The first step in the Vikings offseason will have to be to look at themselves, as a front office and as a coaching staff, to see if any major changes are needed.  Considering the surprising success of this season, coupled with an apparent lack of interest in our coaches from teams with vacancies, I would venture a guess at this point that nothing major is coming.

So, assuming our schemes stay relatively close to what we saw in 2012, I have decided to list and rank the Vikings pending free agents.  As I usually do, I have taken a “world view” approach to ranking these players which means talent is only one of the factors taken into consideration.  Age, projected cost, injury history, and other factors have also played into these rankings.

So, without further ado, here are how I rank the Vikings 2013 free agents from best to worst:

Jamarca Sanford, S:  Yes, I have listed a part time player in the top spot.  No, I am not crazy… I don’t think.  The Vikings secondary made huge strides this season and I just feel like they cannot afford to take a step backwards, and there are no guarantees they will be able to take a step forwards as options are limited and they have bigger fish to fry.  If they do get their hands on a starter that is superior to Sanford or Mistral Raymond then great, Sanford is a fine special teamer that shouldn’t cost a ton to retain.  He plays the run very well, flying around the field, and has a knack for causing fumbles.  He is a liability in coverage, and can’t seem to catch a football to save his life, but there is no reason the Vikings shouldn’t keep him around to ensure, at the very least, that some depth is maintained at the safety position.

Jerome Felton, FB:  Wild card weekend was proof, in each game played, that the fullback position is not dead at all.  Felton proved this all season long, however, as he paved the way for Adrian Peterson’s incredible season.  Rick Spielman reportedly told Felton that the team wanted him back, but money could be a sticking point, especially since the Vikings have a decent backup option in Rhett Ellison.  Ellison’s presence, other free agent options, and Felton’s DWI charges from last offseason are the only reasons he doesn’t sit atop this list.

Phil Loadholt, RT:  On most lists you will probably find Loadholt listed as the top free agent that the Vikings have pending.  This was certainly his best pro season in a number of ways.  In fact, it has been reported that the front office approached Loadholt about an extension in the middle of this last season.  I worry about a player, however, that seems to play much harder during his contract year.  Also, the fact that no mid-season extension was agreed upon suggests to me that Loadholt is hoping to get more money than the Vikings are willing to shell out.  Lastly, there are a number of very good tackles set to become free agents this offseason, so if the Vikings are going to back up the money truck then perhaps they should be looking to do so for a player that demonstrates more consistency.  In the end, however, Loadholt is worth a decent (but reasonable) contract and the Vikings will give serious thought to getting a deal hammered out in the coming months.

Jasper Brinkley, MLB:  I had high hopes for Brinkley and love his tenacious downhill style in some situations.  Brinkley never really seemed to embrace his opportunity to be a leader on defense, however, and is often on the wrong end of a mismatch in pass coverage.  I have already noted that the Vikings have oodles of mobile quarterbacks on the schedule in 2013, so sticking with Brinkley as the starter here really worries me.  Keeping him around as a backup, or competition, wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world but Rick Spielman should really try and find an upgrade here.

Geoff Schwartz, G:  I don’t know if it was lingering health issues, or perhaps conditioning worries, but I have no logical explanation for why Schwartz didn’t steal the right guard job away from Brandon Fusco at some point during this last season.  That, to me, is a sign that Schwartz does not factor into the Vikings long term plans.  That is too bad, however, as he seemed like a clear upgrade at a position that could use one.  The Vikings should give some serious consideration to bringing Schwartz back to camp for another go.

Erin Henderson, LB:  After a very solid 2011 season that went unrecognized during free agency, the Vikings gave Henderson a “prove it” deal.  All he really proved, however, is that he is an inconsistent tackler, not a viable option in the middle, and is prone to at least one big mistake per game.  I love what the Henderson brothers continue to do for the Minnesota community, and they could do worse than Erin, but if an upgrade is available they should not think twice.

A.J. Jefferson (restricted), CB:  Opponents quickly recognized Jefferson as the weakest link in this Vikings secondary and he was picked on all season long.  He was one of the most frustrating parts of an otherwise pleasant season, as he seemed to almost always be in decent position but seldom was able to make plays on the ball.  He should be retained on the cheap due to his restricted status, and is probably better than many undrafted free agents in terms of providing competition during training camp, but there isn’t a whole ton to be excited about here.

Troy Kropog (restricted), OL:  Not long ago, Kropog was an intriguing Draft prospect that I wanted to see the Vikings take a flier on.  Now that he has bounced around a bit, from practice squad to practice squad, taking that flier on him is that much easier.  The Vikings don’t have much reason not to sign him to a low-level tender and bring him to camp.

