Minnesota Vikings Free Agency Predictions 2024: Kirk Cousins Remains Top Priority, But Vikings Must Add Defensive Talent

Will Kirk Cousins come back? How about Danielle Hunter? Our Vikings free agency predictions highlight Minnesota's fascinating offseason decision tree.

The Minnesota Vikings face a fascinating decision point this offseason. Veteran QB Kirk Cousins, still recovering from the torn Achilles that prematurely ended his 2023 campaign, is a pending free agent. So is pass rusher Danielle Hunter, who’s posted 87.5 sacks over eight years in purple.

Will the Vikings double down on their existing talent, move on and start fresh, or try to find a middle ground? Here’s one path Minnesota could take in the coming weeks.

Minnesota Vikings Free Agency Predictions

Re-Sign QB Kirk Cousins

Let’s get a few details out of the way. The Vikings cannot franchise-tag Cousins. His current contract will not void until March 13, five days after the NFL’s deadline for teams to deploy their franchise tenders.

March 13, the first day of the 2024 league year, also serves as a deadline for negotiations between Minnesota and Cousins. If the Vikings don’t re-sign the 35-year-old QB before that date, they’ll absorb $28.5 million in Cousins dead money in 2024.

Cousins was in the middle of one of the best seasons of his career when he went down in Week 8. His 63.2 QBR ranked ninth-best in the league, even though he worked without Justin Jefferson for a portion of the year.

The Vikings may be unwilling to guarantee Cousins’ entire contract as they’ve previously done. Still, general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has remained adamant that Minnesota wants its starting QB back.

“We have our interests. He has his — get to the table and see if we can figure out a creative solution of how to meet in the middle,” Adofo-Mensah said this week at the NFL Combine.

“What we do know is we have a really good quarterback, great leader, and somebody we think we can win the ultimate prize with.”

Appearing on NFL Network on Saturday, Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell said Cousins has “earned the right to be a free agent.” O’Connell will be tasked with developing Minnesota’s next quarterback if Cousins doesn’t re-sign.

“I know Kirk is going to go through a full process,” O’Connell said. “He’s a process guy.”

A two-year deal in the $75 million range could make sense for Cousins and the Vikings, although guarantees figure to be an issue. He’s suggested he prefers to remain in Minnesota, so Adofo-Mensah may not have to break the bank to keep his QB around.

The Vikings could still consider adding a quarterback on Day 2 or 3 of the upcoming draft, but a first-round signal-caller won’t be on the table if Cousins is expected to start through 2025.

Consider Danielle Hunter, But Explore EDGE Alternatives

The Vikings can think about retaining Hunter, but he might be the best pass rusher on the open market once the franchise tag dust clears.

Assuming Josh Allen and Brian Burns are tagged, Hunter will compete with Chase Young and Jonathan Greenard to become the highest-paid edge defender among the 2024 free agent class.

Hunter’s price tag could explode in that scenario, leading Minnesota to walk away. While he’s stayed healthy for 34 consecutive games, Hunter missed the entire 2020 campaign with a neck injury before a pectoral issue cost him 10 games the following year.

Given that Vikings defensive coordinator Brian Flores blitzed a league-high 51.5% rate in 2023, Minnesota might prefer to build a deeper roster of pass rushers instead of investing most of its resources in Hunter.

Re-signing DJ Wonnum could be on the Vikings’ agenda. The 2020 draft pick played over 800 snaps last season, matching his career highs with eight sacks and 15 QB hits.

PFN Insider Adam Caplan reported earlier this month that Minnesota is expected to push to re-sign at least one of Hunter or Wonnum.

Young, still only 24, could be an intriguing external addition if his market collapses. He’d be a high-upside bet, similar to the chance the Vikings took on former first-round pick Marcus Davenport last year. Davenport didn’t work out, but the strategy was sound.

Other low-cost edge rushers that could be on Minnesota’s radar include Josh Uche, Andrew Van Ginkel, Yetur Gross-Matos, and Anfernee Jennings.

Add at Least One Defensive Back

Flores used a three-safety look at his primary nickel package in 2023, as Harrison Smith, Camryn Bynum, and Josh Metellus each played more than 1,000 snaps. But the 35-year-old Smith is a likely cut candidate. His release can save the Vikings more than $11 million.

If Minnesota wants to keep using Big Nickel, replacing Smith with a younger option will be on the table. Brandon Jones, who thrived under Flores in Miami, should be on the table for the Vikings. Jordan Fuller overlapped with O’Connell with the Los Angeles Rams and could be a fit.

KEEP READING: Vikings 2024 Free Agents

If the Vikings want to use a more traditional nickel approach with three cornerbacks, ex-Dolphin Xavien Howard could start on the perimeter. He’s struggled with injuries in recent seasons but posted an All-Pro campaign in 2020 under Flores’ tutelage.

Miss football? The 2024 NFL Draft is almost here, boss. Pro Football Network has you covered with everything from team draft needs to the Top 100 prospects available. Plus, fire up PFN’s Mock Draft Simulator to put yourself in the general manager’s seat and make all the calls!

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