With less than 24 hours to go until the official start of free agency, the Vikings are keeping what they are up to quiet while some of their peers made loud moves Wednesday.
Outspoken veteran wideout Brandon Marshall switched New York teams, joining the Giants days after the Jets released him. New England agreed to trade for Indianapolis tight end Dwayne Allen. San Francisco decided to pay more than $5 million a year to a fullback. And Detroit hammered out a huge deal with right tackle Rick Wagner.
The Vikings were said to be one of the strongest bidders for Wagner before the former Wisconsin Badgers and Baltimore Ravens lineman agreed to terms with the Lions. NFL Network reported that Wagner’s deal, when officially signed, will be for more than $9 million per season, making him one of the NFL’s highest-paid right tackles.
It was reminiscent of last Free Agency Eve, when the Vikings made a push for free-agent guard Kelechi Osemele, only to see him take a monster deal with the Oakland Raiders.
Because the Lions were the ones to land Wagner, they are not expected to re-sign Riley Reiff, their 2012 first-round draft pick who played right tackle for them last season.
Reiff, a 28-year-old free agent who is from South Dakota and played collegiately at Iowa, also is believed to be of interest to the Vikings after they had to play him twice a year. Reiff started 69 games at either left tackle or right tackle in five seasons in Detroit.
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The Vikings did jump into the news cycle early Thursday morning, hours before the official new league year begins at 3 p.m. CT, when tackle Matt Kalil agreed to terms with the Carolina Panthers. Kalil, who has recovered from hip surgery that cost him most of the 2016 season, will join his brother Ryan in Carolina.
Also, presumed Vikings free agent target Andrew Whitworth of the Bengals, is instead joining the Los Angeles Rams. Whitworth is 35, but is still considered a consensus top left tackle. That leaves an already thin market at the position even less so for the Vikings.
Other tackles who as of Wednesday night had not agreed to terms with an NFL team and were on track to reach the open market included New York’s Ryan Clady, Jacksonville’s Kelvin Beachum and Carolina’s Mike Remmers.
After a Pro Bowl season in 2012, when the Vikings drafted him with the fourth overall pick, Kalil did not come close to consistently matching that level of play in large part due to injuries. While never missing a start in his first four seasons, knee injuries limited his effectiveness. Then a painful hip injury ended his 2016 season in late September.
Vikings coaches felt that before the hip injury he suffered in August, Kalil was taking to the coaching of his new offensive line coach, Tony Sparano, and they were encouraged that he might regain his form. Plus, Kalil is familiar with the team, the scheme and the area, so the Vikings could do worse than bringing him back at a reasonable price.
The guard position was expected to be less of a priority in free agency. But if the Vikings opt to attack that position, Cincinnati’s Kevin Zeitler, Green Bay’s T.J. Lang, Detroit’s Larry Warford and Dallas’ Ronald Leary could become available Thursday.
While the action started to pick up around the league Wednesday morning, Zimmer, General Manager Rick Spielman and running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu were at Oklahoma’s pro day, in part to chat with running back Joe Mixon, who was not invited to last week’s scouting combine because of his checkered past.
However, the Vikings did make one move Wednesday, placing a second-round tender on restricted free agent Adam Thielen, according to a league source. That one-year tender, worth nearly $2.8 million, should keep the Vikings’ leading receiver from last season on the roster in 2017 as the two sides continue to negotiate a long-term extension.
Other NFL teams can still make contract offers to Thielen. But because they would now have to surrender a second-round pick in addition to giving Thielen a lucrative enough offer for him to leave his home state, it is highly unlikely he will have serious suitors now.
The Vikings have until before 3 p.m. Thursday — when the NFL’s two-day negotiation period that started Tuesday comes to a close and the new league year officially begins — to tender their other restricted free agent, reserve wide receiver Charles Johnson.
Meanwhile, as of Wednesday night, there had been no rumblings about imminent deals for any of the Vikings’ free agents, who include cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, running back Adrian Peterson and punter Jeff Locke.
Staff writer Andrew Krammer contributed to this report