Fantasy Football Free Agency Preview: Minnesota Vikings

Free agency has a major impact on fantasy football. We’re a long way from the 2017 league year, but for dynasty team owners — especially those who’ve missed the playoffs — it’s never too early to start thinking about how player values could change.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll run through each team’s free agency situation using information from Over the Cap. I’ll use the Screener App as well as free agency status to identify potential team needs. I won’t speculate (too much) on destinations for certain players yet, but will offer some preliminary thoughts about possible value situations. As the offseason progresses, we’ll use the information in this series of articles to reach more specific conclusions about player movement and value changes.

Minnesota Vikings

Free Agents

PLAYER POS TEAM TYPE 16 SAL 16 GUAR TEAM CAP
Zach Line FB Vikings UFA $1,671,000 $0 $24,827,659
Shaun Hill QB Vikings UFA $3,250,000 $3,200,000 $24,827,659
Matt Asiata RB Vikings UFA $840,000 $60,000 $24,827,659
Rhett Ellison TE Vikings UFA $1,750,000 $100,000 $24,827,659
Cordarrelle Patterson WR Vikings UFA $1,805,262 $5,831,359 $24,827,659
Adam Thielen WR Vikings RFA $600,000 $0 $24,827,659
Charles Johnson WR Vikings RFA $510,000 $0 $24,827,659

Cut Candidates

TEAM PLAYER POS DEAD $ CAP SAVINGS
VIKINGS S. BRADFORD QB 4 13
VIKINGS A.PETERSON RB 0 18

Needs – QB, RB

As of now, the Vikings are near the bottom in terms of available cap space. But they could get $18 million just by cutting Adrian Peterson. Even if they restructure and retain him, they still need help at running back, as Peterson is now both old and coming off injury, and neither Matt Asiata nor Jerick McKinnon impressed in his absence.

The situation is similar at quarterback, where Teddy Bridgewater may or may not be able to return effectively from injury, and Sam Bradford failed to impress in his absence.

Discussion

Tight End Kyle Rudolph has played decently and has an affordable contract over the next couple of years. He’s TE6 so far in 2016, and should be held in dynasty leagues. Another TE1 season is definitely possible, but TE is deep enough though that I’m not really trying to acquire him.

Wide receiver Stefon Diggs is locked in to one WR role, and Laquon Treadwell’s guaranteed rookie deal locks him into a roster spot, at least. Adam Thielen is a free agent but a likely candidate to be re-signed. Even so the Vikings will need to address their depth. It’s possible Cordarelle Patterson returns, but given their lack of cap space, it’s hard to visualize a big move at either TE or WR. I’m not interested in Patterson wherever he goes. But I think Diggs, Treadwell, and Thielen are all very strong holds, and even targets to acquire, at the right price. Diggs has produced solid WR2 numbers with both Bridgewater and Bradford at QB. Thielen has been a solid WR3 this season, including a WR14 (!) stretch from Weeks 10 – 14. And Treadwell has done nothing, but still has a first round pedigree and nowhere to go but up.

There are a few likely scenarios that could benefit all three WRs:

  • Bridgewater returns and is better than Bradford.
  • Peterson is released, or at least phased out, and the offense becomes more pass-focused.
  • No significant free agent competition is added.
  • Thielen signs somewhere that offers clear opportunity.
  • Thielen departure paves the way for Treadwell to see the field.

Diggs is the strongest asset obviously, and I’d definitely be taking advantage of any offseason chaos in Minnesota to try and acquire him at WR2 or lower prices. Thielen seems like he might be a replaceable talent, and/or the beneficiary of Bradford’s style of play. He could also be threatened by Treadwell or go to an undesirable situation. So I wouldn’t pay nearly as much for him, but I do think he’s a hold in large leagues, and a “trade add in” type of player to target. Treadwell is someone I’d also acquire if the cost is less than a top-10 rookie pick. As rookie drafts come close, someone might be willing to unload him. Since rookie picks don’t hit as often as we think, think of Treadwell as a reduced-cost lottery ticket.

What about running back? Peterson will have to restructure his contract if he wants to return. His $18 million cap number for 2017 is outrageous. His $14 million average per year is more than double the next highest-paid RB (LeSean McCoy, $8M). It’s also entirely possible the Vikings decide to simply move on from Peterson, in a minor redux of the Colts moving on from Peyton Manning. Even if he restructures though, his cap numbers will come down significantly which – in theory – makes it more likely that Minnesota does something different with their offense.

At a minimum it seems like Minnesota will draft a significant RB. They could also sign a free agent or two. Either way, it’s hard to see any value in holding Asiata or McKinnon. If Peterson returns, then at best there’s a messy committee and at worst Peterson dominates the touches. If Peterson leaves, then at best there’s a messy committee and at worst a rookie or free agent comes in to make things even less clear.

What about Peterson himself? Ironically, he might very well be a buy-low candidate. I think his window of opportunity is closing, and he may never be the player he used to be. But he can still be very effective, a la Frank Gore, Matt Forte, and others. I’m not sure what the right price is, but I think a few more seasons of RB2-level production is feasible, with of course the upside to remain Purple Jesus. Many dynasty players under value older veterans, so don’t hesitate to look for a value price here.

How about quarterback? I think the Vikings have a very poor QB situation, but that only offers long term upside for their receivers, as the QB play probably won’t get worse, and could eventually improve. As for the QBs themselves, if his own meh performance isn’t enough, click the Bridgewater article linked above for the medical reasons to avoid him. And I probably don’t need to write much about why Bradford’s not a very valuable fantasy asset. But unless the Vikings do something aggressive (like cut Peterson and/or Bradford outright), they don’t have the cap space to do much about their QB situation.

The only free agent QB that is a clear and obvious upgrade to either Bridgewater or Bradford is Kirk Cousins, so expect a bidding war that Minnesota can’t afford, assuming Washington doesn’t just franchise tag him again. If Minnesota thinks Bridgewater can return to form, they could cut Bradford and sign a less expensive backup. But they could also very well retain Bradford, in which case we can look forward to the excitement of a Bradford-Bridgewater training camp battle. Yipee. I’m avoiding both except in start-two QB leagues. Even there, neither is assured of being a starter next year. Sell if you can.