Monday, March 12, 2012

Vikings Free Agency 2012: A Brief Primer

This just in - the Minnesota Vikings need to get better.

Which is why many Viking fans are expecting (hoping?) that the club will be active when the NFL's own version of March Madness arrives tomorrow.

I'm starting to wonder how active the Vikings will be. General manager Rick Spielman may have been prepping us for a free agent strategy that could be short on "big name" signings and signings in general.

That is probably for the best. In today's NFL, where most teams have got a handle on how to manage their money, free agents are only free agents because their previous employer let them be free agents. There is a lot of trash and quick fixes available, but not many players who fit what Spielman is looking for - young, productive players with upside. Still, if Spielman can hit on one or two quality signings, it will improve the Vikings immeasurably in 2012 and beyond. Free agency is full of potholes, yet it can help.

Andy Benoit at the Fifth Down Blog has been doing a bang-up job breaking down the available free agents. So if you're looking for some insight into how all the players stack up, read his posts on wide recievers; running backs; linebackers; defensive lineman; offensive lineman; defensive back and quarterback.

So what positions and players are the Vikings likely to target come Tuesday? Here are my uninformed guesses.

Wide Receiver

With DeSean Jackson and Stevie Johnson off the market, San Diego's Vincent Jackson will be popular - and pricey - to sign. Watch out for the team he visits first (the Bears are said to be interested). If it's the Vikings, they are in the driver's seat to get him. If it's somebody else, Jackson will be playing elsewhere in 2012 because if a team really wants a free agent, it doesn't let him make any other visits.

But as Tom Pelissero writes, the Vikings will likely be targeting "B" level free agents anyway.

I hadn't really paid much attention to Pierre Garcon, which shows how much I know about football, but he's a guy I expect Spielman will go after hard. Mario Manningham figures to be another target. And maybe Early Doucet.

Defensive Back

Yes, Brandon Carr and Cortland Finnegan are the jewels of this group. But they will be priced accordingly. Watch out for Saints corner Tracy Porter. He's a playmaker who is a bit under the radar and he's only 26. He fits the kind of free agent Spielman has said he is looking for.

The safety position is also a concern for the Vikings. So Laron Landry could tempt them (the Vikes were rumored to be interested in drafting him back in '07). The Colts just cut strong safety Melvin Bullitt. He's only 27 and played under Vikings defensive coordinator Alan Williams. He's also only played six games the past two seasons because of injuries. Bullitt's an injury risk, but he would come cheap and, if healthy, would be an upgrade over what the Vikes have been running out at safety the past two seasons.

Linebacker

Mention the Vikings most pressing needs and wide receiver, defensive back and offensive line are all front of mind. However, linebacker, and middle linebacker in particular, is an overlooked position of need.

E.J. Henderson is not coming back. So do you trust Jasper Brinkley and his surgically repaired hip to man the Mike linebacker role ably? Me neither.

The Lions Stephen Tulloch, Seattle's David Hawthorne and even the Falcons Curtis Lofton are guys that make sense for the Vikings if management isn't comfortable handing the job to Brinkley. For the record, Andy Benoit thinks Henderson has two or three good years left in him.

4 comments:

  1. Getting closer!

    What will they do? What will they do?

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  2. Peter:

    It might be more accurate to ask, as the pool dwindles (Colston resigned with the Saints today), what can they do?

    Garcon and Porter could be targets. I think free agency is going to be a downer, not just for Vikings fans, but fans of other teams.

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    Replies
    1. Could be. Half of my excitement comes from being able to hone my fantasy projections for players as the FA dust begins to settle. Colston NOT leaving New Orleans has an impact on Brees and Graham and others.

      I kinda hope Minnesota avoids Vincent Jackson. I like the idea of going for young-ish guys with upside exiting their rookie contracts.

      If nothing else, I hope they grab multiple bargain DBs of average skill level. That will cause and enormous upgrade in the secondary.

      A WR and/or LB would be icing on the cake.

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    2. For the Vikes, almost any DB - Eric Wright, William Gay, Robert Tate - would be an upgrade over what they've got.

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