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.
We’re predicting whether the Vikings’ free agents will come back with the team or leave come March.
RB Alexander Mattison
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.
TE Irv Smith Jr.
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.
C Garrett Bradbury
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.
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.
K Greg Joseph
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.
CB Chandon Sullivan
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.
QB Nick Mullens
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.
DE Jonathan Bullard
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.
C Austin Schlottmann
Schlottmann was a very capable backup for the Vikings this season, but a broken leg against the Green Bay Packers sealed his fate.
LS Andrew DePaola
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.
T Blake Brandel
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.
LB Ryan Connelly
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.
TE Ben Ellefson
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.
T Oli Udoh
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.
CB Kris Boyd
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.
WR Olabisi Johnson
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.
DE Dalvin Tomlinson
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.
CB Parry Nickerson
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.
OLB Kenny Willekes
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.
C Greg Mancz
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.
CB Duke Shelley
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.
NT Khyiris Tonga
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.