Marvin Mitchell, LB:  Mitchell looked like a guy that could hold his own when he filled in for Brinkley during the preseason.  Other than some decent special teams plays, however, we didn’t see much of him in the regular season.  Take him or leave him.

Jerome Simpson, WR:  Simpson has played better football than what we saw in 2012, but he did nothing to suggest that he should even be a #2 in the this league.  If you can’t be a #2, you aren’t built for the slot position, and you have zero special teams value then what is left?  Experiment over.

Devin Aromashodu, WR:  If this guy is on the roster again in 2013, then Rick Spielman should be drug tested.  This group of receivers needs to have some upside to it, and Aromashodu just simply doesn’t represent that.

Joe Berger, C:  Thanks to health problems I have no idea what to expect here, but I am guessing the Vikings will be moving in another direction.

It should also be noted that CB Marcus Sherels and S Andrew Sendejo are Exclusive Rights Free Agents, meaning they will almost certainly make it to training camp, at the very least, on cheap one year deals.

44 COMMENTS

  1. This just got me all sorts of pumped for the offseason.

    I think the only people on that list that I feel strongly about are Sanford (for the reasons you mentioned), Felton and maaaaaaybe Loadholt. That guy pisses me off to no end with all his penalties, though, and I think maybe we could do better.

    Jerome Simpson? Adios. In fact, I think the WRs should look like this: Harvin, Wright and Childs (if he’s healthy). Everyone else should be either FA or draft picks with high upside. Also need to bring in a proven WR during FA this year.

    Linebacker is kind of a sticky situation as I don’t think we can address all of our needs this offseason. If I had to bet I would say either Brinkley or Henderson gets resigned.

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    • I agree with Sanford if he will sign a minimum contract, I like him over Raymond as a backup. Felton should be back, I like Rhett Ellison but look what happened when we let Richardson go to get younger, hang on to talent! Loadholt I could care less either way, he improved this year to an average RT, but his penalties are costly and I have just never warmed up to him tho(hes a decent guy tho, met him at Sneaky Petes one weekend).
      Brett we usually agree from what I have seen but I’m conflicted on Simpson. Week 13 I would have said good riddance but he seemed to catch on the past 4 weeks. I think another 1 year prove it deal wouldn’t be bad(no bonus money, so we can dump him in camp tho). Think Bowe-Childs-Harvin-Simpson-Wright(with another from the draft competing with Childs and Simpson for a spot)
      I agree we will be hard pressed to address Mike and Will linebackers especially with a weak free agent group but I like a LOT of LB’s in this draft.

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      • Good point about Richardson, Skol… hard to argue that Peterson benefits from having a good FB in front of him.

        I have a hard time stomaching Simpson returning again… he just rubs me the wrong way and his play on the field did nothing to minimize that for me.

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    • I agree Brett, I don’t think the Vikings will let both of those LB’s walk. Maybe one of them, but not both.

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    • brett, great new picture. i think i caught your magic act late one night at the Loose Zipper, just off the strip

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  2. I’m still up in the air about Simpson. I think he “could” have the potential which is what everybody has been saying about him since he came into the league. However I think his injury and suspension may have got the best of him this year. To me it seemed like the last couple games he was starting to come into the light and him and ponder were gettin some of their pre season chemistry back. My opinion is do another cheap 1 year with the option to cut him with minimal cap hit and see if he can continue to build. If not no harm no foul and if he does we have a decent # 2 or #3. Also keep in mind he has become a pretty good blocker

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    • I posted my comment above before reading your post, but I basically reiterated what you said about him coming on late and giving him another prove it deal, Simpson could be a solid #2.

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    • Yes, Simpson could still pan out in a calmer, healthier season. He is one of those players, though, that I just don’t care if he pans out somewhere else. Just not a fan.

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  3. Henderson wouldn’t look nearly as bad if we had a better MLB, with the amount of nickel we play he is a viable WLB that gets limited playing time. If an upgrade is available through the draft bring him in, but probably not worth going after any high dollar free agents for a part time position.

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    • The free agents to be are a weak group. Connor Barwin highlights it but he will be staying in Houston with a new contract or a tag. Behind him Maualuga and Henderson are the 2nd and 3rd best(assuming Urlacher retires).

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    • Agree CO, getting an upgrade at MLB that can play there fulltime would benefit Henderson greatly.

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  4. Damn it I cant find anything to argue about in this post. lol
    I’m guessing Jenkins is still under contract? If so whats his salary supposed to be? I know he took a paycut this year.

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    • Jenkins is under contract for $825,000 (+ $2.425 million roster bonus) so, yeah, he is probably gone.

