Free agency kicks off Tuesday, ushering in one of the busiest weeks of the year in the NFL.
One intriguing team to keep an eye on: the Minnesota Vikings.
New coach Mike Zimmer was hired to revamp a defense that leaked yardage and points last season. The Vikings looked nothing like the aggressive unit that Zimmer commanded as the defensive coordinator in Cincinnati, but Minnesota is a good bet to add its share of Bengals this offseason.
"It always helps because of the communication," Zimmer told reporters on Thursday, per The Star Tribune.
The coach acknowledged "it's not imperative" to add players who already know his defense, but admitted: "It'd be nice."
Free-agent pass rusher Michael Johnson is the most obvious target after playing under Zimmer for the past five seasons. With north of $40 million in salary-cap space, the Vikings have the dough to add him to a suddenly paper-thin defensive line that won't have Jared Allen back in 2014.
We agree with The Star Tribune's suggestion that Bengals restricted free agent Vincent Rey is another possibility. The Bengals slapped him with the lowest tender, meaning Minnesota would need to float Cincy a draft pick equal to the round Rey was drafted. Thing is, he wasn't drafted, so the cost would be zero. Rey was a revelation for the Bengals last season and sits out there as a young player with promise.
With Taylor Mays, Brandon Ghee and Chris Crocker also set to hit the open market, Minnesota has a chance to stock its defense with players deeply familiar with Zimmer's scheme. It's something to watch for when the free-agency carnival gets underway.
Update: ESPN.com's Ben Goessling confirms the Vikings contacted Michael Johnson once the NFL's legal tampering window opened Saturday. They will have plenty of competition for Johnson's services. Lovie Smith and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers reportedly are "pushing hard" for the former Bengal. The Chicago Bears and Philadelphia Eagles have also been linked to Johnson.