the coaching staff and always wanted to get a deal done with the Vikings.
While the Vikings continue to try to get younger, signing Loeffler, who has been in the NFL for 11 years, might have seemed counteractive. But he is a great locker room presence and works well with kicker Blair Walsh and punter Jeff Locke. The Vikings signed Loeffler to a one-year deal, and after 12 years in the league it might be his last contract.
Along with the two players the Vikings signed the team has also reached out to multiple other free agents. There seems to be a trend with the players the Vikings have looked at – defensive end, quarterback and safety.
The team has expressed interest in Cincinnati Bengals safety Taylor Mays. He played under Zimmer for three years in Cincinnati, so he has familiarity in the system. While playing with Zimmer, however, Mays was always a backup, which is likely the role he would take on with the Vikings, a backup to Smith and whoever is the other starting safety next to him.
What Mays would provide to the team, though, is an experienced special teams player. Last season the special teams had a lot of turnover and a lot of inexperienced player had to step up. Adding a player like Mays to the Vikings special teams unit could help improve their overall performance.
Another position that the Vikings have shown interest in early in free agency is defensive end. Last season there seemed to be a lack of depth at the position as both Everson Griffen and Brian Robison played in over 900 snaps. That is a lot for a player playing in Zimmer’s defense, which is known for rotating players in order to keep them fresh.
Two defensive ends that the Vikings have expressed interest in at this point are Tampa Bay’s Adrian Clayborn and the Dallas Cowboys’ Goerge Selvie. Both of these players would be able to come in and provide the Vikings with depth at the defensive end position, which is something they will need as it seems at this point they will not re-sign Corey Wootton, and Scott Crichton wasn’t able to crack the rotation consistently in his rookie season.
Quarterback is the third position that the Vikings have shown interest in after trading veteran quarterback Matt Cassel to the Buffalo Bills. Not only do they seem interested in quarterbacks, but veteran quarterbacks who have played under offensive coordinator Norv Turner.
The first quarterback with interest was veteran Shaun Hill. Hill spent the first part of his career with the Vikings from 2002-05 after signing with the team as an undrafted free agent. After Minnesota, he spent time in San Francisco and was there with Norv Turner in 2006 when he was the offensive coordinator. Hill has been in the NFL for 13 years and, if signed, should be able to help Teddy Bridgewater in his development.
The other quarterback that the Vikings have expressed interest in is Brian Hoyer. He played under Turner in 2013 when they were both with the Cleveland Browns. Hoyer is longer shot for the Vikings as he is likely going to want to go somewhere he can compete for a starting job. That won’t be the case in Minnesota, as Zimmer has said that Bridgewater will be the starting quarterback and that the franchise belongs to Bridgewater.
Two other players that the Vikings have shown interest in are inside linebacker A.J. Hawk and offensive guard Mike Iupati. Hawk would fill a need as a middle linebacker for a Vikings defense that was ranked 25th against the run at the end of the regular season after allowing an average of 121.4 yards a game in 2014. The problem, though, is that Hawk is 31 years old and Spielman rarely signs outside free agents over the age of 30. There is still the possibility the Vikings re-sign Jasper Brinkley or bring in an inside linebacker during the NFL draft.
Iupati may be the biggest surprise of all the players the Vikings have shown interest in this offseason so far. According to Scout.com, he is the second-best free agent guard, and Spielman said the Vikings will not pursue a top talent unless it is a unique opportunity. The Vikings want to strengthen their offensive line, so having the ability to sign Iupati may be considered to be a “unique” opportunity. He could fetch $8 million-plus a year, and that could ultimately be too steep of a price for the Vikings.
With players officially being able to sign with teams on Tuesday, the free-agent activity should continue to pick up within the coming days.
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