The Minnesota Vikings have a lot of needs coming into the 2017 version of free agency. Defensive end isn’t one of them. Their top three guys – Everson Griffen, Danielle Hunter and Brian Robison – are all under contract and free agent Justin Trattou likely has his best chance of re-signing with the Vikings because he knows the scheme.
If the Vikings are in the market for a veteran in free agency, it would likely be a one-year deal and the most likely candidates are older than General Manager Rick Spielman prefers. But, after the Terence Newman experiment, he may have softened on that stance.
There are a few players who clearly would be out of the Vikings’ price range – Calais Campbell of the Cardinals, Jason Pierre-Paul of the Giants and Jabaal Sheard of the Patriots – but while there is always a market for pass-rushing defensive ends, those guys are likely way too rich for the Vikings’ blood, especially given their depth situation.
But, for those whom the Vikings have a more realistic shot of kicking the tires on, here are the candidates who might get a sniff once free agency begins and, much more likely, well after it has begun and other teams have emptied their coffers to sign players.
Chris Baker – He is 30 and has played the last six seasons with Washington. Entering his ninth season, the Redskins have bigger issues on their plate, so he may not break the bank, but he likely will want a longer deal than the Vikings can afford.
Mario Addison – An ideal guy for what the Vikings need. He’s never been a starter in six years – just four starts in his career, despite playing in 60 games over the last four years. But, in the last three seasons, he has 22 sacks, including 9½ last year. Mike Zimmer and defensive line coach Andre Patterson could do something with a guy like that.
Charles Johnson – Johnson is a 10-year vet who has started every game he has played in the last seven years. The problem is that Carolina is undergoing a youth movement and Johnson has missed 10 games over the last two years. In the 22 he has played, he has just five sacks, after recording more than 50 the previous five seasons. He may have a short run left in him, but it will come relatively cheaply.
Mario Williams – What? Few players have made more money than Williams. Miami had to pay $8.5 million to get 13 tackles and 1½ sacks in 13 games, so his asking price will be down. In a part-time, incentive-laced role, he may have something left in the tank.
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Devin Taylor – The Lions defensive end is about to get paid. The problem from the Vikings’ side of things is that it’s likely out of their price range.
Dwight Freeney, Julius Peppers or James Harrison – They’ve defied Father Time for a long time – Peppers and Freeney are 37 and Harrison is 39. If they all retire before the start of next season, there may be a theme at the Hall of Fame ceremony in five years, but, while it goes against everything Spielman believes in, Zim could likely get the most out of one of them if they still have the fire and are willing to play on the cheap to be part-time guys.
The likelihood of the Vikings making a move in free agency on defensive end is remote – they may be more likely to simply re-sign Trattou and have him compete with a Day 3 draft pick or undrafted camp body, but if Zimmer has true control of his defense, we may see an older guy get more than just a cursory look.