Free agency is sneaking up on us and the Vikings have been quiet, as usual, regarding their plans to re-sign their own free agents.  Almost certainly, there will be some of our own guys signing new contracts prior to the March 11th opening of the market, but this is as good of a time as any to participate in some good old fashioned speculation.

I tend to view the NFL Draft as a time to amass talent, with less regard for immediate need than is displayed in the opening days of free agency, so I have narrowed in on five guys that I think could help make an immediate impact on the opening day roster.  Of course, free agency is highly unpredictable and we fans seldom get what we want, but this slow time in the offseason is the perfect time for us dreamers to dream.

5.  Dexter McCluster, WR/RD/PR, Age 26

This name, as the first on my list, might come as a surprise to you all.  After all, I just talked about how much importance I place on need during the free agency period.  The need I’m addressing here is a little more nuanced, however, than simply fortifying a position in the starting roster.  I consider a signing like this to be as close to an “insurance policy” as Rick Spielman can get.

Slot receiver isn’t exactly atop the Vikings top priorities this offseason, I’m sure.  Jarius Wright has shown plenty of promise, with Greg Jennings and Cordarrelle Patterson capable of being moved around within the offense, but after that the depth chart starts to thin out.  I hate to jinx us, but two years on frozen grass is going to take its toll on these speedy receivers, and depth is going to be a must.

Perhaps more importantly is the addition of a guy with true scat back potential in a Norv Turner offense.  I have a lot of faith in friend-of-the-site Bradley Randle, but the job is far from solidified at this point, and Toby Gerhart’s presumed departure leaves room for additions at the position.  McCluster could also push Marcus Sherels, or at least act as a his primary backup, when it comes to returning punts.

McCluster has played four years with Kansas City and has been durable since missing five games during his rookie season, having only missed one since then.  Through the air he has accumulated 172 catches for 1,500 yards and five touchdowns.  He has rushed for 662 yards (4.4 yard average) and a score.  He also has extensive experience on special teams, combining for 131 kick and punt returns in his career, with three punt returns returned for touchdowns.  For having such a small frame, and seeing so many various types of touches, it is surprising that McCluster has only fumbled once-per-season while in the NFL.

The big play potential is there.  He would add another dimension to this offense.  He seems like a Norv Turner type of utility man.  He is an extremely versatile player.  The price tag should be reasonable.

I guess I just don’t see the downside here.

4.  Geoff Schwartz, G, Age 27

I think we all rooted for Geoff Schwartz to recover from his hip injury and be some sort of answer in Minnesota while he was with us in 2012, right?  Well, it eventually happened, but it was a year later and he was a member of the Kansas City Chiefs, where he started and played very well for the second half of their season.  Schwartz is perhaps the only potential free agent replacement for Charlie Johnson at left guard that is on the right side of 30 years old, played well last year, and appears to have minimal health concerns.

Schwartz played right guard last season for the Chiefs, but there is little reason to expect him to struggle with a transition to the other side, where he also has some experience.  The interesting part of Schwartz’s sudden notoriety is that the Chiefs actually made a mid-season change from start Jon Asamoah, while they were stringing wins together, because they felt Schwartz was an upgrade to Asamoah… who wasn’t doing a poor job at all.

That is the type of faith Schwartz never got from the old staff here in Minnesota, but maybe he’d be willing to give the new one a try.

3.  Linvall Joseph, DT, Age 25

At 6′ 4″ and 323 pounds, the young Linvall Joseph has really started to come into his own, and he stands to make a lot of money this offseason.  In fact, don’t be surprised if he generates quite the bidding war in the hours leading up to the official start of free agency.  It is hard to think of an NFL team that couldn’t find a spot on their defensive line for this big fella.

Four years with the Giants has resulted in 175 combined tackles, nine sacks, two forced fumbles, three recoveries, four batted passes.  He is a giant run stuffer, which the Vikings need, but is plenty capable of causing disruption in the backfield.  Plus, at only 25 years old, he still has room for improvement.

