Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Rick Spielman shows his aqua green biases during first two weeks of free agency

When Brad Childress was running the show in Minnesota, he had a habit of snapping up every available ex-Philadelphia Eagle he could lay his hands on.

If there was a player available with ties to Philly – Mike McMahon, Billy McMullen, Artis Hicks, Todd Pinkston, Koy Detmer, Thomas Tapeh, Greg Lewis – Childress brought them in, almost always with poor results.

I dredge up the memory of Chilly today only because I've noticed a similar trend exhibited by Vikings general manager Rick Spielman during this free agency period.

Before Spielman was hired by the Vikings in 2006, he spent four seasons with the Miami Dolphins from 2000-2004. He worked for three years as the team's player personnel czar and then one ill-fated year as Miami's general manager (he was fired at the end of 2004). It's a career arc that is almost identical to how his employment has evolved in Minnesota.

And since coming to Minnesota, he's shown an affinity for signing ex-Dolphins. That's never been truer than during the first two weeks of the 2012 NFL free aqency period.

Spielman resigned quarterback Sage Rosenfels - who played for Miami from 2002-2005 – two weeks ago. Last week he resigned backup defensive tackle Fred Evans (drafted by the Fins in '06), which was a surprise because Evans has been just a guy since arriving in Minnesota in 2007. Two days later former Dolphins fullback/running back Lex Hilliard (Miami draft class of '08) was brought aboard the Vikings ship.

Today we learned the Vikings hosted wide receiver/returner Ted Ginn Jr. – the Dolphins first round draft pick in 2007.

None of these players figure to be anything more than role players for the Vikings in 2012. But the skeptic in me has had my spidey sense tingled by the aqua green and orange-tinted glasses Spielman has been wearing when it comes to player acquisitions so far.

Spielman had no role in drafting any of these players, nor in selecting ex-Dolphins and current Viking free agents Devin Aromashodu (Miami draft class of '06) and Lorenzo Booker (Miami draft class of '07). But he still seems to like players with Miami ties, just as Childress liked those ex-Eagles.

The attraction is hard to figure. Miami has gone 51-75 since 2004 and has made the playoffs only once during this period. Is this a franchise the Vikings should be adding players from? It wouldn't be my first choice.

(By the way, if the Vikings do sign Ginn Jr. at a reasonable price, I think it's a good move. He won't be much of a factor as a receiver. He will be a factor as a punt and kickoff returner. In fact, he'd be the best return specialist the team has had since David Palmer. This is not an insignificant thing. A great punt and kickoff returner can help teams win games, shifting field position by consistently breaking off long returns and even scoring a touchdown or three. Yes, Percy Harvin is a fine kickoff returner, just as good or better than Ginn Jr. But the Vikings don't need Harvin taking unnecessary hits in that role if there's comparable option out there. Ginn Jr. is that option. And while Marcus Sherels produced some nice punt returns last year, he also struggled with knowing when to call fair catches and when to not field punts and just let them bounce into the end zone. There's no doubt Ginn Jr. would be a more dangerous player in this role. So if the Vikings can get one of the top kickoff and punt returners in the NFL signed, that's a win for this team.)

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  1. That's what I thought of when I heard the Ginn news: KR/PR guy. He's got great speed and good vision and decision making. Also, putting Harvin on the field for fewer special teams plays means more offensive plays. I can see how that will be a win for the team overall.

    I had forgotten about Rosenfels' Miami days, didn't know Evans was drafted by them, and didn't even know who Lex Hilliard was when that news broke. It's weird.

    Maybe taking players from a bad team isn't as dumb as it sounds, though. The team may be pporly coached and managed, letting good players go to waste. I mean, when Minnesota gets a player from a very good team (Moss from Patriots, most recently) it often ends up making the good team look smart for getting too much value from a player they know to be done.

    1. Peter:

      I'm hoping Spielman's grand plan will be revealed on draft day. I know fans need to give the guy more than a few months on the job to build things here. I also know free agent signings are expensive gambles and sometimes don't work out. (Packer fans initially groaned about Ted Thompson not being active signing FAs. You do't hear that now) But Spielman's "plan" so far has me worried.

  2. I forgot to add Greg Camarillo to the list of ex-Dolphins Spielman brought to Minnesota in last night's post.