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How many of Clayton’s top 50 free agents will the Vikings pursue?

By Matthew Coller

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The Minnesota Vikings were not on ESPN NFL writer John Clayton’s list of teams that could be the biggest spenders in free agency this offseason, but the Vikings do have a ton of flexibility with the salary cap. If they were to let Adrian Peterson walk and let go Sharrif Floyd and Brian Robison (both realistic possibilities), the Vikings would have $49 million in cap room according to OverTheCap.com’s calculator. If they do go after big fish, who might the be? Clayton released his top 50 free agents this week and a number of them could be on Minnesota’s radar. Let’s have a look at the top names:

16. Kevin Zeitler, OG, Cincinnati Bengals

The only two Vikings offensive linemen to play at an average or above level in 2016 were center Joe Berger and guard Alex Boone. Every other spot will be on the table for improvement. Guard Brandon Fusco is going on back-to-back years of below average Pro Football Focus rankings, which could cause the Vikings to look into an upgrade at guard. Zeitler has been among the best at his position for five straight years. Clayton estimates he could want in the $8-$10 million range. Here is Zeitler’s PFF history:

17. T.J. Lang, OG, Green Bay Packers

While Aaron Rodgers is getting all the credit for the Packers’ amazing run to the NFC title game – and it’s well deserved – his offensive line has been terrific in pass protection and that includes TJ Lang, who ranks via PFF as the second best pass blocker in the NFL. Clayton notes that the Pack already have over $18 million tied up in two other guards.

19. Ricky Wagner, OT, Baltimore Ravens

The former fifth-round pick has emerged into a top-10 pass blocker according to PFF. Without making any cuts, the Ravens enter free agency with only around $15 million to spend. That may make it tough to bring Wagner back.

24. Andrew Whitworth, OT, Cincinnati Bengals

At 34 years old, Whitworth’s play hasn’t dipped as he was graded the second best pass blocker in the league. The toughest question for the Vikings won’t be whether he’s worth a big cap hit, rather the length of a potential deal.

27. Kenny Britt, WR, Los Angeles Rams

Britt went for over 1,000 yards despite playing with two of the league’s worst quarterbacks. The Vikings should feel great about Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, but the No. 3 receiver spot is a mystery at the moment. Cordarrelle Patterson is an Unrestricted Free Agent, former first-round pick Laquon Treadwell made just one catch in his rookie year and Jarius Wright was rarely active.

29. Larry Warford, OG, Detroit Lions

At just 25 years old, Warford has proven to be talented and durable. He was ranked as the 21st best guard this season by PFF and has scored above average in every year of his career. Warford has also played 13 or more games in every season of his career. The Lions may have trouble finding the cap room to pay him.

30. Riley Reiff, OT, Detroit Lions

The Lions moved Reiff from left to right tackle this season to make room for first-round pick Taylor Decker, but that wasn’t because Reiff was a bad left tackle. He scored between 70 and 77 by PFF rankings every year on the left side, which put him in the above average (but not top notch) range. This season, his play slipped at right tackle, but the Vikings could offer left tackle money to convince the 28 year old to come to Minnesota.

31. Johnathan Hankins, DT, New York Giants

If the Vikings decide to move on from Sharrif Floyd, they will need a more competent replacement than Shamar Stephen, who is much better fit as a fill-in than full-time starter. Hankins did not grade out by PFF standards this year as well as he has in the past, but two seasons ago he picked up seven sacks and was named to the All-PFF second team.

36. Luke Joeckel, OG, Jacksonville Jaguars

Instead of paying out big bucks for a replacement for Fusco, the Vikings could go the “open competition” route with a player like Joeckel. Despite his top-50 ranking, his career has been a huge disappointment to date. A former No. 2 overall pick, Joeckel was supposed to be a franchise left tackle, but instead he has been turned into a guard and showed some signs of life in the four games he played this year. Joeckel is more of a low-risk longshot than guaranteed starter.

39. Kenny Stills, WR, Miami Dolphins

The Vikings should be desperate for playmakers and Still is exactly that. Over his four year career, he has averaged 16.7 yards per catch and caught nine touchdowns last year. While his reception percentage is only a shade over 50%, but 22 of his 41 receptions were thrown more than 10 yards through the air.

43. Robert Woods, WR, Buffalo Bills

Woods has been a solid No. 2 receiver on teams that lacked an effective passing game. He is not a home run threat, but is a quality possession receiver and very good blocker. He would fit in with the work ethic/character preferences of the Vikings.

50. Kyle Juszczyk, FB, Baltimore Ravens

The Vikings will be looking for any way possible to improve their run game, which may mean considering the league’s best fullback. Zach Line was decent in his role, but the Vikings may fondly remember the days of Jerome Felton and look for a similar blocker.

The post How many of Clayton’s top 50 free agents will the Vikings pursue? appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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