Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Vikings Weekly Wrap – March 25th Edition

Where Kick Ass Blog discusses some of the more relevant stories that broke this week when it comes to the Vikings.

Pro Football Focus thinks highly of Geoff Schwartz. John Carlson, not so much
Pro Football Focus is a good football site and it has been tracking the free agent signings in the NFL with gusto. So what does PFF think of the Vikings more high profile signings? You can check it out here.

Essentially PFF loves the Schwartz signing, can't understand why the Vikes only signed weakside linebacker Erin Henderson to a one-year deal, and think Rick Spielman got a dud when he signed tight end John Carlson.

That's PFF's opinion. My opinion is Carlson is a guy who caught 50-plus passes his first two years in the league, then saw his production dip in year three when his quarterbacks were a broken down Matt Hasselback and Charlie Whitehurst – who cannot play. Last year, of course, he was hurt all season.

He can't block, but the Vikings don't expect him to. If he can produce anything in the neighborhood of his statistics from year two (51 catches, 574 yards, seven TDS), Minnesota will be pleased. (In his five seasons with the Vikings, Visanthe Shiancoe only caught over 50 passes once – in 2009.)

As for Erin Henderson, he had a good year in 2011, but you couldn't say he was a guy who flashed consistently and made game-changing plays. If he keeps progressing the Vikings will approach him about an extension during the 2012 season. If not, they let him test the market again in 2013 rather than locking up a guy with one decent year under his belt for big money. The Vikings front office has made an acceptable gamble in this case.

The Schwartz signing seems like a good one. There is nothing wrong with bargain hunting. But the Vikings free agency strategy so far has not addressed wide receiver, cornerback or the middle linebacker positions. And that makes a fan worry a bit.

... but maybe it's not Rick Spielman's fault
Most Viking fans are less than pleased with Spielman player procurement efforts this offseason. But The National Football Post's Jack Bechta points out that GMs sometimes have their hands tied during free agency.

Bechta's piece is a bit self-serving – of course he thinks every team should spend liberally during free agency – he's an agent. But he does provide food for thought. The Vikings free agency philosophy this year falls under option #3 in Bechta's article (get younger, stay out of the initial phase of free agency, and maybe pick up a few players at the minimum to fill some holes. Build through the draft.)

So has Vikings owner Zygi Wilf told Spielman he won't be spending big bucks on free agents this year? During his time as the Vikings owner, Wilf has usually been willing to spend money on players the team wanted. However, with an uncertain stadium situation and perhaps the thought of selling the team in play, maybe Wilf is no longer willing to fork over big bucks to put the best product on the field for Viking fans.

Obviously, I'm not part of the team's inner circle of decision-makers, but it's hard to believe Wilf has locked up the vaults entirely. The team did sign Carlson to a sizeable contract. I really believe this minimalist free agency strategy is part of Spielman's master plan to rebuild the Vikings, for better or worse.

Does The National Football Post know something we don't?

At the NFP, Wes Bunting issues his latest mock draft and in this piece by Matt Bowen, the former NFL safety writes positively about LSU cornerback Morris Caliborne. Both guys think the Vikings should take Claiborne instead of USC left tackle Matt Kalil in April's draft.

Hmmm. I've read that Cover Two clubs like Minnesota don't need standout corners to excel because they play so much zone and so drafting corners early in the draft isn't necesary. Maybe that's the conventional wisdom, but it's odd wisdom nonetheless. The Cover Two scheme became popular because Tony Dungy used it with great success in Tampa Bay. And who was one of the key players in Tampa Bay that made that defense go during those glory days? Ronde Barber – a five-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro.

The lesson here? Even the Cover Two benefits from having great talent in the secondary. The question the Vikings face: is an elite left tackle more important than an elite cornerback? And is Claiborne an "elite" cornerback?

I've watched the Vikings defensive backfield play subpar football for much of the Cover Two's five year run in Minnesota. I've seen the results of using less than elite guys in the secondary. But I think you've got to go for a player who will protect your most important asset (Christian Ponder) over a corner in this case. Picking either Kalil or Claiborne wouldn't be wrong for the Vikings considering they have a desperate need for both. But I think picking Claiborne would be less right in this case.

Tell us how you feel, John Sullivan
Last season Vikings center John Sullivan emerged as the offensive line's best player. Now, after speaking out against the New Orleans Saints bounty program, he's emerging into a team leader.

I like the cut of Sullivan's gib. Here is a guy who is taking a strong stand on a high profile issue and he's not afraid of the consequences (think a few opposing defensive players won't want to take some cheap shots at his knees in 2012?)

This bounty business makes me wonder about that extremely low hit Washington's DeJon Gomes delivered on Adrian Peterson last December. Was Gomes looking to take Peterson out in that game? Things happen fast in an NFL game. But when you lead with your helmet around the knee area, as Gomes did on that hit, bad things often happen.


  1. I like Schwartz too. He gonna be the right guard? So the line will look like Kalil, Charlie, Sullivan, Schwartz and Loadholt from left to right? That's sounding a lot better than the 2009 line.

    I think Carlson's an OK player. 50 catches each from him and Rudolph would go a long way to helping out the offense. Those two plus Harvin... just need a real #1 receiver to be respectable and really gauge what potential Ponder has.

    I like Sullivan. I met him before the 2009 season began (he hosted some cell phone store's grand opening, it was kinda weird). He seems like a nice, genuiune guy. Very intelligent, too. He didn't have a great 2009 and I found myself wishing Birk had stuck around when Favre was getting planted a lot, but I was rooting for his improvement, too. I was happy/relieved he looked better last season.

    I'm glad he has spoken out so explicitly against the whole bounty thing. I think when a proven player who stays out of trouble and doesn't speak up much (or ever, really) DOES come out and say something like this, people sit up and pay a bit of attention. I try to strive for that in my own life: to be of good reputation and above reproach and also to not be loud or opinionated until something I am truly passionate about occurs. Then when I speak, people listen.

    Although, online, I say all sorts of stuff for any reason at all. Funny how that works.