While the 2015 NFL Draft is going to be a pretty big focus for us over the course of the next few months, free agency gets underway on 10 March, right in-between now and draft day. Usually a team will look to sign their own free agents first, but in the case of the Minnesota Vikings, that doesn't appear that it's going to be a huge issue this off-season.
The Vikings have 12 players hitting free agency this off-season. Here are all of those players, as well as a look at whether or not they're likely to be a priority for the Vikings.
QB Christian Ponder (2014 Cap Hit - $2,539,675): Yeah, the Ponder era is done in Minnesota. If anyone thinks that there isn't a place for him on another NFL team, I'll just ask this. . .did you watch Ryan Lindley yesterday?
FB Jerome Felton ($2,500,000): Felton has said that he's going to opt out of the final year of his contract to hit free agency. In today's game, I have trouble seeing him doing any better financially than he has it in Minnesota. The Vikings were probably going to cut him anyway, I think.
DE Corey Wootton ($1,500,000): Wootton didn't really show a whole heck of a lot in the opportunities he had this season. He's likely going to have to take his awesome sack celebration skills elsewhere next season.
LS Cullen Loeffler ($1,140,000): Oldest player on the roster. Based on that alone, I'd bet one crisp internet dollar that he won't be back in Minnesota next year.
OL Joe Berger ($920,000): Another of the team's elder statesmen, Berger actually played fairly well after being asked to step in at guard. He'd be a nice guy to have back, and probably wouldn't cost too much.
DT Tom Johnson ($845,000): One of the nicer surprises on this year's squad, he was a productive pass rusher as part of the Vikings' rotation. He wants a multi-year deal, but he's also on the wrong side of 30, so it remains to be seen if the Vikings will be the team he gets it from.
LB Jasper Brinkley ($830,000): Brinkley's a one-dimensional linebacker, and with the way things are in today's NFL, there might not be a place for him on this team.
OL Vladimir Ducasse ($895,000): Unlike Berger, Ducasse had plenty of struggles when asked to step in following injuries along the offensive line. I'd be surprised if he was back next season.
LB Dom DeCicco ($570,000)*: DeCicco was placed on injured reserve prior to the season. Not really sure what to make of him one way or the other.
RB Matt Asiata ($570,000)*: Yes, Asiata led the team in rushing this season and had double-digit touchdowns on the season. His status will likely depend on Adrian Peterson's return.
OL Josh Samuda ($495,000)*: Samuda suffered a pretty awful leg injury in off-season workouts and went on IR before the season. He's in the same boat as DeCicco.
OT Mike Harris ($481,167)*: Harris did a better-than-expected job after stepping in on the offensive line, including filling in for a game at guard, a position he said he hadn't played since his Pop Warner days. He may have shown the Vikings enough to come back as a "swing tackle," but we'll have to see.
All of the players listed are unrestricted free agents except the four guys with the * next to their names. Asiata and Harris are restricted free agents, which means the Vikings will likely be making them qualifying offers sometime before the free agency period starts.
DeCicco and Samuda are "exclusive rights" free agents, which means this:
An Exclusive-Rights Free Agent is an NFL player who is not under contract, but has only two years of NFL experience. If his former club makes him an offer at the three year veteran minimum salary, then that's it, he has to take it or leave the NFL. These guys have no right to negotiate with other teams. They are "free" only in the sense that they're free to quit.
So, I'm guessing that Samuda and DeCicco get some sort of offer from the Vikings to come in as camp bodies if nothing else.
Honestly, outside of Joe Berger and Tom Johnson, I'm not sure if the Vikings are really sweating any of these guys potentially leaving. Do you think the team should make any of these impending free agents a priority before they hit the market?