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Grading the Minnesota Vikings' Key Free Agent Additions So Far

From Jonathan Greenard to Sam Darnold, here are the grades for all of Minnesota's big moves.
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The Vikings acquired five notable players during the first two days of free agency, at least four of whom can be expected to start for them when the 2024 season begins six months from now. They agreed to multi-year deals with three versatile, playmaking defenders on Monday, then signed a bridge quarterback and an established running back to one-year deals on Tuesday to bolster their offense.

There's likely more to come, but for now, let's grade each of the Vikings' five additions from a busy two-day period.

OLB Jonathan Greenard: B+

The Vikings kicked off free agency by quickly agreeing to terms with Greenard, who had a breakout 12.5-sack season with the Texans last year. Minnesota and Houston essentially wound up swapping pass rushers, as Danielle Hunter went back to his hometown on a two-year, $49 million deal the next day. The moves make sense for both teams; Houston is going for it this year with a star QB on a rookie contract, while the Vikings landed a younger replacement who they hope will be a big part of their ascension over the next few seasons.

Greenard is an agile, long-armed pass rusher. He emerged with eight sacks in 2021, dealt with an injury in 2022, and then had a career year last season. He's explosive off the edge and is still developing his full array of moves to beat tackles. The only question marks with Greenard are his injury history — he missed 16 combined games over the past three seasons — and his inconsistency as a tackler against the run. The Vikings are betting that his best football is still ahead of him.

OLB Andrew Van Ginkel: A

If Greenard was the Hunter replacement, Van Ginkel is the D.J. Wonnum replacement — and he's probably a much better fit for Brian Flores' defense. Flores would know, as he coached AVG for the first three years of his career in Miami. The Iowa native and former Wisconsin standout is durable, versatile, and was highly productive during his five seasons with the Dolphins. He's just a heck of an all-around football player. He can rush the passer, he can defend the run, he can drop into coverage, and he can play special teams. Van Ginkel's 91.1 PFF grade last season ranked eighth among all edge defenders. 

This feels like a no-brainer move for the Vikings due to Van Ginkel's playmaking ability and his experience in Flores' scheme. I love this pickup for Minnesota.

LB Blake Cashman: B-

The Vikings took another defensive piece from the Texans when they signed Cashman to a three-year deal. It's a homecoming for the Eden Prairie native and former Gophers star, who earned quite the paycheck after being drafted in the fifth round and starting eight total games in his first four seasons. Cashman started 13 games for Houston last year and played extremely well, earning an 83.7 PFF grade that ranked fifth in the league among inside linebackers (minimum 500 snaps). He's an excellent athlete who shined both in run defense and coverage last season. 

With Cashman, the concern is that the Vikings might be putting too much weight on one single season of high-level production. He's four years younger than predecessor Jordan Hicks, who signed a two-year, $8 million deal with the Browns. Which of those deals is a better value? We'll find out. Like Greenard and Van Ginkel, Cashman is coming off of the best season of his career in 2023. The Vikings clearly believe that their new defenders can continue to perform at a very high level under Flores.

QB Sam Darnold: C+

I agreed with the Vikings' decision to let Kirk Cousins walk in free agency, especially considering the price the Falcons paid to get him. And considering the options at their disposal, I fully understand why they then went out and agreed to a one-year deal with Darnold. After seeing plenty of criticism over the signing, I wrote a column defending it as a sensible move. As a bridge quarterback paired with a first-round rookie passer, Darnold is a decent acquisition who might have the potential to resurrect his career a la Baker Mayfield last year. I just can't go higher than a C+ for a guy with a career 59.7 completion percentage and 78.3 passer rating.

I wouldn't be stunned if Darnold wins the job and plays well this year; the Vikings are a truly ideal offensive environment for a quarterback. I'm just taking the wait-and-see approach here.

RB Aaron Jones: A+

When the Packers released Jones after signing Josh Jacobs, the Vikings were ready to pounce. They signed the former Pro Bowler to an affordable one-year deal that's worth a bit more than what the Packers — who wanted him to take a pay cut — were offering. It's just a one-year addition for a team that probably isn't contending for a title, but Jones still feels like such a slam dunk signing for Minnesota. He was consistently very good in Green Bay, racking up over 8,000 yards from scrimmage and 63 touchdowns in seven seasons. 

Jones recovered from an injury last season to finish the year with five-straight 100-yard rushing games. He's efficient (5.0 career YPC), he's explosive, he fits the Vikings' zone scheme perfectly, and he can catch the ball out of the backfield. Jones should form a nice duo with Ty Chandler and makes things easier for whoever's playing quarterback in Minnesota, whether it's Darnold or Nick Mullens or a rookie. What's not to like?

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