We're right around a month from the start of the NFL's free agency period and, unlike the clusterfudge we got last season with the lockout and everything else, now we're back to the normal sequence of events that will see free agency happen before the draft. It's unsure how much of a splash the Minnesota Vikings will be able to make this season, but they should be able to do at least a little something.
The cap for this season will probably be around $124 million. Now, according to the page linked there, the Vikings have about $116 million already spoken for on this year's cap, but that will likely go up if/when the team decides to cut a few players, such as Steve Hutchinson (who has a cap figure this year of a little more than $8.3 million), Cedric Griffin (about $5.2 million), Remi Ayodele ($3 million) and Anthony Herrera (almost $3 million). If the Vikings cut those four players, it would free up a significant amount of salary cap space.
I got the data for the "cap hits" from Spotrac. According to them, the Vikings might only have $96 million or so assigned to the 2012 salary cap, and that's with the four salaries I mentioned above. I'm sure we'll get a better idea of it before the free agency period actually gets underway.
Either way, the Vikings are going to have some money to spend. With that in mind, I've found three potential free agents that the Minnesota definitely needs to be targeting when free agency gets underway. They're all young, they're all talented, and they could all make significant impacts at positions of need for this football team.Brandon Carr, CB, Kansas City Chiefs - The Chiefs have a bit of a dilemma on their hands. They're going to end up using their franchise tag on somebody, but at this point it's not known whether that somebody will be Carr or wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, who is also set to hit free agency. If the Chiefs choose to tag Bowe and turn Carr loose, then the Vikings should immediately jump on the opportunity to bring him in. Carr, who turns 26 in May, has good size at 6' and 205 pounds, is a pretty fine coverage corner (65 passes defended in four seasons) and regarded as a solid tackler as well. He could immediately step in and provide #1 corner ability for the Minnesota defense, and could do so for the long-term future.
Pat Sims, DT, Cincinnati Bengals - This would qualify as a "significantly under the radar" signing, I think. The 26-year old Sims had an ankle injury that limited him this year, but he has the potential to be a load on the inside at 6'2" and 330 pounds. After the fairly disastrous Remi Ayodele signing last season, Sims could team up with Kevin Williams on the inside to shore up the Vikings' interior defense. It might not be a "Williams Wall" redux or anything, but Sims' best football is still ahead of him at this point.
Pierre Garçon, WR, Indianapolis Colts - As anyone that's seen Pulp Fiction knows, garçon means "boy," but in Minnesota he would have an opportunity to be the man. Sure, he's gotten to play a few years with Peyton Manning, but in 2011 he put up career-best numbers across the board (70 catches, 947 yards, 6 touchdowns) while not exactly playing with a ton of talent at the quarterback spot. His career average is 13.4 yards a catch, and has been as high as 16.3, so he's got some speed as well. Garçon will turn 26 in August, and with as deep as the free agent class is at wide receiver this season, he might have a chance to slide under the radar a bit.
Obviously there are more potential free agent targets for the Vikings than this. Who are some of the players that you think our favorite team should be targeting?