I think we here at VT have done a pretty good job of beating this roster to death from an analysis standpoint since the season ended, and if we missed something we are sure to club it over the head prior to April’s Draft. So, instead of being incredibly redundant and boring with some sort of Pre-Free Agency guide, I wanted to just run through each position and give you a quick thought. A little something to chew on while you wait for the bell to toll midnight on Tuesday, if you will.
QB: I am one of the remaining few that thinks Joe Webb still has value to this team as a scout team quarterback since they have struggled with mobile quarterbacks recently and have a bunch of them on the 2013 schedule. Still, the Vikings need to find someone with a little more poise to be the primary backup to Christian Ponder (and maybe give him a little competition) and early indications are that the best option available via free agency might be Drew Stanton. Stanton being the best available is not saying much, though.
RB: If the Vikings are going to deal Percy Harvin away then why not chase a guy like Reggie Bush to be a backup to Adrian Peterson, step in on key passing downs, contribute on special teams, and occasionally run routes out of the slot? He might have been a little disappointing after being so heralded in college, but he is still a heck of a player and seems to be holding up pretty well. Oh, and if we don’t get him, the Lions just might.
FB: The Vikings are trying to be conservative (i.e. cheap) by letting all of their free agents talk to other interested teams instead of just getting deals done. This might save them some cap space here and there, but I think it will also bite them in the ass at least once. I hope the risk doesn’t end up with Jerome Felton cashing in on his big year with any other team.
WR: Mike Wallace for a team that will play two of their next three seasons outside in Minnesota? No thanks. I’d rather spend a quarter of what Wallace is going to want and nab a big-bodied, low-mileage guy like Ramses Barden to try and jump start the passing game. I was mad when the Giants drafted Barden one spot ahead of the Vikings years ago, and I’ll be mad if they miss out on the opportunity to get him this time around, too.
TE: John Carlson will reportedly cost the Vikings the same amount in cap space whether he is on the roster or not in 2013. I suspect that the Vikings will let the funny money fly for a week or so and then see who is left over. If one of the many talented, young tight ends set to be free agents is still hanging around and can be had for a bargain, then Carlson may be sent packing. Delanie Walker fits the mold of what the Vikings like out of their tight ends, but there are other, younger possibilities, as well.
OT: It seems that the Vikings are willing to let the market, which has a number of talented right tackles about to be on it, speak for how much Phil Loadholt gets paid. It sounds like they would like to keep him, but are not willing to overpay him. There are better right tackles than Loadholt soon to be available, and a guy like Sebastian Vollmer could be a coup for a Vikings team that need all the upgrades it can get on offense.
OG: The Vikings need to consider that Adrian Peterson is their offense and that they are about to play two seasons outdoors. The guard positions need help, and if they did nothing else in free agency other than sign both Andy Levitre and Louis Vasquez I would grade them out at an “A+.” We know that isn’t going to happen, but I’d be happy with just one of them, too.
C: John Sullivan is pretty solid at center, but the backup situation is a little shakier. Signing a veteran like Kevin Boothe would solidify the center position and also provide competition for the starting guard spots (which he would probably win against the current crop). If a week or so goes buy and nobody has snagged Boothe for some reason, they shouldn’t hesitate to give him a gander.
DT: Kevin Williams, LeTroy Guion, Christian Ballard, and Fred Evans are all still here. There has been no restructures this offseason and no surprise releases. Rick Spielman has stated unequivocally that he loves the defensive line depth of this draft. Between the current guys and possible additions in the Draft, that position is kind of crowded, so they are probably willing to pass on free agent options unless an absolute steal comes about.
DE: A ton of pass rushers are about to be available to teams via the NFL Draft and free agency. Once ridiculously hard to find, defensive ends are kind of flooding the market these days, and pretty good ones, too. The Vikings aren’t really in a position to take advantage of the buyer’s market, however, as they are rock solid with Jared Allen, Brian Robison, and Everson Griffen on the depth chart. They are all set to be free agents after this season, though, so there is room for a very shocking move to be made here. Unlikely? Yes, but not impossible.
MLB: If the Vikings want to be cheap then they should give Larry Grant a call. The guy can’t command a ton of money, being stuck behind San Fran’s All-Pro duo of linebackers and all, but he might deserve it. He played very well in place of the injured Patrick Willis in 2011, but barely made it on the field in 2012 with all the Niner linebackers staying healthy. Bringing in Grant wouldn’t eliminate the possibility of re-signing Jasper Brinkley, but I’m willing to bet he’d win the camp battle.
OLB: The Vikings were willing to let the Erin Henderson situation drag out for-freaking-ever last offseason. As a result, the got him on a cheap one year deal, but are now back to where they were. Don’t be surprised if Spielman once again is willing to ignore the weakside through the openings days, or weeks, of free agency and once again be content to settle for a second tier option down the road.
CB: It never, ever hurts to add one more quality cornerback to your roster. I really liked Leodis McKelvin as an option for the Vikings to provide depth and special teams value, but he will be returning to Buffalo. Keenan Lewis of the Steelers is probably the best pure corner available on the market, and at age 27 should probably be of interest to all 32 teams in the league, including the Vikings.
S: There are a number of talented safeties that could be available this week, but each seems to come with a red flag or two. I guess part of being a good safety in the NFL is that you will probably be injured more than is preferable, it just seems to be the nature of the position. Young guys like Louis Delmas, Patrick Chung, and Kenny Phillips are all oft-injured but present very interesting options to start across from Harrison Smith if the price is right.
P/K: If the Vikings are going to upgrade at punter and try to shed Chris Kluwe’s cap hit they will probably do it via the draft, not free agency. If they want to upgrade at kicker then they better get to work building a robot with a titanium leg, because Blair Walsh is the shiznit.
Enjoy the opening days of the craziness that is free agency everyone. Whether the Vikings are big spenders or not, we should have a fresh batch of news and opinions to discuss, which is something we should all be happy about.