Vikings should let Chad Greenway walk, spend on left tackle
The Minnesota Vikings took major steps forward this season and were a history-making 27-yard field goal miss away from progressing in the playoffs against a very good Seattle Seahawks team. This side under Mike Zimmer is moving in the right direction, and a good free agency period could really spur them on to greater success.
With that in mind, let’s run the rule over what they need to get done in terms of free agency business.
RG Michael Harris
Michael Harris was a very bad offensive tackle during his time in the league, but last season—his first at guard—he actually looked very good at times. He was still very inconsistent, and the bad was very bad, but for his first season at the position, he flashed more than enough upside to be worth keeping around on a relatively cheap contract, giving the Vikings some competition and options on a line likely to be in some flux while they sort out their best five.
TE Rhett Ellison
Rhett Ellison has shown some excellent play at fullback and halfback over his career, but seems to struggle the more the team asks him to be a conventional TE. The Vikings are well-placed in having only depth players on low-money hitting free agency by and large, so Minnesota could be tempted to retain a player like Ellison, Audie Cole, or Josh Robinson, all of whom have flashed talent at one time or another. Robinson took a big step forward under Zimmer last season before playing just 12 snaps in 2015—and being largely at fault for the biggest play the Seahawks had in the playoff game.
LB Chad Greenway
There is little doubt that Chad Greenway has been a fine servant to the Vikings, but at this point, there is no reason he should be seeing the field, and he is a significant drag factor on what is one of the league’s better defenses. Greenway likely only wants to re-sign for one more season, but at this point, you are paying purely for veteran presence and leadership, because his performance on the field is a problem. Last season, he was PFF’s 61st-ranked LB with an overall grade of 56.2, actually below our value for replacement level. That means, in theory, the Vikings would upgrade the position by signing more or less any linebacker available and giving him Greenway’s snaps. He no longer has the explosion in his play to be an effective force in the run game, and is consistently blocked out of the play.
RB Matt Asiata
As stated earlier, the Vikings have a lot of depth players hitting the market, and several of these should not be candidates to be brought back. Matt Asiata at running back offers little that a rookie could not.
LT Cordy Glenn (Bills) or LT Kelvin Beachum (Steelers)
While Minnesota has a few problem areas, there are few that can be solved via the 2016 free agent crop (think wideout). Where they could stand to upgrade significantly, though, is by giving up on Matt Kalil at left tackle and going after a free agent like Cordy Glenn or Kelvin Beachum. Kalil was better this season than a year ago, but his rookie year is looking more and more like a fluke with each passing season. Glenn has allowed 18 sacks over his entire career, and Kalil can match that total over his past two seasons alone. Beachum missed much of 2015 injured, but his past two seasons have shown him to be an excellent pass-protector, surrendering just 19 total pressures in the entire 2014 season (Kalil, by contrast, surrendered 44 this past season, and three more in the playoff game).
S Husain Abdullah (Chiefs)
Safety is a position where the team has been unable to find a reliable starter next to Harrison Smith, and while they wouldn’t be shopping at the premium section for this position, they could do a lot worse than bringing back an old Viking in the form of Husain Abdullah, who has a positive PFF grade every single season of his career.