The Minnesota Vikings enter the 2021 NFL free agency period needing to make decisions on several free agents on their roster. Given how Minnesota’s roster is constructed, the team will have some financial decisions that could leave veterans looking for other teams.
The 2020 season for the Vikings was tough despite bright spots
The 2020 NFL season was challenging for the Minnesota Vikings. The team went through many players over the year. Forcing them to sign several guys off their practice squad, other teams’ rosters, and free agency. As a result, the Vikings finished 7-9 and have their highest draft pick (14th) since 2015.
The trade that landed Justin Jefferson
That is not to say the season did not have its highlights. Despite Stefon Diggs’ stellar season, the trade with the Bills should be viewed as a success. The Vikings have a star on their hands with Justin Jefferson.
The former LSU standout finished the 2020 season with 1,400 receiving yards, a total that set rookie records in both the Super Bowl era and Vikings franchise history. Jefferson surpassed both Anquan Boldin (1,377 yards) and Hall of Famer Randy Moss’ Vikings record (1,313 yards) with a 133-yard performance in Week 17.
Jefferson led all rookies this season with 88 receptions and tied for second-most touchdowns with 7. Adam Thielen was a touchdown machine, and Dalvin Cook was, well, Dalvin Cook.
However, it is not always sunny in Minnesota.
The Vikings will enter the 2021 free agency period with salary cap concerns
Currently, Minnesota isn’t projected to have much salary cap space when the new league year begins in March. According to Over the Cap, the Vikings are projected to be over the salary cap by $11.628 million.
Of the 15 Vikings players who will be free agents in 2021, 10 are unrestricted free agents. Before they can attempt to re-sign them or any draft picks, the team needs to free up some salary cap early in the free agency period.
We will likely see several veterans turn into roster cuts due to cap constraints
The easiest of these targets would be tight end Kyle Rudolph. Rudolph has been a cornerstone of the Vikings’ offense. However, the team selected Irv Smith Jr. to be the successor when this day came. Not only that, but the Vikings save $5.1 million in 2021 cap space if the team cuts him before June 1. The team does incur $4.35 million in dead money if they make that decision.
Another interesting name could be left tackle Riley Reiff, but this is a bit more of a longshot. Reiff is coming off one of the best seasons of his career, and plays at one of the critical positions in the NFL. However, from a pure money aspect, it makes sense. The Vikings would save $11.75 million in 2021 space if the team moves on, while taking on $2.2 million in dead money with the move.
Another player is safety Harrison Smith. There is no question that Smith is one of the best safeties in the NFL. Over his nine-year career with the Vikings, Harrison has racked up 747 tackles (557 solo), 66 pass breakups, and 28 interceptions in his 130 games played.
The issue is Harrison Smith will be on the last year of his contract in 2021. If they choose to release him, Minnesota could save $10.25 million and incur no dead cap in the process.
The Vikings’ defense has several players hitting free agency in 2021
When looking at the Vikings’ free agents for 2021, the defensive side outweighs the offense quite a bit.
One member of the Vikings’ defense looking at free agency in 2021 is LB Eric Wilson. The Vikings asked a lot from Wilson in 2020. He was made a starter along with Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks after Minnesota used the transition tag on Wilson to keep him on the team for one more season. The move cost Minnesota approximately $3.3 million for the year.
Wilson played in all 16 games for the Vikings and led all Minnesota defenders with 122 tackles (62 solo). He was also the only one of the three to make it through the whole season uninjured. Wilson could see a contract offer around $5 million in free agency, which could be low enough for the Vikings to counter.
Safety Anthony Harris will likely part from the Vikings in free agency
Coming into 2020, Anthony Harris was viewed as one of the top defensive players to hit the market. That was before the Vikings surprised him and everyone else with a franchise tag.
Harris saw a decline in his production last year. In the previous season, Harris snagged 6 interceptions but failed to record a pick in 2020. Now, that is not to say he will come that much cheaper, but it’ll be slightly more reasonable. According to Spotrac, Vikings S Anthony Harris enters the 2021 free agency period with an estimated market value of $14 million per year on a five-year, $70 million contract.
Given the various needs the Vikings must address in free agency and other pending free agents, Harris is likely gone this offseason.
Minnesota Vikings’ 2021 offensive free agents
RB Ameer Abdullah, 28
WR Chad Beebe, 27
RB Mike Boone, 26
LT Dakota Dozier, 30
G Rashod HIll, 29
G Kyle Hinton, 23
C Brett Jones, 30
QB Sean Mannion, 29
Minnesota Vikings’ 2021 defensive and special teams free agents
LB Todd Davis, 31
S Anthony Harris, 30
S George Iloka, 31
DT Jaleel Johnson, 27
CB Chris Jones, 26
DE Ifeadi Odenigbo, 27
LB Eric Wilson, 27
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