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NFC North in Free Agency: Vikings retain Anthony Barr, but lose some depth

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The Vikings were able to keep a top free agent prize this off-season, but they weren’t able to keep key depth pieces from finding work elsewhere

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports

The big story for the Minnesota Vikings’ free agent spending revolves mostly around re-signing veteran linebacker Anthony Barr — who almost left for the New York Jets — and losing some real depth pieces. After a change of heart, Barr is staying in Minnesota, but the same can’t be said for many other now-former Vikings who were cut or allowed to walk.

The rest of the NFC North knows Barr. Packers fans know him especially well, unfortunately. Their free agent additions who are new to the team are less sexy than the Barr re-signing, however. They signed guard Josh Kline to a three-year, $15.5 million deal, defensive tackle Shamar Stephen for three years, and quarterback Sean Mannion to backup Kirk Cousins.

The glaring weakness for the Vikings the past couple seasons has been their patchwork offensive line. Kline might be another band-aid attempting to cover much more serious symptoms. Kline played 16 games at guard for the Tennessee Titans last year, but was released and replaced with former Rams guard Roger Saffold. Kline does have the longest active start streak among guards in the NFL (46 games), however.

The signing of Shamar Stephen helps ease the loss of Sheldon Richardson and while having insurance to backup Kirk Cousins is good, Mannion is far from a sure thing. He will have to secure the backup spot and compete with Kyle Sloter (Yeah, I had to Google that name, too).

With their salary cap tied up pretty significantly in high-end players, the Vikings need to really hit on their draft picks to provide the requisite depth needed for deep playoff runs. Losing Tom Compton and Nick Easton while releasing Mike Remmers on the offensive line isn’t terrible from a talent perspective, but it does make them thin at a unit tasked with protecting their expensive quarterback.

The Vikings also took some hits in the secondary, losing safeties Andrew Sendejo and George Iloka, but the biggest hole from that unit could be losing Marcus Sherels. The corner and punt returner was always a threat to take one to the house on special teams, even if he didn’t provide above average coverage skills.

Running backs are pretty replaceable and the Vikings will look to do just that after losing Latavius Murray. Former Lion Ameer Abdullah and Michael Boone are the primary backups on the depth chart behind Dalvin Cook and I expect Boone to be the primary relief guy. Not only because Abdullah is an under-performing pass-catching back, but because Boone showed real promise last preseason.

The Vikings have been able to retain their blue-chip talent for the most part, but their lack of depth could really rear its ugly head as the season goes along.

Major Additions

  • Josh Kline, G (from Titans)
  • Shamar Stephen, DT (Seahawks)
  • Sean Mannion, QB (Rams)

Re-signed

  • Anthony Barr, LB
  • Ameer Abdullah, RB
  • Dan Bailey, K

Departed in Free Agency/Released

  • Latavius Murray, RB (Saints)
  • Marcus Sherels, CB/PR (Saints)
  • Andrew Sendejo, S (Eagles)
  • Sheldon Richardson, DT (Browns)
  • Tom Compton, OL (Jets)
  • Nick Easton, G (Saints)
  • George Iloka, S (Cowboys)
  • Mike Remmers, G (unsigned)