With Rick Spielman’s first season as the official General Manager of the Minnesota Vikings nearing it’s end (no, I don’t necessarily mean two weeks from now) I wanted to take a look back at the moves that were made to help boost the Vikings from a three win season to an eight (or nine, or ten) win record the next year.

I want to start with the oft-criticized free agent class that he brought in.  The Vikings have really only had five free agent signings to see action this year, not including their own re-signings, so let’s take a look at what each on brought to the table.

TE JOHN CARLSON:  The $25 million contract signed by John Carlson became the butt of many jokes even before he played in his first game.  His production on the field hasn’t helped matters.  A sprained MCL caused him to miss to two games after missing all of his final season with the Seahawks, and it has been speculated that injuries have plagued his production on the field even when he was present.  His 11 catches for 60 yards on the season will surely end in his worst stats, other than the season he didn’t play, since he joined the league.  He has also yet to find the end zone as a Viking.  His solid blocking skills have gone mostly unnoticed by fans, but there are plenty of decent blocking tight ends in this league getting paid far less than Carlson.

Last week’s three reception performance was Carlson’s best of the year and he needs to continue to improve over the next two weeks if he plans on continuing to earn such lucrative salary.  At age 28, there is still some untapped potential there for a guy that has never come close to matching the expectations that scouts had for him in 2008.

GRADE:  D

FB JEROME FELTON:  Felton got off to a bad start in Minnesota when he was nabbed for a second degree DWI in a McDonald’s drive-thru in June.  After that incident, one that he says he learned a huge lesson from, Felton has been instrumental in Adrian Peterson’s record-setting rushing numbers this season.

Peterson hasn’t had as good of chemistry with as talented of a lead blocker since his rookie season when he ran behind Tony Richardson, one of the greatest fullbacks of the modern era.  Felton hasn’t carried the ball at all himself this season, and only has two catches for 18 yards, but there is no doubt that his blocking has added something that was previously missing to this offense.  Makes one wonder how many yards Peterson hasn’t gotten over the years because of Brad Childress and his stubborn support of Fahu Tahi.

Felton signed a one year deal worth $700,000 with a $50,000 signing bonus.  I would say the Vikings should be willing to offer him about twice that annual salary to return for the next year or five.

GRADE:  A

OL GEOFF SCHWARTZ:  After signing a one year deal that maxes out at $1.5 million, Geoff Schwartz has been eased into a rotation at right guard with Brandon Fusco.  By most accounts, including mine, Schwartz has outplayed Fusco but has yet to overtake the position on a full time basis for some unknown reason.  At a backup lineman’s salary, Schwartz has helped his team more than most backups in this league, and turned out to be a low-risk, medium-reward type of signing, despite nagging injury concerns.

GRADE:  C

LB MARVIN MITCHELL:  Another one year deal worth $700,000 here.  Mitchell was signed shortly after Remi Ayodele was released by the Vikings, despite Mitchell’s presence on the 2009 “BountyGate” Saints team as well.  He acted as a “Plan B” to Jasper Brinkley and provided great competition in the preseason, but Brinkley kept his job and has performed rather well in his first year as a full time starter.

A calf injury interrupted part of Mitchell’s season, as he has appeared in only nine games, but he has made a considerable impact on a special teams coverage unit that is greatly improved over last season.

GRADE:  B

WR JEROME SIMPSON:  The Vikings flirted with signing Packers free agent James Jones but shied away from the receiver because they were worried about his inconsistent hands, and instead opted to sign the suspended Simpson from Cincinnati.

Jones has done nothing but catch touchdowns for the Packers this year, his drop problems apparently solved, while Simpson has been incredibly inconsistent… when he manages to make it onto the field.  A three game suspension and injuries have kept Simpson out of four games this season, and bad drops and inconsistent routes have essentially kept him out of the other 10.

19 catches, 203 yards, and no touchdowns are stats that easily illustrate how wrong things have gone for the Vikings deep threat hopeful in 2012.

Spielman left legitimate receiver threats on the market for other teams to scoop up and instead opted to go short term and cheap with Simpson.  The risk was low, but the return has been even lower.

GRADE:  D

CONCLUSION:  Rick Spielman tortured Vikings fans by staying idle during the opening days of free agency in 2012, and has indicated we can expect more of that in the future, as he intends on playing a game of chance with these low risk and low cost signings available after all the funny money has been spent.

Carlson was his lone departure from that formula, and the jury may still be out on that one, but it isn’t looking good.  Luckily, the contract wasn’t quite as bad as initially reported and the Vikings could cut ties with minimal cap damage should they choose to move on.

Overall, Spielman’s approach to free agency led to adding one fantastic fullback, and a handful of otherwise disposable talents.

Not bad, not horrible, but not great.  That about sums up Spielman’s first free agency period as Vikings General Manager.

Adam Warwas (Founder) is a case study in how the human male can allow a hobby to turn into a life-consuming obsession. After serving for about three years as the Editor at Vikings Gab, he decided to branch off on his own and start Vikings Territory, hoping someone might accidentally visit the site from time to time. Now, he is thrilled to present you with one of the most comprehensive and analytical Vikings sites that you are going to find. More than anything, he hopes you enjoy reading VT as much as he enjoys putting it together.

