Vikings' grade for free agency? Cousins, Richardson secure high mark

The Vikings get high marks for signing QB Kirk Cousins, perhaps the most coveted free agent. AP Photo/Jim Mone

A breakdown of the initial wave of free agency for the Minnesota Vikings:

Overall grade: A. It took two years of strategic planning for Minnesota to enter free agency with $53 million in salary-cap space. The Vikings set themselves up to be able to get any quarterback they wanted this offseason, and that's exactly what they did in offering Kirk Cousins -- 2018's top free agent -- an unprecedented fully-guaranteed contract. The Minnesota brass felt the franchise was a quarterback away from a Super Bowl and secured their man -- and then some -- with the acquisition of Cousins and defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson. These two signings alone put the Vikings among the NFL's biggest offseason winners. Now it's up to these players, along with the rest of this loaded roster, to win this season.

Most significant signing: Cousins is being viewed as a game-changing, potential franchise quarterback and the answer to solving the Vikings' issues of sustainability and longevity at the position. Richardson not only fills a critical need at the 3-technique spot, he puts the Vikings' defensive line in the conversation with Philadelphia, Jacksonville and the Los Angeles Rams as the NFL's best. If opponents were scared to run the ball against Minnesota last season, what's it going to be like now when Richardson lines up next to Linval Joseph?

These two signings headlined free agency in Minnesota, but the addition of experienced veteran Trevor Siemian as Cousins' backup and the re-signing of kicker Kai Forbath are also important pieces of the free-agency puzzle.

Most significant loss: Jarius Wright. The Vikings' trusty No. 3 receiver and third-down threat was a casualty of the salary cap. Minnesota restructured Wright's deal ahead of last season and needed the $2.64 million in cap space that came with releasing the receiver after six years with the franchise.

Wright's loss is significant. Over the past four years, Vikings QBs completed 69.5 percent of their passes when throwing in his direction, and 68 of Wright's 105 catches during that stretch moved the chains. Minnesota might sorely miss his reliability in big situations if Laquon Treadwell doesn't come along in Year 3, or options such as Stacy Coley, Brandon Zylstra and Cayleb Jones don't pan out at the No. 3 spot.

Player they should have signed: Bryce Callahan would've made for a nice addition in the secondary, especially with the uncertainty at nickel corner beyond this season, regardless of whether Terence Newman comes back for one last go-around in 2018.

Callahan is still on the open market and has until April 20 to sign his restricted free-agent offer sheet after being tendered by the Bears, so the Vikings could end up giving him a look in the second wave of free agency. Minnesota didn't have a ton to spend elsewhere but could've signed a proven veteran guard in Josh Sitton, who signed a two-year deal with the Dolphins after the Bears declined to pick up his $8 million option. Sitton played both right and left guard spots in Chicago and started 25 of the 26 games he played for the Bears.

Additions: Cousins, QB; Richardson, DT; Siemian, QB (via trade with Denver); Tom Compton, OL; Josiah Price, TE; Nick Dooley, LS; Reshard Cliett, LB; Forbath, K (re-signed); Anthony Harris, S (re-signed); Mack Brown, RB (re-signed); Dylan Bradley, DT (re-signed); Marcus Sherels, CB (re-signed).

Subtractions: Case Keenum, QB; Teddy Bridgewater, QB; Sam Bradford, QB; Jerick McKinnon, RB; Joe Berger, OL (retired); Tom Johnson, DT; Shamar Stephen, DT; Emmanuel Lamur, LB; Tramaine Brock, CB; Jeremiah Sirles, OL (no RFA tender); Wright, WR (cut for salary cap purposes).

What’s next: There's still a lot of work to be done this offseason, especially when it comes to adding depth on the offensive and defensive lines. Minnesota began chipping away at that last week by signing veteran swingman Compton, but the need is still there and might be filled via a deep guard class in the draft (see names like Will Hernandez, Billy Price et al). The Vikings also need more pieces for the rotation on the defensive line behind Richardson and Joseph.

Finding a true deep-threat receiver might be what the Vikings are looking for at the No. 3 spot, and adding another tight end to the mix would increase the options Cousins has at his disposal. The Vikings are privately prioritizing how they'll handle extensions coming due in 2019 for LB Anthony Barr, LB Eric Kendricks, WR Stefon Diggs and DE Danielle Hunter, not to mention what they'll do with CB Trae Waynes' fifth-year option. The financials a year from now become quite tricky, which is why an extension or two ahead of schedule this offseason is likely in the works.