Minnesota Vikings 2014 Free Agency Primer

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Starting today, player agents can start to talk with the various NFL teams in the quest to find their clients new homes in free agency. The agents for those players can start talking to teams today, but the players themselves can't formally visit other teams until 3 PM Central time on Tuesday. We know that the Minnesota Vikings have the ability to be players in free agency. . .whether they will or not is another matter all together.

So what do we know about the Vikings and free agency as it stands right now? Well, let's take a look at some of the relevant facts.

Salary Cap

According to the folks from Over The Cap, the Vikings have $41,250,093 in available cap space, and they have 48 players under contract. The top 51 salaries on the roster count towards the salary cap. There are moves that the Vikings could potentially make in order to give themselves more room, such as a restructuring of Chad Greenway's contract, but whether they make any moves like that remains to be seen.

In-House Free Agents

Going into this off-season, the Vikings had 18 players set to hit some sort of free agency. Those players are as follows:

Unrestricted Free Agents

Matt Cassel - Signed 2-year deal with Vikings on 7 March

Restricted Free Agents

Marcus Sherels - Signed 2-year deal with Vikings on 7 March

Exclusive Rights Free Agents

Matt Asiata - Signed 1-year deal with Vikings on 5 March

So, the Vikings have taken care of a few of their in-house free agents, but have now lost the ability to negotiate exclusively with the rest. The agents for those players can talk to any team they choose.

Vikings Needs

We went over these in greater detail the other day, but let's generalize here a bit.

Offense: With Cassel back in the fold, the Vikings no longer have to look elsewhere for a quarterback in free agency (and we can officially put that ridiculous Michael Vick rumor to rest). The team still needs an answer at left guard with Charlie Johnson departing, and they could also stand to sign a third-down back with Gerhart likely taking off for a bigger paycheck and a starting role somewhere else. Other than that. . .the Vikings really don't have a whole lot of offensive needs.

Defense: On the other hand, the Vikings need an infusion of youth and talent at pretty much every level of the defense. I'm surprised they haven't re-signed Griffen yet, and outside of him, the Vikings' in-house defensive free agents aren't terribly intriguing. But this team needs help up front, they need help at linebacker, they need help in the secondary. . .fortunately for them, there's a lot of defensive talent available in free agency this year, and the team is far enough under the salary cap where they're going to have to break out the checkbook.

Fits/Rumors

DE Michael Johnson - People have been linking Johnson to the Vikings for quite a while now. He's a young, athletic, talented defensive end that played on Zimmer's defense with Cincinnati Bengals, and would immediately step in to the LDE spot that's (likely) being vacated by Jared Allen.

CB Alterraun Verner - Verner is probably the top CB available in this year's class after a very nice season with the Tennessee Titans last year. He's a bit on the smaller side, but showed last year that he could hang with the big boys. Oh, and his defensive coordinator from last year (Jerry Gray) is now Minnesota's defensive backs coach.

GJon Asamoah - With the Vikings' need at guard, Asamoah would be a fine pick-up. He's gotten positive grades from Pro Football Focus every year he's been in the league, and would be a huge upgrade from Charlie Johnson.

DT Linval Joseph - The big defensive tackle could provide Zimmer's defense with the run-stuffing presence up front that they've lacked since the retirement of Pat Williams, and could pair with Sharrif Floyd in the middle of Minnesota's defense.

DT Pat Sims - If Joseph proves to be too rich for Minnesota's blood, Sims could be an alternative. He played under Zimmer as well before spending a couple of seasons with the Oakland Raiders.

Pro Football Focus Top Available Free Agents At Positions Of Need

Guard

1) Geoff Schwartz, Kansas City Chiefs
2) Jon Asamoah, Kansas City Chiefs
3) Travelle Wharton, Carolina Panthers
4) Zane Beadles, Denver Broncos
5) Willie Colon, Pittsburgh Steelers

Edge Defender

1) Michael Bennett, Seattle Seahawks
2) Greg Hardy, Carolina Panthers
3) Michael Johnson, Cincinnati Bengals
4) Lamarr Houston, Oakland Raiders
5) Justin Tuck, New York Giants

Interior Defensive Line

1) Randy Starks, Miami Dolphins
2) Jason Hatcher, Dallas Cowboys
3) Henry Melton, Chicago Bears
4) Linval Joseph, New York Giants
5) Arthur Jones, Baltimore Ravens

Linebacker

1) Karlos Dansby, Arizona Cardinals
2) Daryl Smith, Baltimore Ravens
3) Brandon Spikes, New England Patriots
4) Desmond Bishop, Minnesota Vikings
5) Vincent Rey, Cincinnati Bengals

Cornerback

1) Aqib Talib, New England Patriots
2) Dominique Rogers-Cromartie, Denver Broncos
3) Alterraun Verner, Tennessee Titans
4) Vontae Davis, Indianapolis Colts
5) Sam Shields, Green Bay Packers

Safety

1) Jarius Byrd, Buffalo Bills
2) T.J. Ward, Cleveland Browns
3) Donte Whitner, San Francisco 49ers
4) Chris Clemons, Miami Dolphins
5) Louis Delmas, Detroit Lions

And that should get you up to speed on everything you may need to know about free agency and the Minnesota Vikings going forward, folks. Use this thread to talk about free agency rumors and happenings as well.

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