48 COMMENTS

    • I don’t think Carlson has been given a fair chance yet. Sure he has 60 yards, but we only have 1 WR playing who has over 300, our number 1 wide out right now doesn’t even have 300. The blame for his lack of receptions goes on the quarterback and lack of a passing game. Carlson has also been very effective in the passing game. Is he worth 5 million a year, no but he is a good TE and playing good for this offense, I doubt Gronk would be doing any better than Rudolph either.
      PS: Carlson has caught 11/15 passes thrown his way thats good for just over 70% in comparison Rudolph(who I also like) has 48/82 which is right around 58%.
      Jennings would be a decent pickup I don’t think he will be as good on any other team(maybe the Pat’s). Aaron Rodgers(like Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Brett Favre, Peyton Manning, and all other HOF Quarterbacks) makes receivers look better than they really are I bet if we sent Jerome Simpson to GB he would have close to 1000 yards with 8+ touchdowns this year even with his suspension.

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  1. Was reading on a Jets blog that they wished they had Ponder. I guess things could be worse for the Vikings.

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      • I watched the Jets game last night and Ponder would be an improvement over what Sanchez was doing out there. It made me feel much better about our QB situation watching both Sanchez and Locker.

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          • I love USC football but their quarterbacks have been busts and I liked Matt Barkley coming out of high school as a recruit but now I think he will be a bust as well. Being a QB at USC is a gift and curse, you’ll be a first rounder but you will also be a bust. SEC/BIG 10/PAC 12 quarterbacks seem to have the most success minus the cursed USC QB’s.

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      • Headline of blog said…..If Vikings don’t want Ponder, Jets will take him….. So I had to read.

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    • Yeah but it drives Frantheman nuts when you say AP, and his responses are usually pretty entertaining.

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      • Naw, it doesn’t drive me nuts and I have no hard feelings towards you at all Skol.
        I’m just an old tilter of windmills, always trying to correct wrongs.

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  2. I think Jenning’s is a pretty likely target if they think he’s healthy, but he doesn’t fit the profile of a young up and comer. He’s 29 and coming off his two most injury plagued years, but they need to add multiple receivers and if he’s willing to sign an incentive laden deal I think it would make sense to bring him in as a veteran presence who can still get the job done. Then you can still bring in a Ramses Barden and use one of your first 4 picks on another big wideout in the draft. I don’t blame Spielman for not giving Greg Jones a bunch of money last year. Frankly I think the reason he has been so focused and successful this year is because of what happened to him in free agency. I think if some team had just backed up the truck and gave him a Berrian-type deal he’ld still be dropping balls left and right. Not getting that big free agent deal was the best thing that could have happened to him.

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  3. I’ll give Ricky a C- overall, he’s lucky he hit on Felton or it would be worse. Appears he can draft better than sift through lower end free agents.

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  4. I think Spielman is a really good numbers man. None of these contracts are big cap hits, and offer pretty much no risk if the player doesn’t pan out. I remember the Vikings rumored interest in Garcon until Washington went big with their offer. I don’t think we’ll see Spielman spend Snyder money on anyone (except maybe Peterson), not even for Harvin. I like the way Spielman operates. It makes for a more boring free-agency, but I think it provides a more stable, predictable team, rather than trying to make a splash with a big signing. Plus not spending big for other teams players allows him to resign our own players (Loadholt, Harvin, K. Williams) I think another thing is Spielman appears to like either short contracts, or escape clauses, which (I presume) keeps better players from signing with us. I would give Spielman a B. Not because the signings were so great, but I think they were good for the team. None will hurt us, and I think all of them contribute positively to the team. A lot of injury concerns with these guys (except for Felton), but the training staff (which I think is great) can evaluate these players and find out if the player is worth the risk next year. The only signing I would say was below a B is Carlson, because of his injury history, but he was in K.C., so Rick had to do something,or risk losing him, so you end up overpaying. The other guys all filled a need and came cheap, so I think they were good pick-ups. The reason I’m not to hard on the Simpson pick is he hasn’t had the injury concerns, until this year; the knock on him was his inconsistent hands, and I don’t remember him dropping anything (I could be wrong here) that cost us. He hasn’t provided what we hoped, that’s easy to see looking back, but potential was there at the signing. You can’t make a team of pro-bowlers, you need utility type players as well, especially when rebuilding, which we are doing this year, and that is what these players represent. I thought 8-8 was a best case scenario for this team, and 6-10 was reasonable, so whatever they’re doing is working in my opinion. I think a B grade reflects not only on the players signed, but the approach by Spielman to free-agency as well.

