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We are just three weeks out from free agency, and the Vikings are still in the red financially. OverTheCap has them $16 million over the salary cap — a number that will have to be reduced before they can make any moves with their 20 free agents.

The Vikings could free up a lot of money in a hurry by either trading or extending Kirk Cousins and Danielle Hunter, who are the primary dominos that need to fall to gauge the team’s budget. They’ve also got another half dozen high-priced veterans who could be cut, traded or restructured.

For the sake of this exercise, let’s assume a modest free agent budget for the Vikings in the ballpark of $25 million and evaluate what they’ll do with their in-house FAs.

*Players are unrestricted free agents unless otherwise designated

QB Sean Mannion

After three years as the Vikings back-up, it seems time to move on from Mannion, who looked overmatched in his Week 17 start at Lambeau Field. There’s a great chance the Vikings will employ an established starter (be it Cousins or another veteran), Kellen Mond and a rookie draft pick, leaving little room for Mannion on the roster.

Odds of return: <5%

RB Wayne Gallman

The Vikings signed Gallman for extra depth when their running back room was hurting, but there’s little reason to move forward with him since Dalvin Cook, Alexander Mattison and Kene Nwangwu are all returning. The Vikings can always find extra depth in the UDFA ranks.

Odds of return: <1%

WR Dede Westbrook

Westbrook was expected to be much more than a 10-catch receiver, but K.J. Osborn usurped him amidst a breakout season. Ihmir Smith-Marsette also has promise, which could make Westbrook expendable, but he does have a good relationship with wide receivers coach Keenan McCardell and was effective enough at returning punts. The door might be open on a very cheap deal.

Odds of return: 10-15%

WR Chad Beebe

Feels like the end of the road for Beebe in Minnesota after another season was wiped out by injury. Remember, the Vikings also get Bisi Johnson and Blake Proehl back to compete for roster spots, and Beebe has just 26 receptions in four seasons on the team.

Odds of return: <5%

TE Tyler Conklin

I wrote back in December that Conklin is set to get paid. The Vikings tight end could make four years, $30 million his starting point in negotiations, which he deserves based on last year’s production. That’s a lot to dough to pay a tight end when there are pressing defensive back and offensive line needs. Plus, Kevin O’Connell is excited to use Irv Smith Jr., and he’s not going to run the type of offense that would be able to sustain two highly-paid tight ends if they want to pay Smith next year. Letting Conklin walk and finding a new tight end to back up Smith (maybe Zach Davidson?) is the prudent move. Never say never, but Conklin seems to have priced himself out of Minnesota’s budget.

Odds of return: 10-15%

TE Luke Stocker

He was a pure blocking tight end that the Vikings never intended to use much, but Chris Herndon’s ineffectiveness made it necessary. One gets the sense that O’Connell is looking to have pass-catching weapons up and down the roster like the Rams did, so while there could be a place for a third-string tight end, Stocker is unlikely to be a priority.

Odds of return: <5%

TE Chris Herndon

He was traded for a fourth-round pick and only made four receptions in 2021. Unless O’Connell sees Herndon as a better fit in his pass-first system, it’s probably going to be happy trails for the 26-year-old, who will go down as one of the team’s biggest recent whiffs.

Odds of return: <5%

LT Rashod Hill

Now given two chances to be a starter, Rashod Hill hasn’t been able to prove himself as a trustworthy option. Do the Vikings want to continue bringing him back? Hill has been a class act for six seasons in Minnesota, but he appeared to get jumped in the rotation last year by Blake Brandel. Plus, Oli Udoh could also play tackle if needed in a pinch. Hill is still a great locker room guy with organizational familiarity and a cheap price tag, but the Vikings may look elsewhere for their tackle depth.

Odds of return: 5-10%

G Dakota Dozier

The Vikings kept Dozier in a practice squad role most of last season following a dreadful 2020 campaign. Similar to Rashod Hill, he may have been retained a year too long. With a new coaching staff in place, the Vikings would be best off bringing in fresh blood to round out their offensive line instead of keeping remnants of the old regime.

Odds of return: <5%

C Mason Cole

Hey, acquiring Mason Cole wasn’t actually a terrible move! While his pass blocking still left plenty to be desired, Cole’s run blocking was good enough to make him the No. 13 overall center (out of 40), per Pro Football Focus.

As an interior swing man, Cole could do decent work on a one-year deal.

