Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
Tyler Forness

Stay or Go: Predicting the fates of Vikings free agents in 2023

The Minnesota Vikings have a lot of needs heading into the 2023 season and one of the ways they can address those is by re-signing their own free agents.

The Vikings have 22 free agents that haven’t signed a futures contract. WR Dan Chisena (Steelers) and OL Kyle Hinton (Falcons) chose to go elsewhere while DT T.J. Smith chose to stay in Minnesota.

Buy Vikings Tickets

We’re predicting whether the Vikings’ free agents will come back with the team or leave come March.

RB Alexander Mattison

Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports

With the running back class as deep as it is, I would lean toward the Vikings not bringing back Mattison, but with the future of Dalvin Cook also in major doubt, a return at a modest contract can’t be completely ruled out.

Prediction: GO

TE Irv Smith Jr.

Peter van den Berg-USA TODAY Sports

Tight end is a position that the Vikings’ offense both uses well and also doesn’t use two tight end sets often. The tight end prototype that the Vikings prioritize now doesn’t mesh with what Smith Jr.

Prediction: GO

C Garrett Bradbury

USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin Apc Packers Vs Vikings 27833 010222wag

What the Vikings do here will be fascinating. PFF projects that Bradbury is worth a three-year, $18+ million contract. Is that worth it for the Vikings to bring back an inconsistent player over his four-year career? With his growth this season, I think so.

Prediction: STAY

CB Patrick Peterson


This is going to be a fascinating one. Peterson had an excellent season playing in the Vic Fangio defense, but the Giants attacked and exposed him in a major way. Bringing him back to be, at the very least, a guy on the roster is a good thing, especially with his veteran presence for the young guys.

Prediction: STAY

K Greg Joseph

Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

The Vikings have had kicker issues for a long time and there were some of those this season with Joseph. The key here is that the Vikings likely aren’t going to find a better option out there and he played well in stretches.

Prediction: STAY

CB Chandon Sullivan

Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Sullivan started for the Vikings at slot cornerback but things weren’t great during the season. One of three free agents at cornerback, don’t expect Sullivan to be back.

Prediction: GO

QB Nick Mullens

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

As long as Kirk Cousins is playing quarterback for the Vikings, the backup isn’t likely to get much playing time. Regardless, having a capable backup like Mullens on the roster.

Prediction: STAY

DE Jonathan Bullard

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The Vikings brought Bullard in to help with the Vic Fangio defense and he was very capable in his role. A bicep injury hindered him but bringing him back at the veteran minimum again would be a smart play, but don’t be surprised if Fangio goes after him.

Prediction: GO

C Austin Schlottmann

Peter van den Berg-USA TODAY Sports

Schlottmann was a very capable backup for the Vikings this season, but a broken leg against the Green Bay Packers sealed his fate.

Prediction: GO

LS Andrew DePaola

Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

One of the things with special teams that is so important is continuity. You want to have consistency from year to year. DePaola made the Pro Bowl and was PFF’s top-ranked long snapper. It would be a mistake to let him go.

Prediction: STAY

T Blake Brandel

Peter van den Berg-USA TODAY Sports

One of the better backup tackles in the league, Brandel acquitted himself well when he stepped in for Christian Darrisaw this season. As an exclusive rights free agent, I fully expect him to be back.

Prediction: STAY

LB Ryan Connelly

AP Photo/Jim Mone

Connelly returned from his torn ACL to play for the Vikings this season but only did so on special teams. A long-term backup, expect Connelly to be replaced by a draft pick/rookie free agent.

Prediction: GO

TE Ben Ellefson

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Ellefson was the perfect third TE for the Vikings. He is a good blocker and gives you a little something as a receiver. As an exclusive rights free agent, he will come cheap.

Prediction: STAY

T Oli Udoh

AP Photo/Rick Scuteri

Udoh is an interesting one. A player that can play four of the five positions on the offensive line, he will likely be sought after by multiple teams. Others could offer him more than what the Vikings will be able to and that could net the Vikings a 2024 comp pick.

Prediction: GO

CB Kris Boyd

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

One of the best special teams players in the NFL this past year, Boyd has found his niche. With the Vikings needing to add three cornerbacks, he could be brought back as just a special teams guy.

Prediction: STAY

WR Olabisi Johnson

Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

The Vikings could theoretically keep him by tolling his contract but I don’t think they will. He tore his ACL during training camp in each of the last two seasons and that will be the deciding factor in him leaving.

Prediction: GO

DE Dalvin Tomlinson

Peter van den Berg-USA TODAY Sports

As it sits right now, Tomlinson will count $7.5 million in dead money towards the salary cap. If they re-sign him before the league year starts, they can cut $5 million off of that, as that money will stay in 2024 and 2025. An extension at $10 million per season like he was making this year would only add $2.5 million to the salary cap. Unless another team signs him first, this should be a no-brainer for Minnesota.

Prediction: STAY

CB Parry Nickerson

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Nickerson has spent the better part of the last two seasons with the Vikings on the practice squad. He likely will be brought back for training camp but won’t make the team.

Prediction: STAY

OLB Kenny Willekes

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

A restricted free agent, Willekes was a seventh-round pick that was worth developing due to his heavy production at Michigan State. He missed this season due to injury, but as a restricted free agent, he is worth bringing back.

Prediction: STAY

C Greg Mancz

Sd 082022 Bills 76 Spts

The Vikings did let him go right before the playoff game with the return of Bradbury but the injury to Austin Schlottmann and the departure of Kyle Hinton could lead the Vikings to bring him in on a veteran minimum deal. Worth keeping an eye on, but I think they will choose a different route.

Prediction: STAY

CB Duke Shelley

Tork Mason/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

This is the biggest no-brainer of them all. Shelley was excellent this season in his limited reps at cornerback. Of course, the money needs to be right. If someone wants to give him $5+ million, you let him walk. Otherwise, he needs to stay.

Prediction: STAY

NT Khyiris Tonga

Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Similar to Shelley, the Vikings got Tonga on waivers from the Chicago Bears and he also played really well. One of the better pass rushers in the league (PFF’s 14th-best pass rush grade), Tonga will come cheap as an exclusive rights free agent.

Prediction: STAY

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Already a member? Sign in here
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.