EAGAN, Minn. -- The Vikings went after AAF players last year. Now, they could turn their attention to the XFL.
With the first-year spring league having cancelled the remainder of its season due to the coronavirus pandemic, XFL players can begin talking to and can sign with NFL teams Monday, March 23. There will be some players available who could help the Vikings.
The Vikings last year signed five players after the Alliance of American Football, also a spring league, folded during its first season. None ended up making the 53-man roster, but spots last year were harder to come by than they are now.
Quite simply, the Vikings need players. Over the past 1 1/2 weeks, they have released nose tackle Linval Joseph, cornerback Xavier Rhodes, guard Josh Kline and tight end David Morgan, traded wide receiver Stefon Diggs to Buffalo for draft picks and have lost in free agency defensive ends Everson Griffen and Stephen Weatherly, cornerbacks Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander, safeties Jayron Kearse and Andrew Sendejo and wide receiver Laquon Treadwell.
While they have had 12 players depart, the Vikings’ only outside addition so far has been nose tackle Michael Pierce, a free agent who signed a three-year, $27 million deal to replace Joseph.
AAF players the Vikings brought in last year and eventually cut were safety Derron Smith, linebacker Greer Martini, defensive end Karter Schult, cornerback Duke Thomas and defensive back Jordan Martin. Martin was cut in the spring while the other four made it to the end of the preseason.
Smith and Martini both played in the XFL. On a list ESPN put out Sunday of the top nine XFL prospects available to the NFL, Smith, of the Dallas Renegades, was ranked No. 6.
The Vikings need help at safety with the departures of Kearse and Sendejo. And Smith has NFL experience, having played with Cincinnati and Cleveland from 2015-17.
Some believed Smith would make the Vikings’ opening roster last season as the No. 4 safety. He ended up being let go in favor of rookie Marcus Epps, who was waived in November to create room on the roster for Sendejo to be claimed on waivers from Philadelphia. Epps was then claimed by the Eagles.
Rated by ESPN as the No. 7 prospect was cornerback Jamar Summers of the New York Guardians. A source said last year the Vikings had some interest in signing Summer when he came out of the AAF but didn’t because he was working his way back from an injury. Summers eventually spent time last year on offseason NFL rosters for Miami and Detroit.
Minnesota’s biggest need is in the secondary. The Vikings also could use help at wide receiver, and the ESPN list at that position has Cam Phillips of the Houston Roughnecks at No. 2 and Dan Williams of the Tampa Bay Vipers at No. 9.
ESPN reported that scouts believe the XFL had between 50 and 80 NFL-quality players on its rosters.