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10 free agents on the Patriots, Falcons who might interest the Vikings

By Matthew Coller

With a great deal of cap flexibility, the Minnesota Vikings will be looking to bolster their roster in free agency. When the New England Patriots face off with the Atlanta Falcons in the Super Bowl, it will represent the last opportunity to get a look at upcoming free agents. Here are some of the players the Vikings might have their eye on:

New England Patriots

Wide receiver, Michael Floyd

The Arizona Cardinals released Floyd after a DWI incident late in the season. The Minnesota native was inactive against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC title game, which does not bode well for his future as a New England Patriot. The former first-round pick has shown flashes of excellence throughout his career, catching 65 passes in 2013 and averaging more than 16 yards per reception over the last two years.

Photo credit: USA Today

It is unknown whether the Vikings would be willing to buy into a high-risk receiver when their current corps is a close-knit group, but Floyd is a deep threat, which Minnesota could certainly use.

Right tackle, Cameron Fleming (Restricted Free Agent)

The kingdom for a tackle. Outside of signing one of the top two free agent tackles in Andrew Whitworth and Ricky Wagner, the options aren’t exactly ideal for the Vikings to fix their tackle problem. Fleming is a 2014 fourth-round pick who played well in relief for the Patriots this season, scoring a 71.1 on Pro Football Focus’ rating system in 297 snaps (TJ Clemmings notched a 28.3).

The Vikings would have to make an extensive offer that the Patriots would not be willing to match in order to sign Fleming.

Tight end, Martellus Bennett

The Patriots brought in Bennett to play second banana to superstar Rob Gronkowski, but Gronk went down with a season-ending injury in late November and Bennett stepped into his role as the top tight end. Bennett finished the season with 55 catches for 701 yards and seven touchdowns and was ranked the league’s 10th best tight end by Pro Football Focus.

While the Vikings have Kyle Rudolph as their starting tight end, they should be looking at every possible option to add more weapons around quarterback Sam Bradford. Bennett is monstrous at 6-foot-6, 275-pound. He and Rudolph together would create some difficult matchups for opponents. The price may be too rich for the Vikings, unless they see a duel tight end threat as being worth the pretty penny.

Defensive tackle, Alan Branch

Rated by Pro Football Focus as the 23rd best defensive tackle in the NFL. At 6-foot-6, 350-pounds, he is a force in the middle against the run.

With Linval Joseph headed to the Pro Bowl, it wouldn’t seem the Vikings would be in need of another monster defensive tackle, but Joseph has played the 3-technique role on a Super Bowl-winning team in New York and registered four sacks this season. If Minnesota moves on from Sharrif Floyd, they will need someone to fill a defensive tackle spot.

Cornerback, Logan Ryan

Without question the ace of the Patriots’ defensive backfield is Malcolm Butler, but Ryan proved that he can play, too. Pro Football Focus ranked him the league’s 14th best cornerback this season. The former third-round pick is a playmaker with 13 interceptions in four NFL seasons.

Whether the Vikings want to add another cornerback in the offseason depends on their belief in Trae Waynes as a starter. Ryan plays a similar role as Terence Newman as the No. 2 and could provide a similar level of play if Minnesota does not trust Waynes. If they do, they’ll be on the lookout for nickel cornerbacks instead.

Atlanta Falcons

Wide receiver, Taylor Gabriel (RFA)

Gabriel is a shorter version of Cordarrelle Patterson. He is a blazing fast playmaker who caught 25 of his 35 passes on throws of less than 10 yards, yet averaged 16.5 yards per reception. He was also used in the running game from time to time, averaging 12.7 yards per carry.

Screen Shot 2017-01-24 at 12.17.56 AM
Photo Credit: USA Today

As an RFA, it would take a big offer to pry Gabriel away from the Falcons, but if Patterson does not want to return to the Vikings, they will be looking for players who fit their short passing and screen game.

Linebacker, Paul Worrilow

The Vikings will most likely be looking for a replacement for Chad Greenway in their base defense, but if they want to find a more reliable backup for Eric Kendricks, Worrilow might be a good option. At 6-foot, 230-pounds, he is a cover linebacker who ran a 4.59 40-yard dash. With the league trending toward faster tight ends, it might be wise for the Vikings to have another competent cover man. Pro Football Focus scored Worrilow in the middle of the pack with a 73.0 in coverage.

Tight end, Jacob Tamme

At 31, Tamme is still a fast, pass-catching tight end. He only played eight regular season games, but caught 22 passes for 210 yards. Tamme might make a much cheaper option than someone like Bennett and be more willing to play second fiddle to Rudolph. He will not be participating in the Super Bowl due to an injury.

Quarterback, Matt Schaub

The Falcons are sure hoping that Matt Schaub will not be appearing in the Super Bowl. If he does, however, the Vikings would be getting a look at a future backup quarterback option. If Shaun Hill retires, the choices will be either to stick with Taylor Heinicke, draft someone or pick up a veteran backup like Schaub. He has not been a starter since 2013 and last saw significant game action with the Ravens in 2015, throwing 80 passes and posting a 76.0 quarterback rating.

Wide receiver, Aldrick Robinson

The Falcons are deeper than a Bob Dylan song at receiver and they probably won’t be able to keep everyone. Robinson caught 20 passes this season for an impressive 323 yards. He is only 5-foot-10, but is strong and ran a 4.43 40-yard dash. He might make for a cheap option with some upside.

The post 10 free agents on the Patriots, Falcons who might interest the Vikings appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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