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Vikings free agency top 30 countdown, Part 1 (30-26)

By Matthew Coller

With nearly $60 million in salary cap space, the Minnesota Vikings could be active in free agency this year. In the weeks leading up to the free agent period beginning on March 14, we will look at the 30 best available players who would fit the Vikings’ needs.

Here is a list of the Vikings’ biggest offseason needs:

The Vikings five biggest needs this offseason

Now for numbers 30-26…

30 – DB, Darius Butler

Dec 29, 2013; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts cornerback Darius Butler (20) is introduced during player introductions before a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Lucas Oil Stadium. Indianapolis defeats Jacksonville 30-10. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Key stat:

Only targeted 13 times in 499 snaps (17th in coverage snaps/target)

Why he fits:

Over the last two years, Butler has moved from nickel corner to safety and performed well. In 2016 he was ranked by Pro Football Focus as the 31st best safety in the NFL. Going into his age-32 season, the long-time Colt isn’t likely to land a starting job, but he could provide versatility and depth. He could rotate into a cornerback spot in a pinch and play as an extra DB in obvious passing situations. And if someone got hurt, he could step into either a nickel corner or safety role.

29 – RB, Darren Sproles

Nov 22, 2015; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles running back Darren Sproles (43) reacts after scoring a touchdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the second quarter at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Key stat:

Averaged 4.3 yards per carry over his last three years and caught 52 passes in 2016

Why he fits:

The Vikings will have to find a replacement No. 3 running back if Jerick McKinnon does not re-sign in Minnesota. Sproles may be 34 and coming off an injury, but he has been effective into his 30s like few running backs are. He ranked 18th in PFF’s Elusive Rating in 2016 and has graded as a solid pass blocker in the past. With Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray set to take up most of the snaps, Sproles would be a change-of-pace back and could line up as a receiver to create mismatches.

28 – DT, Bennie Logan

Key stat:

17th best in PFF’s “Run Stop Percentage”

Why he fits:

If the Vikings move on from free agent Shamar Stephen, they will need a defensive tackle who can rotate in and dominate against the run. Logan isn’t one to get after the passer, but he is one of the better DTs in the NFL against the run. The 28-year-old DT would also provide depth at nose tackle in case Linval Joseph had to miss time.

27 – WR, Taylor Gabriel

Photo credit: USA Today

Key stat:

8.1 Yards After Catch per Completion in 2016

Why he fits:

If you remember the Vikings’ role for Cordarrelle Patterson in 2016, you can appreciate Gabriel’s role in the Falcons’ offense. The undersized, speedy receiver was used as a playmaker when at his best, often taking short passes and turning them into big gains. The Vikings do not currently have a player like Gabriel on the roster. New OC John DeFilippo could find the right situations to use his talents.

26 – OG, Zach Fulton

Key stat:

Second best Pass Blocking Efficiency among free agent guards

Why he fits:

Fulton spent a good chunk of last season playing center, which adds to his value. Over the last two years, the Chiefs’ O-lineman has played over 700 snaps and scored mid-pack by PFF ratings. The 6-foot-5, 315-pounder could be an option to take Joe Berger’s spot at right guard. He is just 26 and may still have room to improve.

The post Vikings free agency top 30 countdown, Part 1 (30-26) appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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