Here are five free agents the Vikings should pursue:
ø Michael Johnson, DE, Bengals
This is the no-brainer. Johnson is 27 and a rising star. He’s 6-7, 260, knocks down quarterbacks, stops the run and played for Vikings coach Mike Zimmer, Cincinnati’s former defensive coordinator. Is there room for Johnson and Everson Griffen, the No. 1 priority among the Vikings’ own free agents? Yes. This league starts with passers and pass rushers.
Linval Joseph NT, Giants
The Vikings’ defense began to crumble when it couldn’t stop the run. It couldn’t stop the run effectively when Big Pat Williams became Over-the-Hill Pat Williams. At a powerful, agile and big-gutted 6-4, 323 pounds, Joseph could fill the hole at nose tackle. And he’s only 25.
Alterraun Verner CB, Titans
The league might start with passers and pass rushers, but cover corners are battling left tackles for a close No. 3 in the pecking order. At 25, Verner — like most young, quality corners — will cash in big-time. New Vikings defensive backs coach Jerry Gray coached Verner in Tennessee.
T.J. Ward SS, Browns
Pairing future star Harrison Smith with another top-shelf safety could be the solution to a lot of the Vikings’ defensive weaknesses.
Josh Freeman QB, Vikings
Look, if Matt Cassel wanted to come back, he wouldn’t have opted out of his contract. That’s No. 1. Also, remember when Freeman’s age (26), upside and elite arm strength were widely considered exciting complements for an offense built around Adrian Peterson? Considering Christian Ponder is the only QB currently on the roster, what’s the harm in signing Freeman and seeing if some good can finally come from last year’s disaster?