The Vikings will have plenty of important decisions in the next week leading up to free agency, but a storyline that has been buried underneath their defensive needs is their desire to keep their special teams unit together.
Minnesota will have three key fixtures of their special teams unit hit the free-agent market in Britton Colquitt, Dan Bailey, and Marcus Sherels, and with a major turnaround in that department in 2019, it would seem likely that the Vikings want all three to return.
Colquitt expected to stay
With the tampering period commencing this weekend, the Vikings have some traction on that priority as the Pioneer Press' Chris Tomasson reports that Colquitt is expected to re-sign with the Vikings.
As a last-second signing prior to the 2019 season, Colquitt averaged 45.2 yards per punt. An extension with the soon-to-be 35-year-old is rumored to be about $2 to $3 million per season and would stop a trend of four different punters over the past four seasons.
Assessing Dan Bailey's market
While Colquitt would be a key signing, the Vikings also have to have an interest in retaining Bailey. The 32-year-old rebounded off a tough first season in Minnesota by connecting on 27-of-29 field goals (93.1%) and 40-of-44 extra-point attempts (90.9%) last season.
Those numbers look like a gold mine to many teams in the NFL, which saw kickers convert 81.6% of field goals last season – the lowest mark since 2010.
With Mason Crosby already setting the kicking market with a three-year, $12.9 million extension with the Packers, Bailey will be looking to cash in on a free-agent market where his biggest competition will be Los Angeles kicker Greg Zuerlein.
If Bailey is looking for a deal around the $4 to $5 million per season that Crosby received, it may be tough for the cash-strapped Vikings to match that price.
Sherels 50/50 on retirement
The final piece of the Vikings' special teams puzzle is Sherels. The 32-year-old is the franchise's all-time leader in punt return yardage (2,480), but also hits the free-agent market after spending part of last season with the Miami Dolphins.
The Rochester native has been a steady presence on special teams over the past decade and may look to make one last run with a Super Bowl contender, as he did when signing with the New Orleans Saints last season.
The Vikings struggled to find a punt returner for a majority of last season, so if Sherels is up for it, there's a chance the two sides could work out an agreement for an 11th season in Minnesota.