MINNEAPOLIS - The Minnesota Vikings are in offseason mode while the NFC wraps up Super Wild Card Weekend with the Arizona Cardinals facing the L.A. Rams Monday night.
On Sunday, we learned the Vikings' management group started the interview process in replacing both Rick Spielman and Mike Zimmer. Owner and President Mark Wilf said last week they want to hire a general manager first, who will then have a say in the head coach.
Whoever that general manager ends up being has a lot of offseason decisions to make. The Vikings have 18 free agents this offseason. So who stays and who goes? Here is a look at 10 of the top names.
Anthony Barr was Zimmer’s first draft pick in 2014. He’s started 98 career games with the Vikings, but has been plagued by injuries the last two seasons. Two years ago, a torn pectoral muscle in Week 2 ended his season. This year, he had knee surgery that forced him to miss the first four games, and made 11 starts this season. Barr finished with three interceptions, two fumble recoveries, 2.5 sacks and 72 tackles. He sounded after the regular season finale as if he had played his last game with the Vikings. He’ll turn 30 in March, but has proven he can play if he can stay healthy.
Patrick Peterson was one of the big offseason splashes for the Vikings’ front office last year. An eight-time Pro Bowl pick, and three-time All-Pro, Peterson started 13 games, missing three with a bad hamstring and one on the COVID-19 list. He had 45 tackles, and returned his only interception of the season for a touchdown in the last game. He’s a veteran, he’s a leader and should be a top priority for the Vikings to bring back in 2022 if they can make the money work.
Sheldon Richardson played in all 17 games, starting seven, in 2021 with Danielle Hunter, Everson Griffen, Dalvin Tomlinson and Michael Pierce all missing time at various points in the season. He finished with 29 tackles, 2.5 sacks and six tackles for a loss.
Xavier Woods came to the Vikings on a one-year contract, and was the only player in the secondary to start all 17 games. He finished with 108 tackles, three interceptions, two forced fumbles and 10 passes defended. He could serve as a steadying presence in the secondary alongside Harrison Smith.
Nick Vigil had a strong start to the 2022 season, starting at middle linebacker for Barr. He made 12 starts, and returned an interception for a touchdown at Arizona. Vigil finished with 85 tackles and a sack, but has work to do in run defense. If Barr departs, Vigil could be back.
Mackensie Alexander came back to the Vikings to play for Zimmer after a season in Cincinnati. He played in 16 games, starting five, and had 51 tackles. Five of his six NFL seasons have been in Minnesota.
Everson Griffen played in nine games, and started six, after Danielle Hunter went down injured for the second straight season. Griffen had five sacks and 15 tackles before having to step away from the team to address mental health concerns after an incident at his west Twin Cities metro home. It’s the second time such an incident has involved Griffen with the Vikings. He didn’t play the rest of the season. If he can stay physically and mentally healthy, he can return to the field. But that’s a very big if.
Mason Cole played in 14 games on the offensive line, starting seven for Vikings as they dealt with injuries and COVID-19 issues. Cole played effectively enough that 2019 first round pick Garrett Bradbury was benched. He had his up and down moments, but he gave the Vikings depth when it was needed.
Tyler Conklin became the primary tight end for Kirk Cousins when Irv Smith Jr. went down for the season after having knee surgery. Conklin played in every game, starting 15, and tripled his career high for catches with 61 on 87 targets for 593 yards and three touchdowns, also a career-high. He was an effective run-blocker, and a consummate teammate. He should be a solid piece alongside Smith next season, if the Vikings bring him back.
Greg Joseph had his tough moments in 2021, as most kickers have had with the Vikings. Most notably, missing a game-winning walk-off field goal at Arizona. Other than that, Joseph had a stellar season in his first full-time kicking duty in the NFL. He was 36-of-40 on extra points, and 33-of-38 on field goals. That includes being 7-of-9 from 40-49 yards out, and 7-of-9 from 50+. He’s earned the opportunity to be the kicker next season.
Once the Vikings have a GM in place, it should give a clearer picture of how the roster will come together going forward.