Let’s pick up where we left off yesterday and take a look at the Vikings’ free agents on defense and special teams.
Father Time always gets the best of NFL players, especially at positions as physically-demanding as defensive back. Newman is no longer an exception. The 39 year-old is coming off a season where he posted career lows in tackles, passes defended and interceptions despite playing in all 16 games. He still has the smarts and the ability, just not the speed.
If Newman decides this is not the year to hang up the cleats, then I do not think it would be a terrible idea for the Vikings to bring him back. He will not ask for too much because of his age, and at this point, he is likely just looking for a ring. Sign him for another year, give him similar playing time to this past season and let him continue to teach the younger guys on how to play defensively. It can only be a benefit.
A Minnesota native and fan favorite, Marcus Sherels has been on this team for one reason; punt returning. This should not change.
Sherels is a guy who knows his role. He goes out there and does his job. On top of that, he is a solid punt returner. This past season, he and Alex Erickson tied for the most punt returns with 39. Sherels also posted the third-most punt return yards in the NFL with 372.
As a one-role guy, Sherels is likely not to cost much. Cross punt returner off the position changes list and focus on something else because Marcus Sherels should be re-signed to a one or two-year deal.
Coming to Minnesota via trade with the Seattle Seahawks, Tramaine Brock only played 51 defensive snaps in the 11 games he played for the Vikings. In that time, he had one pass defended.
Thankfully for Minnesota, Brock only cost them a seventh-round pick which they are expected to get back via compensatory picks. Do not expect Brock to be back next season.
After Chad Greenway‘s retirement, there was a three-way competition at OLB to take over that starting role. Ben Gedeon, Emmanuel Lamur and Edmond Robinson battled for the position, with Gedeon eventually beating them out. With this, Lamur finished the season with just 17 total tackles, making it highly unlikely that Minnesota brings the 28 year-old back on another contract.
Starting his career at 27, the now 33-year-old Tom Johnson is coming off of one of his most productive seasons in the NFL. H posted 32 tackles and 2 sacks while starting 15 games for Minnesota. He also received an Approximate Value of 8.0 by Pro Football Reference, a career high for Johnson.
I would expect Minnesota to bring Johnson back due to him out-playing younger teammate, Shamar Stephen, whose contract is also up this season. Fourt-round pick Jaleel Johnson is waiting for his opportunity to get more playing time as well, so Johnson may see his playing time diminish in the coming seasons. Nevertheless, Johnson has shown that he still has some left in the tank and he offers depth at defensive tackle.
Stephen only started one game this season due to the rise of veteran Tom Johnson, only recording 28 tackles and 1 sack. With this statline, Pro Football Reference gave Stephen a value grade of 2.0. Unless Minnesota feels they could use him for depth, I expect Stephen to be looking for work over the offseason.
Special Teams UFAs
Forbath needed a fresh start and got it with Minnesota, going 15-for-15 on field goal attempts in his first season as a Viking. This past season, he went 32-for-38 on field goal attempts and improved his extra-point percentage this season as compared to the previous.
Has he been perfect? No. But when needed the most with just over a minute left in the Divisional Round of the playoffs against his former team, Forbath came through with a 53-yard boot that put Minnesota on top, albeit temporarily. The point is that he did what Walsh could not: He came through in the clutch. And with a Vikings team that has the potential to make the playoffs for years to come, it is good to have that kicker with ice in his veins when it really counts.