Immediately following the NFL Draft, no matter the year, fans eagerly fantasize about seeing what the new crop brings to the table. This offseason, Vikings fans have been giddy about the prospects of the Penn State linebacker duo, consisting of Gerald Hodges and Michael Mauti, and figured the relative lack of depth at the position would quickly see one of them forced into action.
They may end up having an impact in the NFL, and we all hope they are studs, but it now appears that their moment will have to wait for current group of formidable veterans to fizzle.
The strong side spot is manned by a Pro Bowl caliber talent in Chad Greenway, entering the third year of his $40.6 million contract, and that is unlikely to change barring an injury.
We entered this offseason unsure if unrestricted free agent Erin Henderson would be retained, but the Vikings showed confidence in his abilities by signing him to a two year deal worth $4 million. They didn’t have enough confidence in his abilities, however, to keep them from signing recently released linebacker Desmond Bishop to a one-year deal.
According to Judd Zulgad, the Vikings plan to experiment with how they’ll fit Henderson and Bishop into the defense, but it is widely assumed Bishop will be in the middle. There is also the possibility of some sort of situational rotation.
That will all work itself out, but one thing that is near-certain is that the younger linebackers on the roster will have to fight even harder for a roster spot now, let alone significant playing time. Audie Cole, Larry Dean, Stanford Keglar, Tyrone McKenzie, Marvin Mitchell, Nathan Williams, and the two rookies mentioned earlier will all be in direct competition.
In fact, one of them may already be out of a job, as the Vikings need to release a player to make room for Bishop on the roster.
I’ve mentioned this before, but I don’t see Bishop as an all star cast memeber here (and the slim pickings at this point of the offseason feed the hype among the fans), but he does bring an established resume to the table. The former Packer has handled his release fairly well in public, but he has also made it clear that he will use it as motivation, something that the Vikings surely hope to cash in on in 2013.
“There’s something about being released that’s definitely going to add another chip to my shoulders. It’s motivation,” Bishop recently said about his release. “It’s nothing negative about this whole situation. I think it’s all part of the plan, and I have to keep playing it out. I think it’s going to be good. I think all that is going to help me reach my goal.”
A torn hamstring, suffered during the preseason opener last year, kept Bishop off the field for all of last season. Prior to being released by the Packers, Bishop assigned himself some lofty goals, including his desire to be this season’s Defensive Player of the Year.
“Seriously,” Bishop said, “why not? I know I’m capable.”
At the time he said those words, Vikings fans were really hoping it would never happen, but now I think I speak for all of Vikings Nation when I say…