Safety Anthony Harris said the Vikings hold "a special place with me" as he heads again toward unrestricted free agency again, this time after a disappointing season for the Vikings defense and Harris, who tied for the league lead in interceptions two years ago.
Harris, one of the Vikings' 10 unrestricted free agents this offseason, didn't have an interception and had a career-high 10 missed tackles, according to Pro Football Focus, while playing under the one-year franchise tag worth about $11.4 million.
"I've been here my entire career," Harris said Tuesday. "It's been great from everything down to the locker room to the executives, the coaches, to the city itself and how its treated me and my family. It definitely holds a special place with me."
Harris may have played his last Vikings game, given the team's limited salary cap space and leaguewide revenue shortfalls expected to shrink the 2021 cap. He declined to discuss what he'd be looking for to stay in Minnesota, where the 29-year-old developed into a reliable starter as a 2015 undrafted free agent out of Virginia.
"After going through it and being in this position [last year], you don't try to worry about anything that's going on," Harris said. "The season just ended. You want to take some time off to allow your body, your mind to kind of relax. Now, with everything going on in the world with COVID, I look forward to getting more in touch with my family and being around them some more and make sure everything is fine there. I'll let my agents handle everything."
Safety Harrison Smith said he's looking forward to seeing Harris be successful wherever he goes.
"You don't know how it's going to shake out," Smith said. "We still stay in contact. We will talk about things that normal people talk about, and then we'll talk about that stuff, too. No matter what, you always want to play with a guy like Anthony."
Hunter 'doing well'
Defensive end Danielle Hunter is about 10 weeks removed from neck surgery to repair a herniated disc that ended his season before it started. Hunter, whose injury coach Mike Zimmer initially attributed to Hunter sleeping on his neck wrong, is apparently hopeful to return to form and then some in 2021.
"He's doing well," Zimmer said Tuesday. "He's on track wherever he's supposed to be. I know he thinks he's going to be able to come back and be better than he was before. That's the other thing for all these players, I think we have to have a good plan, especially for these young guys."
Without Hunter, the Vikings lacked any resemblance of a pass rush with 23 sacks, the franchise's fewest since it became an official stat in 1982. It's atop the fix-it list for Zimmer.
"A priority for me is that we continue to get more pass rushers," he said. "Like we've done in the past, we've had Brian Robison line up in there and rush the passer, Stephen Weatherly or a whole bunch of guys that can do different things. So, we need people that can rush the quarterback."
Stock rising on Gladney, Dantzler?
Zimmer maintained the Vikings may have found long-term answers in rookie cornerbacks Jeff Gladney and Cameron Dantzler, who were playing over Mike Hughes during his first attempt to return from a neck injury. Gladney played 959 defensive snaps, second-most among NFL rookie defensive backs behind only Tampa Bay's Antoine Winfield Jr. Dantzler missed five games due to rib, neck and hamstring injuries.
"They have a lot of work to do in the offseason with the strength and size factors they need to get better at," Zimmer said. "They both have a chance to be very, very good players. I like them both. Dantzler, obviously, was hurt too much, so he's got to get stronger. He's got to continue to get more body weight. Gladney was able to play throughout the whole course of the year and he needs to take a little break and then get back with it."
- Zimmer on the offensive line: "You're always going to look to improve that area. There's no area that we don't look to improve. I thought Riley Reiff had a heck of a year. [Brian] O'Neill has a chance to be an extremely good player. [Garrett] Bradbury is a good player. He was dinged up a little bit this season, but he's a tough kid.
"[Ezra] Cleveland has a chance to be a good player and Dakota [Dozier] battled his rear end off. I do like that group. The continuity that they have, the communications that they have. I like that group, but we'll have to see if we can improve."
- Tight end Brandon Dillon became the ninth practice squad player to re-sign with the Vikings on a futures contract.