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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Weighing odds on which Vikings free agents return

By Matthew Coller

Oct 3, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson (84) catches a pass against the New York Giants in the third quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Vikings win 24-10. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

As we march toward the end of the NFL season, all but four teams are busy evaluating their rosters and planning for next year. That process includes front offices looking closely at their own free agents and deciding whether to offer them a chance to return. Let’s have a look at the Minnesota Vikings’ free agents and the chances they will be back in purple in gold in 2017:

Wide receiver, Cordarrelle Patterson

Odds of return: High

Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

One year ago, his odds of returning would have been at about zero, but Patterson changed his approach and earned back playing time. He finished the year with 52 catches for 453 yards and was the NFL’s best kick returner. The limitations that caused Patterson to be phased out of the offense still existed in 2016, the Vikings just changed their mentality about using him. They worked Patterson into the screen and short passing game with 94% of his receptions coming on throws under 10 yards. Bringing the former first-round pick back to Minnesota will depend heavily on the price – and it seems likely his demands will be high – but if there is a middle ground, Patterson is a uniquely skilled playmaker who could be used in even more creative ways in the future.

Tackle, Matt Kalil

Odds of return: Low

Matt Kalil, Eugene Sims

It is always hard to walk away from a player who was once the No. 4 overall pick, but the Vikings will be desperate to improve the protection for quarterback Sam Bradford by leaps and bounds. Of course Kalil would be an upgrade from what the Vikings had in 2016 with TJ Clemmings, but the question is whether he will be the Vikings’ choice over chasing top free agent tackles such as Andrew Whitworth and Riley Reiff or making a trade. After three disappointing years from Kalil and a major hip injury, the Vikings will more likely be looking for a safer bet.

Nickel cornerback. Captain Munnerlyn

Odds of return: 50-50

NFL: Houston Texans at Minnesota Vikings - Sun, 09 Oct 2016 12:29:08 EDT

The Vikings’ veteran cornerback was one of their most reliable players in 2016, giving up just 5.8 Yards Per Attempt against and only allowing just one broken tackle according to Football Outsiders. He also ranked 50th in Pro Football Focus rankings with a solid 75.5 rating. Munnerlyn did not have many “splash” plays as he failed to get an interception for the first time since 2011 and only forced one fumble, but he was able to consistently cover quick and shifty slot receivers and played 61.5% of total snaps. So there is a good case to bring him back. Whether they make an offer may depend on how confident they are that Mackensie Alexander, a second-rounder in 2016, can take Munnerlyn’s place. Alexander had a tough rookie year, seeing only 68 snaps, but even some of the best corners struggled as rookies.

Cornerback, Terence Newman

Odds of return: 50-50

Trae Waynes, Terence Newman, Harrison Smith

Terence Newman had a very impressive year. There is no need to write, “for his age…” before that sentence, either. Newman ranked ninth in Pro Football Focus rankings and gave up just 3.9 Yards Per Attempt on passes in his direction, which was the third best in the NFL among corners who were targeted more than 30 times. It is possible the Vikings would like to turn the keys over to former first-round pick Trae Waynes, but they had a good deal of success working Newman and Waynes in and out to give the veteran rest. The added benefit of having Newman back is that he can play safety or nickel corner in Mike Zimmer’s system. Speaking of Zimmer, a “miscommunication” in Week 16 against the Packers that stirred controversy may cause the Vikings to move on.

Running back, Matt Asiata

Odds of return: Low

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Tennessee Titans - Sun, 11 Sep 2016 14:45:40 EDT

In 2014 and 2015, Asiata provided decent value to the Vikings at the goal line and in pass blocking and catching, but odds are that Minnesota will be looking for an upgrade. Asiata has never averaged more than 4.0 yards per carry in his five seasons as a Viking, though he did average a solid 8.2 yards per catch last year. With the 6-foot, 220-pound bruiser, there isn’t much for big-play ability and at 29 years old, he is already on the other side of his prime. With an exceptionally deep draft class, the Vikings will likely prefer to go in a different direction.

Linebacker, Chad Greenway

Odds of return: Low

NFL: Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings - Sun, 06 Nov 2016 12:13:04 EST

Chad Greenway has not yet announced his retirement, but he is expected to walk away after 10 NFL seasons. At 34, his quickness isn’t what it once was, making it difficult for the Vikings to use him in pass coverage. The long-time Viking only saw 39% of the team’s total snaps this year and it may have been too many considering teams started to game plan to throw against the base package. Greenway was still an adequate run stopper and could fit into a role in Minnesota or elsewhere if he wanted to come back.

Quarterback, Shaun Hill

Odds of return: Low

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Tennessee Titans - Sun, 11 Sep 2016 14:21:23 EDT

Shaun Hill has been one of the NFL’s best backup quarterbacks for a long time. When he did start, he provided capable quarterback play, including a Week 1 win for the Vikings over the Tennessee Titans. At 37 years old, he could decide to retire. If he does, the former 49er and Lion will finish with a 17-18 record, 49 touchdowns, 30 interceptions and 84.9 quarterback rating. All good numbers for a backup QB. If Hill does decide he wants to play another season, the Vikings would probably elect to have Taylor Heinicke or draft pick as their No. 2, assuming Teddy Bridgewater isn’t back to 100% to start the year.

Punter, Jeff Locke

Odds of return: High

The Vikings’ punter did not sport a particularly good net average, ranking 25th in the NFL in that category, but he did have the fifth most kicks inside the 20 with 34 of his 74 punts pinning the opponent inside their own zone. He also only allowed 26 total punt returns. There were 22 punters who allowed more returns than Locke. So he had a pretty solid overall season despite his average not being on par with some of the top punters.

Tackle, Andre Smith

Odds of return: Low

Andre Smith played 182 snaps as a Viking and that was more than enough to discover that signing him in the offseason was a mistake. In that span, Pro Football Focus rated him one of the worst tackles in the NFL, tied for 72nd place of 80. While there were times in Smith’s career in which he was above average for the Bengals, he hasn’t received a positive rating in three years. The Vikings would be better off trying a different route.

Tight ends, Rhett Ellison

Odds of return: High

The 6-foot-5 backup tight end caught a handful of passes and was useful in blocking situations. The Vikings should look to add another playmaking tight end, but Ellison can still help.

Tackle Jake Long

Odds of return: Low

After shaking the rust off, Long did a decent job in several games before suffering another injury. His career might be over.

Fullback, Zach Line

Odds of return: 50-50

The fullback position is going the way of the rotary phone, but if the Vikings still insist on having one, they may stick with Line.

Linebacker, Audie Cole

Odds of return: 50-50

Cole is a fine special teamer. When he was asked to play the linebacker position, he was sub-par.

Defensive line, Justin Trattou

Odds of return: 50-50

Another special teamer, Trattou could stick around in that role.

The post Weighing odds on which Vikings free agents return appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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