The Minnesota Vikings were a little more active in free agency this offseason then many figured they would be. They didn’t have a lot of money to spend but were still able to bring in some new faces while re-signing players of their own who were on the open market. Here are five Vikings’ free-agent signings who may not end up making the final 53-man roster.
Tajae Sharpe was one of the bigger free agent signings the Vikings made. The former Tennessee Titans’ pass-catcher was brought in to be a veteran presence on the Vikings’ receiving corps after the team traded Stefon Diggs to the Bills. Sharpe is a 6’2″, 194-pound receiver who has 92 career receptions for 1,167 yards and eight touchdowns. He’s been in the league for five years, yet he is just 25 years old. He hasn’t been super productive in his career but still carries upside, as he played in a run-heavy offense in his time with the Titans, and has shown the ability to be productive when he gets his fair share of targets.
Despite his upside and veteran leadership, Sharpe is no lock to make the Vikings’ final roster. He was only signed for a one-year deal, and after drafting Justin Jefferson, K.J. Osborn, and signing Quartney Davis, the Vikings could decide to go with a youth movement at wide receiver. Jefferson is a lock to make the team and the Vikings used a fifth-round pick on Osborn for a reason. Quartney Davis is a capable route runner with good hands, and it was shocking that he wasn’t drafted. If these youngsters step up in the preseason, the Vikings could decide that Adam Thielen and Bisi Johnson provide enough of a veteran presence that they can roll with a young group, and that would make Sharpe expendable.
The Vikings were extremely thin at defensive end when free agency started last March. Everson Griffen opted out of his contract, and Stephen Weatherly was quickly signed by the Carolina Panthers. The Vikings had just Eddie Yarbrough backing up projected starters Danielle Hunter and Ifeadi Odenigbo. They brought in journeyman defensive end Anthony Zettel to provide some depth. That move made sense as he came cheaply on a one year deal worth just $1 million. Zettel hasn’t done much since the 2017 season, but that year he showed an ability to get after the quarterback, as he tallied 6.5 sacks.
The Vikings added depth to their defensive end corps in the draft. They used a fourth-round choice on Andre Patterson’s new pet cat, D.J. Wonnum, and in the seventh round took hard-working Kenny Willekes from Michigan State. Wonnum is a lock to make the team and Willekes also has a very strong shot. The question then becomes if the Vikings decide to keep five defensive ends or not. They only kept four a season ago and in 2018 did the same. If they keep four again, Zettel could be the odd man out. That final spot could come down to Willekes and Zettel, and it’s hard seeing the Vikings going with a player who hasn’t been productive in two years, over a rookie who is dripping with potential.
The Vikings currently have a logjam on their depth chart when it comes to interior offensive linemen. The only player assured of a starting job is second-year man, Garrett Bradbury, and after that everything is completely up in the air. The Vikings added depth by re-signing some veteran players this offseason in Dakota Dozier and Brett Jones. Dozier’s re-signing made more sense, as the Vikings used him at guard and tackle a season ago. Jones’s re-signing was a bit more surprising as he only played one offensive snap in 2019 and is coming off a season-ending injury.
Not only did the Vikings address this position in free agency, but they drafted linemen that may have guard capability. They used draft picks on sixth-round pick Blake Brandel and seventh-round pick Kyle Hinton, both of whom may move inside at the next level — especially Hinton. There is even talk that their second-round pick Ezra Cleveland could play guard early in his career. They also signed a handful of linemen after the draft, with players like Tyler Higby, Jake Lacina, and Brady Aiello agreeing to terms. The Vikings also have Dru Samia and Aviante Collins on the roster, and there have been rumblings of Oli Udoh sliding inside to guard in 2020.
The guard depth chart is easily the biggest question mark facing the Vikings in 2020. The team has already stated that it will be an open competition, and that only muddles the waters. Of the two veterans that were re-signed, Dozier has a better chance of making the final roster. He played well in spot duty last season and also showed the ability to play tackle in the preseason and with his time with the Jets. Jones could easily be beaten out by one of these rookies, as he’s done very little in his Vikings’ tenure. If the Vikings want a veteran backup at center, they do have Pat Elflein on the roster, and knowing that, they could choose to keep a young guy with upside like Lacina over the aging and oft-injured Jones.
The Vikings re-signed running back Ameer Abdullah late last March, and the move made sense. Abdullah was the team’s primary kick returner in 2019, a gunner on special teams and an emergency running back. The progress he made as a gunner last season was truly impressive. The guy has always been fast, and he used that speed to fly down the field and was often the first guy making the tackle or downing the punt. It was a role he clearly enjoyed doing and one he became very good at. However, after the draft, Abdullah will have his work cut out for him to make the Vikings’ 53-man roster.
The team brought in a lot of young players who can be special teams standouts. K.J. Osborn has kick return experience, and that was a major reason why the Vikings took him as early as they did. Sixth-round safety Josh Metellus is a fiery competitor who loves attacking downhill. His style of play screams special teams standout. Rookies Troy Dye and Harrison Hand could also excel in special teams in year one. While the team didn’t bring in a running back during the draft, they are set at that position with Cook, Mattison and Boone topping the depth chart, with fullback C.J. Ham available for emergencies. The new young players that can play special teams, and the current depth at running back, makes Abdullah expendable. He’ll have to work his tail off this preseason and really impress if he’s going to be with the Vikings for another season.