Odds of return: 30%

CB Patrick Peterson

Before Mike Zimmer was fired, Patrick Peterson said he’d like to be back. After Mike Zimmer was fired, Patrick Peterson also said he’d like to be back. Taking him at face value, we can conclude that Patrick Peterson would like to return, but at what cost? Peterson played last year on an $8 million deal and was good enough to prove he still belongs in the league, but perhaps not dominant enough to prove worthy of a multi-year commitment. Presumably, that’s what he’d be seeking, not to mention a spot on a contender, which the Vikings aren’t guaranteed to be.

The odds he departs are probably better than 50/50, but on a cornerback-starved roster, it’s not out of the realm of possibility the Vikings try to make something work. Peterson remains a valuable veteran in the locker room.

Odds of return: 35%

CB Mackensie Alexander

Alexander seemed to get dragged down by the Vikings’ porous defense last year. While Bashaud Breeland took most of the arrows for his game-changing lapses in coverage, Alexander sunk below him as the worst-graded corner in all of football who had over 250 snaps. That’s a pretty shocking fall for someone who was considered a solid if not spectacular slot corner. Maybe he was victimized by a bad defense around him, but it still seems unlikely that a new coaching staff will want Alexander back.

Odds of return: <10%

LB Anthony Barr

Kevin O’Connell was eager to talk about Anthony Barr in his introductory press conference, despite Barr’s free agent status. Maybe O’Connell was still haunted by images of Matthew Stafford throwing two careless interceptions to Barr in Week 16 at U.S. Bank Stadium, or maybe the new coach has plans for Barr in the defense’s new 3-4.

Barr probably can’t return unless the deal is extremely team friendly, but his injury history could stifle the market for his services and make a return a possibility. If Barr wants to continue playing with friend Eric Kendricks in a city he’s called home since 2014, he’ll need to make some concessions.

Odds of return: 25%

LB Nick Vigil

If the Vikings are going to run a 3-4, they’ll need to think differently about linebackers. Vigil would be asked to be an inside linebacker in a 3-4, and the Vikings will need to evaluate whether that’s in his wheelhouse. Vigil is solid enough as a coverage guy, and he showed the ability to blitz occasionally, too. He’s a possibility to return on a $1-2 million contract.

Odds of return: 20%

DE Everson Griffen

It’s unclear whether Everson Griffen will play football again following a mental health incident that he connected with being bipolar. Twice now in four years Griffen has missed a long stretch of games for mental health reasons, and many of the familiar faces that helped him in Minnesota are gone, including defensive line coach Andre Patterson. The likelihood of him returning to the Vikings seems slim.

Odds of return: <5%

DE Tashawn Bower

Appeared in four games last year in his second career stint with the Vikings. At age 27, he’s probably past the point of being an intriguing project pass rusher.

Odds of return: <1%

DT Sheldon Richardson

Richardson seemed to play better last season when asked to move outside, and he finished the season tied for 22nd in pressures among interior defensive linemen (though his edge rushing snaps gave him better opportunities).

The 31-year-old openly said he played for Andre Patterson last year hoping to reset his stock and get paid on the open market once again, so it’s unlikely he’ll take any bargains with Patterson no longer in the mix.

Odds of return: 5-10%

S Xavier Woods

After a fast start to the season, Woods faded down the stretch. While the veteran seemed a half step slow in coverage, rookie Camryn Bynum made a gigantic impact in his two starts in place of Harrison Smith. It would be an easy cost-saving move to earmark Bynum as the starter and let Woods walk.

Odds of return: 5-10%

P Jordan Berry

Finishing 13th in net punt average and 15th in return yards averaged, Berry had a solid year in Minnesota. He also had the big-leg potential to unload some colossal punts that flipped the field. Bringing him back to punt and hold for Greg Joseph again would make plenty of sense.

Odds of return: 60%

K Greg Joseph (RFA)

As an RFA, the Vikings could bring back Joseph on an estimated $2.4 million tender that other teams would be unlikely to match, or they could roll the dice, let Joseph become a free agent and try to re-sign him to a cheaper deal. The first-year Vikings kicker finished 18th in field goal percentage and 22nd in extra point percentage in a season where he was constantly asked to make pressure-packed kicks. Joseph was about 50/50 in those situations, but he did end the season on a high note with four games in a row sans a miss.

Odds of return: 60%

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