Vikings should let Chad Greenway walk, spend on left tackle

Senior Analyst Sam Monson previews free agency for Minnesota, identifying players to re-sign, let walk, and target.

| 10 months ago
(AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt)

(AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt)

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.

Re-sign

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.

Let walk

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.

Target

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.

| Senior Analyst

Sam is a Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus, as well as a contributor to ESPN.

  • Jacob wengler

    What about signing Eric weddle and moving him or smith to strong saftey?

    • Jack Casey

      That would be some pair… Smith and Weddle.

  • crosseyedlemon

    I think defense is where the Vikings should focus. Glenn or Beachum would be a nice addition but Adrian Peterson is one of those rare backs that can produce even with mediocre line support.

    • Skolbro28

      Nah bro we got the best defense in the league, Skol! We need to get Teddy an oline so he can get his first mvp award.

      • Jack Casey

        The Vikings have a very good defense, but it’s definitely not the best in the league. Not in the same category as Denver.

        • NAJ

          Replace Sendejo and Greenway and it will be right up there with the best

  • Matt Swiridow

    At least Kalil can stay on the field. Why not focus on a RT in FA. Phil is to much of a risk with injuries at 30 and a 7 mil price tag. I could pass on Harris and put Fusco back on the right side. LG has been overlooked for too long and more injuries at C. The shift to more Teddy may be a factor. Could be time for an overhaul.

  • Erik Van Dootingh

    The biggest question is if Berger could play near last year’s level if he were moved to guard. A nice projected lineup would be:
    LT: Glenn/Beachum
    LG: Berger
    C : Sullivan
    RG: Fusco
    RT: Loadholt/Clemmings

    • enai D

      Remember that Fusco was a stud at RG, then basically forgot how to play football when moved to LG- in other words, its never a sure bet that success at one position on the OL translates into success at another.. Granted, Berger had been a backup to both the C and G spots and is viewed as the Swiss Army Knife backup O-lineman, but its still not a given that he would play as well.

      • Erik Van Dootingh

        I agree. But unless we find a way to add more than 1 quality starter this offseason, I think this is our best case configuration. And if we can only add one, I really hope it’s a LT. Kalil is awful and makes it really hard to have a vertical passing game.

        • enai D

          That’s probably true, though given Kalil’s contract situation and other factors I think its unlikely Kalil goes anywhere this year. It sucks, but I can understand the situation- having that high of a draft pick end up as a bust really throws a wrench into the works.

          • Erik Van Dootingh

            Kalil’s contract makes it easy to dump him, it’s finding a replacement that’s the hard part. Kalil has one year left at $11M with no dead money….no brainer to cut him if we can get someone in FA. Also we can cut Wallace to save another 11.5M with no dead money. Add that to the cap space we have and you’re looking at $45M+ to play with.

          • enai D

            Well but as above the Vikings have to decide whether to pick up Kalil’s option before the free agency period starts, so if they were going to cut him they’d be gambling that they’ll be able to sign a new LT in free agency.. Sort of a major risk, and one I don’t really expect them to take. The smart money seems to be on Kalil coming back, but not Wallace.

          • Erik Van Dootingh

            The 5th year option for rookies has to be picked up the year prior. That decision was made last year for Kalil and Smith. It’s guaranteed for injury only, so since he’s healthy he now has a 1 year deal with no guarantees. We can cut him whenever we want.

          • enai D

            I’m pretty sure that’s inaccurate, there’s a deadline for the cut to be made with no dead-money hit- its either March 9 or June 1st, I’m not sure. If its June 1st that’s great because that’s well after free agency opens, but if its March 9th (the start of FA) then they can’t really explore other options since they’d risk ending up without a starting LT.

          • Erik Van Dootingh

            The June first deadline is about whether you want to divide a cap charge between this year and next year, or just take the entire hit this year. But that only matters if a guy has more than 1 year left on his deal. Check it out here:

            http://overthecap.com/salary-cap/minnesota-vikings

          • enai D

            Right, but the March 9 deadline is the start of the league year, and Kalil’s contract would kick in at that point- whereas if they cut him prior to that, his whole $11 mil comes off the books. But March 9 is the start of FA as well, and thus the quandary I’ve mentioned.

          • Erik Van Dootingh

            I don’t see what the quandary is. Cutting him at any point between March 9 and June 1 will still result in having his entire contract coming off the books. He has no guaranteed money. We can hang onto him for now, see if we can find a replacement in FA, if so cut him later, if not keep him.

          • enai D

            He definitely won’t be getting anywhere near that kind of money, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t get any offers at all (or that he wouldn’t be annoyed if the Vikings did in fact just cut him). Still seems awfully risky to me, especially considering how important the position is.

  • enai D

    Don’t the Vikings have to make the decision on Kalil’s option before free agency starts? In other words, they’d have to not pick up his option and gamble on signing an upgrade in FA, while risking that they whiff on the desired free agents and end up worse off than they were with Kalil. That’s not something I see happening.

    • NAJ

      Can’t they release him post June 1st with no cap penalty??

      • enai D

        Not sure what you’re looking at, the deadline for player options is March 9th (as per nfl.com), which is when they’ll have to make the decision on Kalil.

        • NAJ
          • enai D

            Right but the option doesn’t become guaranteed until after March 9th- if they cut him before then, he doesn’t get a penny and none of his salary counts against the cap. But that same deadline is the start of FA, so they wouldn’t be able to try to find a replacement until after they had already made the decision on Kalil- but there’s virtually no way they’re going to risk whiffing on a replacement and ending up without a starting left tackle, so its all but assured Kalil is a Viking for one more year at least.

  • Mnstorm99

    While I would like for them to keep Greenway for sentimental reasons, OLB and Saftey are two positions keeping the Vikings Defense from Elite status. These positions seem like they can be addressed through the draft. I trust Zimmer to find Defensive talent in the 2-4 rounds. An inexpensive player like Abdullah would also be a definite upgrade, but will slick Rick sign a player over 30?
    I still think the O-line is the main priority in free agency. They need to keep Teddy B standing.