Vikings Veteran Eyeing Free Agency After Stalled Extension Talks, Insider Says

The new Minnesota Vikings regime has begun to establish its building blocks for the future by reaching a deal on a long-term extension with tight end T.J. Hockenson over Labor Day weekend.

And with extensions inevitable for Justin Jefferson and left tackle Christian Darrisaw, the rest of the roster will be impacted by how much cap space the three rising stars command in coming years.

Eight starters this season are playing on expiring contracts and are candidates to be re-signed after the season. But there’s only so much to go around, which will lead to some players leaving for free agency.

One player who can already be counted as a departure next offseason is tight end Johnny Mundt.

The Star Tribune’s Andrew Krammer reported that there were extension talks regarding Mundt internally but those talks didn’t go far with Mundt expected to explore his options in 2024 free agency.

“I heard they were discussing Johnny Mundt, who is a free agent after this season,” Krammer said on the “Access Vikings” podcast on August 31. “The discussions over a potential extension left with, ‘Well, all of our money probably is going to someone else.’ ”

Kevin O’Connell Calls Johnny Mundt the Best 3rd TE in the NFL

Johnny Mundt

GettyJohnny Mundt celebrates a touchdown during the second quarter of a win over the Arizona Cardinals in 2022.

Mundt may not be a major name in Vikings households, but he did make 12 starts and played in every game last season in place of an injured Irv Smtih Jr.

Mundt finished the season with 19 catches for 140 yards and a touchdown. Across six seasons in his career, Mundt has finished with a top-20 run-blocking grade at his position four times, per Pro Football Focus.

Mundt was the first player signed in free agency when Kevin O’Connell took over as head coach in 2022. O’Connell offered effusive praise for Mundt, who is buried underneath a deep tight end room after the Vikings acquired both Hockenson and Josh Oliver in the past 12 months.

“I don’t want to cause any major headlines, but I believe Johnny Mundt is the best [No. 3] tight end in the National Football League,” O’Connell said during an August 16 media conference. “If there was a category for that, Johnny would certainly get that in my opinion.

“So reliable. So trusted by not only myself but everybody in that huddle with him. The variety of jobs she can do on all three downs,” O’Connell added. “Doesn’t get enough credit for how well he runs or blocks for that matter.”

“I believe Johnny Mundt is the best 3rd TE in the NFL. If there was a category for that, Johnny would certainly get that in my opinion.” – Kevin O’Connell

— Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) August 12, 2023

Mundt’s expected departure to free agency doesn’t necessarily mean he’s gone for good. He’s largely played on minimum contracts throughout his career and could come back for a veteran minimum.

But after a career year in 2022, Mundt appears to be set to explore his options in free agency.

Vikings’ Recent Investment at TE Position

Johnny Mundt

GettyThe Vikings tight end room has seen significant investment under Kevin O’Connell.

Hockenson’s four-year, $66 million contract extension he signed on Thursday, September 1, continued an upward trend where tight ends are becoming a premier position in today’s NFL due to their versatility — and the Vikings are among the teams championing this movement.

Even before the Hockenson deal, Minnesota made another massive signing at the position by signing Oliver, formerly with the Baltimore Ravens, to a three-year, $21 million deal —  a top-20 contract at the position.

Minnesota will rank seventh in tight-end spending for the 2024 season when Hockenson’s extension kicks in. The Vikings will also likely have to sign at least one more tight end with Mundt and Nick Muse set to become free agents next spring.

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