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  5. Great info as always Adam.
    I had forgotten about the Tony Richardson years until you mentioned him. Guy was a stud Full back wasn’t he? And I agree, PAY Felton. The guy has been money all year,
    Good point about missing on Jones too. After what he’s done this year, you can only imagine if Ponder could have made use of him like Rodgers has. Probably not as much but it makes you wonder.
    As far as I’m concerned, combine what Spielman did (And didn’t do) in FA and the last draft, you got to think the guy has helped us more than helped us. Jury is still out, and I can’t help but think Ponder’s success or lack of, will be the definitive answer as far as Spielman being a good GM in his first season

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    • Thanks, Fran. Remember, while Spielman has stated a few times that he supports Ponder and supported drafting him, the pick took place prior to Spielman being the actual G.M.

      Reports indicated he tried to trade back, although not very far, before choosing Ponder at 12.

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    • “you got to think the guy has helped us more than helped us.”

      Now that’s a bold stance Fran.

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  6. I have some opinions on this, but I really can’t handle another twenty lashes from Adam tonight. With Tomb I can compete, but I am no match for the big A & W. (although I still say we were NOT getting chewed up by Jackson last Sunday!)

    Everything you said is absolutely correct, Adam. Thorough, concise, spot-on… a true masterpiece of analysis. Nicely done.

    Now, anyone and everyone, would you trade AD for Stafford, Wilson, Knapperholic or Bradford?

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    • Allow me to play coach for a moment.

      Afraid the big bad Adam is going to plow you if you throw out your opinion? I have an idea. Head back into the bedroom, and replace your Little Mermaid footie pajamas with your big boys pants, and play the game like Joey Browner played. With passion, and zero fear.

      Take a knee, your helmet’s not a chair.

      See, here’s the thing, son, you want to be able to look yourself in the mirror, you gotta leave everything on the field. You give me sixty minutes and play your guts out, and you got nothin’ to be ashamed of. You play scared, then you ride the pine. If you can’t hang with the big dogs, then stay on the porch. You want that? I know you don’t. Now get out there, and be the wrecking machine we both know are. Do you hear me! I said, DO YOU HEAR ME! YEAH!

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    • Woo! I’m pumped up…Joey Browner, guts, big dogs and wrecking machines. Top that off with jammies and I’m ready to hit someone! Something, anything!

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    • Coach-
      Fatty Stafford- no
      Wilson- worth consideration, kids got guts, and guts is enough
      Kapernixon- no
      Bradford- hell no

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    • To answer your question the only quarterbacks I’d trade Adrian for are Tom Brady, Eli Manning, Big Ben, Gaaron Rogers, Matt Ryan, and Andrew Luck. Stafford and Philip Rivers would probably have been on that list last year but they have fallen off too much, and Andy Dalton is close to that list. Brees And Peyton are too old (yes Brady is old too but he’s too good to pass up I would for sure say greatest ever if he wins another superbowl)

      And hers a tissue your nose is quite brown right now coach.

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    • I saw that too this morning when I woke up. For some reaason my post (Posted again below) didn’t look like it had been sent last night, so I re-read it, corrected a few things, then sent it just now.
      THEN i saw your post Tomb.
      Yep, still slightly on the meds here in the cold country. . .

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  7. ooooo… struck a nerve, huh? Just trying to make a backhanded point. I must say, you did a nice job of making your point that you would not trade Adrian. Even I was able to understand that one.

    By the way, insult me any way you care, but do NOT bring my jammies into this.

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  8. Great info as always Adam.
    I had forgotten about the Tony Richardson years until you mentioned him. Guy was a stud Full back wasn’t he? And I agree, PAY Felton. The guy has been money all year,
    Good point about missing on Jones too. After what he’s done this year, you can only imagine if Ponder could have made use of him like Rodgers has. Probably not as much but it makes you wonder.
    As far as I’m concerned, combine what Spielman did (And didn’t do) in FA and the last draft, you got to say the guy has helped us more than hurt us. Jury is still out, and I can’t help but think Ponder’s success or lack of, will be the definitive answer as far as Spielman being a good GM and worth keeping around.

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  9. Next year, I really hope we farm the Bears for another POS receiver. Help their cap space and hurt ours.

    btw, was Kaepernick at the Senior Bowl?

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    • Yes, Kaep was at the senior bowl with Ponder two years ago. That’s not the senior bowl the Vikings coached though…and jokes aside on Bears receivers, if Johnny Knox is healthy and available at some point this off-season he would be worth a look if his speed has come back.

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  10. Uhh, I’d disagree on Knox. He’s been more invisble even with Cutler. We have small fast slot types. Don’t need him. I’d rather have Jennings.

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  11. He’s been invisible because he’s on the PUP list after having spinal fusion surgery…he probably has about the same chance Childs does of coming back to the NFL. I didn’t say I’ld take him over Jennings. If he became available it’s because the Bears gave up on him and if he could pass a physical he’ld be worth a look in training camp on a vet minimum deal if the Vikes felt comfortable with that injury he had. It would be one of those Ricky specials like the ones this post was originally about. My point is more that they need to have a pretty open mind when it comes to that position this off season.

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  12. I didn’t know he had spinal fusion surgery. so, thanks for solidifying my take on this. he hasn’t been a real factor for sometime, even before the injury. Having too open a mind can sometimes be a distraction from getting solid sure fire talent imho.

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