The Minnesota Vikings likely will make a decision public in the next week or so if they’re going to honor the fifth-year option on defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd’s contract. Floyd is due $6.76 million, a hefty sum given his injury history and his inability to get back on the field after Week 1 when it was thought he would return by midseason.
If the Vikings give Floyd the fifth year on his rookie contract, there wouldn’t be a sense of urgency in free agency at the position with Pro Bowler Linval Joseph, Floyd, Tom Johnson and Shamar Stephen filling out the depth chart.
However, if the Vikings opt to release Floyd and Johnson being on the last year of his three-year contract, the Vikings may consider free agency to fill in the gaps.
There are some of the top guys that are likely already off the table. Pure nose tackles Dontari Poe and Damato Peko are likely best suited for 3-4 defenses or staying put. Carolina’s Kawann Short and Baltimore’s Brandon Williams are about to get paid in the form of mega-contracts, so the Vikings – given their status against the salary cap and other pressing needs – won’t be getting involved in that particular payment sweepstakes.
But, for the rest of the free-agent class, there are some players the Vikings might have some interest in depending on their defensive tackle situation when free agency opens.
Sylvester Williams – A three-year full-time starter with Denver, the 28-year-old was paid less than $2 million a year – a figure that will more than double. If the Vikings don’t honor the fifth year of Floyd’s deal, Williams may be at the top of the replacement list.
Nick Fairley – After leaving Detroit in 2014, he has spent the last two seasons with two teams – St. Louis and New Orleans. At 29, he’s coming of the most tackles (43) and sacks (6½) of his career and could be in line for more than the $3 million he made last year.
Tyson Alualu – A six-year starter in Jacksonville, he’s coming off a two-year, $6 million deal, so his asking price shouldn’t be too excessive.
Karl Klug – A career backup with the Titans, the 28-year old has only missed two games in six years and has proved to be both durable and dependable in his career in Tennessee. He wouldn’t break the bank and could provide competition for the starting job next to Joseph.
Terrell McClain – He’s bounced around the league in his six seasons, playing for four teams, but started 15 games for Dallas on a team-friendly salary. At 28 and coming off a year in which he was paid just $1 million in 2016, the timing for him becoming a free agent couldn’t be better.
Earl Mitchell – He was never a full-time starter in Houston until his final year with the Texans and spent the last three years with Miami, missing 11 of 32 games. He would be competition at the tackle spots who likely wouldn’t break the bank.
Alan Branch – A 10-year veteran who has been a starter with the Seahawks, Bills and Patriots, he set a career high in tackles (49) last year and, despite turning 33 in late December, he could get some decent offers, which may create some competition.
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Stacy McGee – A part-time player with the Raiders, he started all nine games he played in 2016 before missing two stretches with injury. He wouldn’t cost a ton and has some game to him.
Dominique Easley – After spending two years with New England, his 2016 season with the Los Angeles Rams was the most productive of his career. Easley, who turns 25 this week, is a restricted free agent, so he would likely come with a cost, but he has the potential to be a long-term starter.
Jonathan Babineaux – He turns 36 in October and has spent all 12 seasons in Atlanta. At this point, he’s only going to get veteran minimum, which he should simply get by re-signing with the Falcons.
The Vikings have quality defensive tackles and, if they opt to keep Floyd, this may not be a pressing free-agent need. But, if they decide to move on and not honor his fifth-year option, the landscape could change considerably.