The Minnesota Vikings did exactly what the football world thought they would do on Tuesday when they declined an $18 million option on running back Adrian Peterson, therefore, making the running back a free agent. The team’s all-time leading rusher will wear a different uniform in 2017.
And with that, a new era of purple and yellow is born.
“Adrian is an important part of the Minnesota Vikings organization,” General Manager Rick Spielman said in a statement issued by the team. The comments can be read in Cindy Boren’s story in the Washington Post.
“We will continue to have conversations with his representatives and leave our future options open while determining what is best for both parties moving forward.”
Peterson, who turns 32 later in March, has spent his entire 10-year career with the Vikings and has an $18 million option for 2017, including a $6 million roster bonus due March 11. He will become an unrestricted free agent March 9.
What will Minnesota do now as the team walks into free agency without Peterson, could love Pro Bowl return specialist Cordarrelle Patterson and has other needs before the April NFL Draft?
The Vikings currently have just over $23 million in salary cap space. Releasing Peterson nearly doubles that, while allowing the team to keep some in-house free agents and also seek help from the outside.
The team will look to re-sign some of its own free agents (Captain Munnerlyn) while it looks to fill holes on the roster with the dwindling pool of talent left in free agency.
Here are five players the Minnesota Vikings could target in free agency.
Anquan Bolden, Wide Receiver – He continues to amaze as a solid veteran wide receiver in a league full of young, speedy pass catchers. Bolden would be a solid addition to the Vikings’ passing attack. While losing Patterson would affect the return game more than they wide receiving unit, Bolden could be viewed as an upgrade.
Boldin has most recently hinted at retirement, while also saying if he did play next season he’d be open to returning to the Lions. With the Vikings more than likely making Laquon Treadwell a bigger part of the gameplan in 2017, having a dependable safety blanket is always a good thing.
Ricky Wagner, Tackle – Per a story on Fansided.com, the Minnesota Vikings have holes to fill on the offensive line. I think this position may be addressed in the draft, but adding a veteran to the roster is also vital.
Wagner was ranked the 18th best right tackle in the league by Pro Football Focus. Not an overly ringing endorsement, but he was ranked ninth in pass protection. That’s a big plus for this team.
The contract Mitchell Schwartz signed with the Kansas City Chiefs last offseason (five years, $33 million; $15 million guaranteed) possibly stands as a good ballpark for Wagner’s free agent deal. He could be a nice mid-range player who comes north.
Kevin Zeitler, Guard – Zeitler could be a player every team that needs a solid guard goes after. The former Cincinnati Bengals star figures to be the top or one of the topo offensive linemen in free agency and could demand top dollar.
The best comp for Zeitler’s free agent contract is the five-year, $50 million contract extension David DeCastro signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers this last offseason since both are right guards. The Vikings also invested heavily at guard last offseason by signing Alex Boone, so going back to that well might make future deals for other players difficult to manage.
Zeitler is an upgrade from Boone.
Riley Reiff, Tackle – I originally thought the Jacksonville Jaguars would make a run at Reiff but took care of their offensive tackle issue by trading for Branden Albert. A combination of Reiff and Zeitler makes the offensive line in Minnesota look a lot better.
The former first-round pick by Detroit adds to the team’s need for better run blocking and takes away a keep component of an NFC North rival. Reiff’s agent will surely market him as a left tackle in free agency, which makes sense since the market value for that position is higher. Even as a highly average offensive tackle, via the eye test and the advanced grading from Pro Football Focus, Reiff is in line for a very nice contract this offseason.
Luke Joeckel, Tackle – I add him to the list of possible targets because he could come at a reasonable price. Joeckel has spent time with the Jacksonville Jaguars playing two tackle positions and left guard, which makes him valuable as a backup and a starter for Minnesota. While his four-year career in the NFL has been plagued by injuries and inconsistency, a new team and a change of scenery might be the perfect elixir for the Texas A&M star.
The Minnesota Vikings could get him at a very affordable cost, which would allow them to sign other players and fill roster spaces.