The Minnesota Vikings went into free agency this year with little room to spend. Despite the low funds to work with, the team was still able to bring in some new faces, and re-sign some old ones.
To get more room under the cap, the Vikings had to say goodbye to veteran players and restructure some others. The Vikings ended up being a little more active than some figured they would be and ended up making a handful of roster moves.
Some of those moves were lauded, while others left fans and many in the media scratching their heads. Here are the Vikings’ worst decisions of the 2020 NFL free agency period.
4. re-signing sean mannion
Ever since the Vikings signed Kirk Cousins, the team has been more than content to provide him with a very subpar backup option. In Year 1 it was Trevor Siemian and last year it was Mannion. For whatever reason, the Vikings decided it would be a good idea to bring Mannion back for another go-round.
Mannion is not an established commodity, which instills little confidence if he were asked to play a bigger role. He’s had just two career starts, including Week 17 of last year when he was asked to manage a vanilla game plan. Mannion has been in the league for five seasons but has yet to land in the right place to get an opportunity.
If he had to start for the Vikings for a long stretch of time, there’s nothing on film to suggest he could go on a Case Keenum-type run.
That being said, Mannion comes cheaply, and the Vikings have expressed how they like his ability to cooperate with Cousins during the game-planning process. That’s why his job was never threatened in training camp by the more physically-gifted Kyle Sloter.
Nonetheless, it would’ve made more sense for the Vikings to just go with a mid-round draft choice as their backup option. Experience-wise, they wouldn’t be that far behind Mannion, as he’s only taken 214 snaps in his career. Cost-wise they’d be about the same, but at least a second or third-round rookie would come with some upside. A rookie would be an unproven commodity that could surprise and play well enough for the Vikings to win some games.
With Cousins around three more years, the team could also begin preparing the youngster to be the heir apparent. Mannion isn’t the long term solution.
3. The Inability to re-sign everson griffen
The Vikings and Griffen both made it publicly known that they would have liked to continue their NFL journey together.
Mike Zimmer stated at a press conference he expected Griffen to return to the team, and Griffen himself had said many times over that he would love to finish his career with the Minnesota Vikings.
It makes sense that the Vikings would want him back. Despite Griffen being 32 years old, he is coming off an eight sack season and showed he had plenty of juice left in the tank. With Ifeadi Odenigbo ready to take on a bigger role, the Vikings would’ve had quality depth and kept one of their long time leaders on the team.
Early in the offseason, things looked like they were heading in the right direction. After the exchange of pleasantries, Griffen opted out of his contract, saving the Vikings $12.5 million in cap space. The next domino to fall would’ve been working out a fair deal with the veteran so he could finish his career in Purple.
Unfortunately, a deal couldn’t be struck. It’s unclear why or what happened, but shortly after they began negotiating a contract, Griffen posted a farewell message to the Vikings on social media, ending his tenure with the club.
The Vikings could be kicking themselves this season if it was just a matter of dollars that kept them from bringing Griffen back. Odenigbo is ready to start opposite Danielle Hunter, but if either were to get hurt the team will be in big trouble. The only other options currently on the depth chart are newly-signed Anthony Zettel and Eddie Yarbrough. Neither one of them should be expected to generate the kind of pass rush Griffen could.
By not bringing Griffen back, the Vikings will now have to use a fairly high draft choice on a pass rusher, when they could’ve used that pick to address a different area of need.
2. not signing a veteran cornerback
This one could still happen, but it’s shocking that it hasn’t yet.
The Vikings are extremely young at cornerback after having cut Xavier Rhodes, and seeing both Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander sign with the Bengals. Their top three corners heading into the 2020 season are third-year men Mike Hughes, and Holton Hill and second-year man Kris Boyd.
Those three have a combined nine starts between them. The team needs a veteran presence in their cornerback corps who can help these youngsters get lined up correctly and let them know what to expect when they see certain formations.
The Vikings have already seen some quality veterans get snapped up in this market. The shocking thing is how little some of these players are getting.
The Vikings could have afforded any of those deals and would have landed a veteran starter in the process. Perhaps they are higher on their young cornerbacks than most are. Or maybe they are just waiting until after the draft to fill this need, but the Vikings would be foolish to go into a year with such little experience at such an important position.
1. releasing josh Kline
This was a shocking move that made little sense.
The Vikings’ offensive line was better in 2019 than it was the year before, and a lot of that had to do with the play of Kline. Kline was brought in from Tennessee and was coming off a down year. The Vikings took a bit of a gamble on him but he played quite well overall.
He was widely considered to be the Vikings’ second-best offensive lineman last season. Kline only allowed two sacks all season, and according to Pro Football Focus, ranked 37th in run blocking out of all guards who played at least 20 percent of the snaps a season ago, and his 69.1 grade was tied for 41st overall.
To see the team release him was a shock.
Supposedly the team asked him to restructure, but they couldn’t agree to a deal, so they terminated his contract. The move only saved the Vikings $1.6 million in cap space and created nearly four times that in dead money. It also sends a bad message to the rest of the team, that even if you play up to your contract, you aren’t safe from being cut.
Perhaps Kline’s concussions which cost him three games last season played into the decision.
The Vikings were already thin at guard prior to Kline’s release and now the need for an interior lineman becomes much greater.