And that could just be the start of big moves made this offseason to bolster the defense.
Pioneer Press reporter Chris Tomasson tweeted that the Vikings have expressed interest in Atlanta Falcons free agent safety Keanu Neal, who made the Pro Bowl in 2017 as a second-year star in the secondary.
Vikings free safety Anthony Harris, who received the franchise tag last offseason, is currently a free agent, forcing Minnesota to find an affordable replacement to start alongside Harrison Smith.
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Keanu Neal Is a High-Target Free Agent Despite Injuries
A 2016 first-round pick, Neal played in 30 of 32 games in his first two seasons and was a disruptive force, talking eight forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.
But after suffering back-to-back season-ending hamstring injuries in 2018 and 2019, his value to a serious hit. Neal bounced back in 2020, starting in 14 of 15 games and surpassing 100 combined tackles for the third time in his career to go along with a career-high nine tackles for loss.
Neal has proven himself both in coverage and as a hard-hitting run defense. Last season, he added an underrated element to his game as a blitzer which paid dividends for the Falcons.
Other teams interested in Neal include the Dallas Cowboys, Detroit Lions, New York Jets, Carolina Panthers and the Indianapolis Colts.
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Harris Still in the Realm of Possibility
Harris, who was an undrafted rookie in 2015, worked his way through the Vikings ranks and a starting role in 2019. He snagged an NFL-leading six interceptions last season before experiencing a down year — along with the rest of Minnesota’s defense.
He’s considered one of the top safety prospects in free agency and could garner interest from all the teams currently in play for Neal. Harris has not been counted out of Minnesota, yet, but he would likely leave money on the table to stick with the Vikings.
Harris has expressed that he’s cherished his time in Minnesota.
“I’ve been here my entire career,” Harris said in an end-of-season press conference. “It’s been great from everything down to the locker room to the executives, the coaches, to the city itself and how it’s treated me and my family. It definitely holds a special place with me.”
Smith said Harris and him keep in contact, and while Smith would like to see Harris return to the Vikings, he wished Harris success wherever he may land.
“You don’t know how it’s going to shake out,” Smith said. “We still stay in contact. We will talk about things that normal people talk about, and then we’ll talk about that stuff, too. No matter what, you always want to play with a guy like Anthony.”
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