Vikings In-House Free Agents: How Likely is Each Player to Return to Minnesota?

Breaking down all ten of the Vikings' 2021 unrestricted free agents, led by Anthony Harris and Eric Wilson.

The start of the 2021 NFL league year on March 17th is roughly three weeks away, so it's time to start getting ready for the whirlwind of free agency. Over the coming weeks, I'll be previewing the free agent classes at major positions of need for the Vikings. But first, let's take a look at Minnesota's in-house free agents and assess the likelihood of each one being brought back for next season.

The Vikings have ten players set to become unrestricted free agents. Those are the ones I'll be discussing here, so you won't see restricted free agents Ifeadi Odenigbo, Chad Beebe, Mike Boone, or Chris Jones mentioned (I'll write about that group sometime soon).

Here's a quick breakdown of all ten UFAs, with some thoughts on their status heading into 2021 and an educated guess as to whether the chances they return to Minnesota are strong, moderate, or slim. The players are listed in order of 2020 salary.

S Anthony Harris

  • 2020 salary: $11.44 million (franchise tag)
  • Age during 2021 season: 30

Harris is easily the Vikings' biggest free agent; he's the only one you'll find represented on rankings of the NFL's top FAs (both PFF and Sporting News have him in their top ten). Those rankings have more to do with his track record than what Harris put on tape in 2020. The former undrafted free agent was one of the best safeties in the NFL in 2018 and 2019, intercepting ten passes (including playoffs) over that two-year span and shining as a rangy deep safety with incredible anticipation and ball skills. In 2020, the Vikings' defense was ravaged by injuries and an exodus of veteran talent, and Harris's play regressed while he tried to adjust to new responsibilities. His tackle numbers went up as he was forced to compensate for weaknesses everywhere else on the defense, but he went without a single interception and was charged with four touchdowns allowed in coverage (per PFF). Harris is an obvious bounce-back candidate in 2021, since he'll almost certainly have a better situation around him. That's probably not going to be in Minnesota, though. After franchise-tagging Harris last year, the salary cap-stressed Vikings will probably have to let him walk. Cleveland and Washington are two destinations that make sense, although plenty of teams could be interested. Likelihood of return: Slim

LB Eric Wilson

  • 2020 salary: $3.26 million (RFA tender)
  • Age during 2021 season: 27

Wilson is a very interesting player to evaluate. When Anthony Barr went down in Week 2, he was thrust into an every-down role for the remainder of the season. And early on, his ability to consistently generate splash plays sparked a conversation about whether or not he was making Barr expendable this offseason. Wilson had three interceptions, two fumble recoveries, and 2.5 sacks in a seven-game stretch after Barr went down. But as the season progressed, Wilson's weaknesses became more and more obvious. He's an athletic linebacker who can be asset in coverage but is a major liability as a run defender. Wilson was one of the worst LBs in the NFL against the run last season and missed 20 total tackles, five more than Barr had between 2017 and 2019 combined. For that reason, I'd expect the Vikings to bring Barr back and let someone else pay Wilson in free agency. Likelihood of return: Moderate

LB Todd Davis

  • 2020 salary: $1.05 million
  • Age during 2021 season: 29

Davis was brought in by the Vikings during the season because they had lost a remarkable number of linebackers to injury. His play was inconsistent, but 280 snaps is a small sample size. Prior to coming to Minnesota, Davis was a very solid inside LB for the Broncos for four seasons. He's basically the antithesis of Wilson in that he's strong against the run but struggles in coverage. The Vikings may look to bring Davis back to fill the Ben Gedeon role of a physical No. 3 LB who can make plays coming downhill. Likelihood of return: Moderate

S George Iloka

  • 2020 salary: $1.05 million
  • Age during 2021 season: 31

2020 didn't pan out for Iloka as he hoped it would, as he tore his ACL roughly a month after signing with the Vikings. Prior to getting hurt, he was Minnesota's No. 3 safety and a contributor on special teams. Iloka is a big, physical safety who displayed a strong all-around skillset during his days with the Bengals. However, he hasn't been a full-time starter since 2017 and is now coming off the ACL injury. He might face an uphill battle to make a 53-man roster in 2021. Likelihood of return: Slim

OT Rashod Hill

  • 2020 salary: $1.047 million
  • Age during 2021 season: 29

Hill has spent the last four seasons as the Vikings' swing tackle, starting 17 games over that span. When he got extended run as a starter in 2017 and 2018, the results were fairly uninspiring. But Hill has been solid when he's seen the field over the past couple years and should continue to stick around in the NFL as a top backup. He's a long, stout tackle who generally plays well in pass protection but lacks the athleticism to be an effective run blocker. Likelihood of return: Moderate

RB Ameer Abdullah

  • 2020 salary: $1.047 million
  • Age during 2021 season: 28

Abdullah has been a solid depth running back and a below-average kick returner for the Vikings since they claimed him on waivers in November 2018. He has 54 touches and three receiving TDs over the past two seasons but has been somewhat disappointing in his main role as the team's KR. Abdullah is a respected veteran leader and a prominent voice on the Vikings' social justice committee, but doesn't offer much on-field value at this stage in his career. Likelihood of return: Slim

QB Sean Mannion

  • 2020 salary: $1.047 million
  • Age during 2021 season: 29

One of the least threatening backup QBs in the league, Mannion has attempted 74 passes in five NFL seasons and has a 0/3 career touchdown to interception ratio. The Vikings have primarily kept him around for two reasons: a lack of better options and Mannion's value in the QB room, where he's an important part of Kirk Cousins' preparation. Minnesota could bring him back again in 2021, or they could turn to a competition between Jake Browning, Nate Stanley, and a rookie QB for the backup job. Likelihood of return: Moderate

G Dakota Dozier

  • 2020 salary: $1 million
  • Age during 2021 season: 30

Somehow, someway, Dozier started every single game at left guard for the Vikings last season. Despite being perhaps the worst full-time starting offensive lineman in the entire NFL, he was never replaced. It was a head-scratching commitment, as Dozier led all interior linemen with 46 pressures allowed and committed nine penalties. It would be surprising if he lands another starting job in 2021. Likelihood of return: Slim

C Brett Jones

  • 2020 salary: $910K
  • Age during 2021 season: 30

Jones is an interesting case. The Canadian was good as the Giants' starting center in 2017 but has seemingly never gotten a chance to start at guard for the Vikings over the past couple years. This past season, Jones came in and started two games (Weeks 11 and 12) for an injured Ezra Cleveland. He was excellent, allowing two total pressures and playing well in both facets of the game. And yet, when Cleveland was healthy, the Vikings refused to play Jones over Dozier for reasons I cannot imagine. Despite lacking size and athleticism, he's a solid backup IOL. Likelihood of return: Moderate

DT Jaleel Johnson

  • 2020 salary: $770K
  • Age during 2021 season: 27

Johnson has shown little upside since being selected in the fourth round in 2017. As his playing time has gone up each season, his quality of play has decreased. He's a tweener nose tackle/three technique with occasional flashes but no standout skill. Likelihood of return: Slim

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