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      • Guess he’ll have to take another huge paycut or say bye bye. It would be nice to have a seasoned veteran receiver on the roster but league minimum for Jenks is it.

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        • Yeah, Jenkins strikes me as a classy guy… and he seemed better later in the season… but I’d prefer to see that money spent elsewhere, on someone with more upside.

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  5. I wouldn’t mind seeing 2-4 of those guys back but I wouldn’t miss any of them other than Felton. I actually think we should let most(all) of them go besides Felton, Sanford, Loadholt(if cheap), Henderson(if very cheap), and Simpson(again if dirt cheap).

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    • I highly doubt Loadholt will be cheap. If we resign him, I just feel like his contract numbers will generate a “WTF is Spielman Thinking?” moment. If the guy was willing to agree to a reasonable contract, he probably would have signed it by now.

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      • I should have said reasonable not cheap. I wouldn’t mind if he got 5 years 15 mil, maybe even 20? But to give him a contract like Anthony Davis(9ers RT 5 years 26.5m) would be way overpaying and I think he will want money close to or more than Davis. RT seems to be an easy position to fill in rounds 3-6 in the draft too(Mitchell Schwartz last year was a 3rd rounder and played like a top 5 RT).

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    • I’m betting Phil thinks he’s an elite RT in this league and wants paid accordingly. we all know he’s pretty average so my guess is some team will think he’s really good and make him a big offer and Ricky will have to decide if he’s worth it. I don’t think so myself

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  6. And I sure agree on Henderson, I expected him to really come on strong this season but didn’t happen. Won’t miss him much.

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    • Saturday was the first time I really tried to kind of keep an eye on Henderson, and he’s like the opposite of guys who have a nose for the ball. I was absolutely not impressed. I fully understand Fred’s contempt for his play.

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  7. With Johnny on this,
    Well if Phil’s is offered the bank, They will just have to let him go.
    I wished Simpson could have learned Jenkins Attitude… He thinks hes better than he is…
    Adam,
    The guy is a clown, He rubs me the wrong way too!

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  8. I hope Felton and Harvin are both back next year. Losing anybody else wouldn’t keep me up at night.

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    • I have always been anti-Loadholt since the day he was drafted, but I will say he can run block better than any RT in the NFL, remember that with our offense. That said, I wouldn’t have a problem at all if Rick decided to move on.

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  9. Agreed, Nice to have a Full Back that rocks.
    Percy is a treat anytime on the field…

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  10. Would drop Brinkley down 2 or 3 spots. I was really hoping they would go after C.Lofton last year. Don’t know who is available in FA this year. Would love to draft a young stud MLB. Agree with CO Vike, it would help Henderson. Need that man in the middle to be the man.

    Other than that pretty much agree with your list Adam. I think Jefferson is worth keeping around tho…Depth, gotta have it in the secondary. At times I was Impressed.
    Agree with you about Simpson…Vikes will be just fine without his services.

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    • There isn’t a MLB worth signing, other than Urlacher the best one is Maualuga. If we want a LB it will have to be in the draft, luckily for us this draft is stacked with LB’s. Shayne Skov is a player I like, he reminds me of Harrison Smith in a way.

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  11. I just read that Tyler Bray did sign an agent and will be going pro. I have a very high opinion of Bray but I wonder what you guys would think of drafting him. Assuming the Vikings dont make any trades would you take him in the 2nd round? 3rd? I think Bray has the tools to become a top 3 QB in the NFL and at worst we have a good backup for our Injury prone QB.

    So what do you think guys(really interested in what Bud has to say)? Should we take him if hes there in the 2nd, 3rd, 4th?!

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    • Bray may end up going in the first round. We have seen plenty of QB’s get taken earlier than they should have been (ahem) so who knows… I’ll have a post coming soon about what I think the Vikes should do with the QB position.

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      • I agree Bray would be a round 1 qb in most drafts but this one has sooooo many QB’s that could go in round 1. Smith, Bray, Glennon, Barkley, Wilson, Jones, Boyd, Murray, Manuel, Thomas, Nassib. All of those QB’s could go from rounds 1-3 depending on the combine. I would like to see the vikings grab one of them in the 3rd or 4th. My favorites are Bray, Jones, and Murray(Glennon, Smith, and Barkley are ok too but will go before I would take them).

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  12. It happens, Tomb, and most often caused by a failure to recognize statistical outliers.

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  13. Cut Henderson and Brinkley get a ROLB in FA in the draft a MLB best line backs greenway Alec ogre tree and whoever at ROLB then a SS Eric reid or kenny vaccaro then cut Jenkins and Simpson and aromashadu get Justin hunter and cordelle Patterson expect a few trades during the draft

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