7 realistic free agents for the Vikings to consider

Akiem Hicks

the legal tampering the free agency period begins Monday, March 14, and if the Minnesota Vikings do free up cap space over the weekend, expect the team to add some relatively hard-hitting free agents.

Primarily, Minnesota needs improvements to the interior offensive line, cornerback, and EDGE rusher areas. Some of those needs can be met in free agency, while other roster holes will be addressed in the 2022 NFL Draft in April.

Sexy free agents aren’t on this list — except for maybe one — as the Vikings passed the $15 million cap as of March 11. The team needs to add new faces on a condensed budget. At least, that’s the direction the trend is currently heading.

In alphabetical order, Minnesota will explore seven free agents next week.

Brian Allen (LAR) – Center

PFF score 2021 = 80.2

Age = 26

Expected price = $6-9 million per season

November 7, 2021; Inglewood, California, USA; Los Angeles Rams center Brian Allen (55) during the game against the Tennessee Titans at SoFi Stadium. The Titans beat the Rams 28-16. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee – USA TODAY Sports

Garrett Bradbury is under contract to a rookie deal as the Vikings’ current starting center. But Minnesota’s new brass can veer in another direction — and perhaps smartly.

Bradbury struggles with pass protection. Allen does not. Kevin O’Connell coached Allen in February’s Super Bowl, so the proverbial player-coach “bonds” are strong on this one.

Bryce Callahan (DEN) – Cornerback

2021 PFF score = 60.0

Age = 30

Expected price = $3-5 million per season

September 19, 2021; Jacksonville, Florida, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. (10) is tackled by Denver Broncos cornerback Bryce Callahan (29) at TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Vikings have a new defensive coordinator, Ed Donatell, and he likes the Vic Fangio system. Callahan made a name for himself in the Fangio program, even joining the former Broncos skipper in Denver after his career with the Bears ended.

Callahan is a decent, overwhelmed cornerback. Minnesota currently has a starting corner on the roster, Cameron Dantzler. They need more. Callahan can be removed from the bargain bin.

Austin Corbett (LAR) – Guard/Center

2021 PFF score = 68.8

Age = 26

Expected price = $9-12 million per season

October 31, 2021; Houston, TX, USA; Los Angeles Rams running back Darrell Henderson (27) celebrates with guard Austin Corbett (63) after scoring a second quarter touchdown against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Corbett can play guard and center, and the Vikings could replace all the men in those positions this offseason. At positions that Corbett plays well, the Vikings struggled terribly for about five years.

Corbett also played in O’Connell’s Los Angeles offense, and those relationships matter.

But like every free agent on this list, Minnesota needs to find room for a near-expensive offensive trench like Corbett.

Kyle Fuller (DEN) – Cornerback

2021 PFF score = 47.2

Age = 30

Expected price = $4-6 million per season

October 10, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers running back Najee Harris (22) heads the ball off Denver Broncos cornerback Kyle Fuller (23) during the third quarter against at Heinz Field. The Steelers won 27-19. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire – USA TODAY Sports

Re-read the thoughts on Bryce Callahan. He and Fuller are almost clones. Callahan has played better in 2021, but Fuller has built a commendable career. Fuller was even a first-team All-Pro corner in 2018. If you’re a Vikings fan, you know him well, as Fuller spent most of his career in Chicago.

Fuller is not young and his 2021 production was ho-hum. Still, he could be a reasonably deep corner for the 2022 Vikings.

Akiem Hicks (CHI) – Defensive Lineman

2021 PFF score = 72.3

Age = 32

Expected price = $7-10 million per season

October 31, 2021; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears defensive end Akiem Hicks (96) reacts with cornerback Jaylon Johnson (33) during the second half at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

That’s why you chose to read the article.

Hicks, too, is a longtime Chicago Bears defenseman, always seeming to dice the Vikings on Monday nights — and every other day of the week.

Indeed, the Bears employed Khalil Mack for four years, but that was Hicks that Vikings fans feared. Hicks is a threat, and Minnesota could negate its purple terrorism simply by adding him to the 2022 team.

If you can beat them, join them. Hicks is also a Fangio-infused player likely to be coveted by Donatell.

Laken Tomlinson (SF) – Guard

2021 PFF score = 75.9

Age = 30

Expected price = $8-11 million per season

November 29, 2020; Inglewood, California, USA; San Francisco 49ers offensive guard Laken Tomlinson (75) during the game against the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium. The 49ers beat the Rams 23-20. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee – USA TODAY Sports

If the Vikings don’t want Corbett for that spot, Tomlinson is a wise move to pursue. He was voted to his first Pro Bowl in 2021. He played left guard for San Francisco in 2021, so he could move to the right side on the Vikings line — or Ezra Cleveland could make the switch.

Tomlinson isn’t a Quenton Nelson-type superstar, but he’s as reliable and stable as they come.

Darious Williams (LAR) – Cornerback

2021 PFF score = 65.3

Age = 28

Expected price = $8-11 million per season

February 7, 2022; Westlake Village, California, USA; Los Angeles Rams cornerback Darious Williams (11) during Super Bowl LVI opening night at Oaks Christian High School. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee – USA TODAY Sports

Williams has already been predicted a few times by NFL masterminds to join the Vikings, mostly due to the aforementioned O’Connell-Rams ties. Jalen Ramsey stole all of the Rams’ cornerback titles last year — rightly so — but Williams is a pretty solid starting defensive back.

He has six career interceptions in 46 career games, joining the league in 2018 as an undrafted free agent. He also spent some time with the Baltimore Ravens.

Potentially pairing Williams with Dantzler — and maybe Ahmad Gardner or Derek Stingley Jr. — doesn’t sound too terrible.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. His YouTube channel, VikesNowdebuts in March 2022. It host a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, airing every Wednesday with Raun Saw and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Guilty pleasures listed: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, “The Sopranos” and The Doors (the band).

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