NFL free agency begins next week, starting with the negotiating window on Monday and the opening bell for the 2018 league year at 3 p.m. Wednesday. Here’s the second of a series assessing the Vikings’ top five needs and how they could address them in free agency.
Need No. 4: Tight End
Kyle Rudolph — who tied for the team lead with eight receiving touchdowns last year — isn’t going anywhere. He’s scheduled to make $6.375 million in 2018, but that still makes him only the 11th-highest paid tight end in the league, and the 28-year-old remains especially valuable in the red zone, where new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo made his mark on the Eagles’ offense. But as much as the Eagles liked to throw to tight ends, it wouldn’t be surprising at all for the Vikings to add another one with DeFilippo directing the offense. They tried to sign Jared Cook as a complement to Rudolph a year ago, and could resume their search for another receiving tight end this spring.
Pending free agents:None
Current roster: Kyle Rudolph($7.675M cap), Blake Bell ($705K) David Morgan ($664K).
Current money invested:$9.523 million, 12th-most in the league according to OverTheCap.com.
Top free agents available:
Trey Burton (Eagles) — He’ll be remembered for throwing the first touchdown pass to a quarterback in Super Bowl history, but Burton made a bigger impact on Philadelphia’s offense than one throw to Nick Foles. He caught 23 passes for 248 yards during the regular season, catching five touchdown passes in that time. He’s got a history with DeFilippo, and he’d be a modestly-priced addition to the Vikings’ offense, though he figures to have a market after carving out a solid role for himself in Philadelphia.
Jimmy Graham (Seahawks) —He’s the biggest name on the market, but the VIkings wouldn’t seem to be looking for a player who’d command the kind of role (and salary) that Graham would. He could be headed back to New Orleans for a reunion with Drew Brees after three underwhelming years in Seattle.
Martellus Bennett (Patriots)— After a stormy exit from Green Bay related to his shoulder issues, Bennett played only sparingly on the Patriots’ run back to Super Bowl LII. The 31-year-old has been a productive pass catcher over the years, though, and wouldn’t hurt the Vikings’ chances of receiving a compensatory draft pick, given the fact he’s a street free agent following his release from New England.
Virgil Green (Broncos)— His best year in Denver came in 2016, when he caught 22 passes for 237 yards and a touchdown. He’s an athletic tight end who ran a 4.64-second 40-yard dash coming out of Nevada, and would fit in the offense as a pass catcher to complement Morgan as a run blocker.
Tyler Eifert (Bengals)— Can he stay healthy? That’s always the question with Eifert, but when he can, he’s a handful for defenses to deal with. He caught 52 passes for 615 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2015, making his lone Pro Bowl appearance after that season. Eifert was a rookie in 2013 — Mike Zimmer’s last year with the Bengals.
Also keep an eye on: Mychal Rivera (Jaguars), Niles Paul (Redskins), Anthony Fasano (Dolphins).