Letroy Guion has been a disappointment and Fred Evans isn’t getting any younger.  With Mike Zimmer at the helm, I get all sorts of giddy thinking about Sharrif Floyd and someone like Joseph paired together up front for seasons to come.  Few players are truley worth breaking the bank over, but I wouldn’t mind seeing our Vikings participate in the chase to sign this guy up for five or six years.

2.  Jairus Byrd, S, Age 27

This one seems incredibly unlikely, if for no other reason than Byrd stands to make an unreasonable amount of dough as a free agent this month.  Still, it is hard to argue with his production in his five years with Buffalo, and it would be nice to add someone of his particular skill set to our woeful secondary.

Byrd is responsible for an eye-popping 22 interceptions so far in his career, with 11 forced fumbles and five recovered fumbles being added to his ball-hawking statistics.  He has also tallied 356 combined tackles, three sacks, 33 defended passes, two touchdowns.  He has managed to come out of a small market with plenty of name value after five seasons with the Bills, and teams will be clamoring to get his attention if they haven’t already started.

With Harrison Smith acting as the enforcer in the Vikings defensive backfield, specializing in delivering punishing hits from the box, a guy like Byrd would be the perfect compliment.  He could roam deep, waiting for the right time to pounce, and finally put an end to the rotation of names that have admirably failed to make a true impact back there for the Vikings in recent years.

1.  Michael Johnson, DE, Age 27

I know this is ending on a cliche, but I just think every new head coach should be able to bring in someone he is comfortable with to help him build a roster.  “Comfortable” might be an understatement as I try to pour over Mike Zimmer’s work in Cincinatti.  It is clear that over the last few seasons, Zimmer’s defense centered around the Johnson and his 6′ 7″ frame.  Sure, Johnson’s sack stats fell off a cliff last year, but he still was the focal point of a very stout defense and it was clear Zimmer had a ton of faith in his abilities.

Johnson has played in all but one game of his five year career with the Bengals.  He has been in on 202 combined tackles, has 26.5 sacks to his name, three forced fumbles, three recoveries, three interceptions, and has used those giant arms of his to knock down 25 passes.  He is always a challenge for opposing left tackles and someone that has to be game-planned for every week of the season.

With Jared Allen and Everson Griffen preparing to possibly test the free agent market, it would not hurt in the slightest if the Vikings let their new head coach sweet-talk another great option at the defensive end position.  There are quite a few pass rushers on the market this offseason, between free agency and the draft, but the Vikings can’t afford to let anyone untested be their only replacement option for the old Calf Roper.



  1. Geoff Schwart tweeted he would never come back to the Vikings so you can take him off this list.

  2. Geoff Schwartz ✔ @geoffschwartz
    That’s not happening. Ever “@ChaseCarder15: come back to Minnesota”
    10:07 AM – 10 Jan 2014

  3. I think the Vikings should sign Jon Asamoah, Tarrell Brown, Walter Thurmond III, Randy Starks (DT), Michael Johnson.

  4. Vincent Rey, backup middle linebacker for Bengals is a RFA.
    He thrived when he filled in for Rey Maualuga.
    If the Bengals try to sneak him by with a low tender, Zimmer will be watching.

    • The Bengals did tender Rey at the lowest level and he was an undrafted free agent, so it won’t cost any draftpicks to get him signed away from Cincy. He definitely could be a target for the Vikes now.

      • Dan, I saw that. Thanks.
        It seems like a no brainer that the Vikings and Zimmer will go after him.
        No compensation and under 1.5 million!!!

        Unless Zimmer and V Rey don’t see eye to eye, I think he’s a top target!

  5. Defense needs to be the priority. Offense: Lt Guards should be developed in-house like Rt guard was. A specialty change of pace and 3rd down back also a must.Late Rd picks or undrafted potential guys for both needs. Defense – Zimmer is the key let him choose and fit one immediate high cost and one medium cost free agent for defense + 1 or 2 locker room guys he has had experience with to sell his message in the locker room. Then let RS draft the specific skill sets he needs for defense. A massive improvement from D along with Norv the QB whisperer are the two most important things for a new QB to Thrive.

    • yeah, I kinda like the QBW……the whisperer thing……yup, it’s gotta good ring to it…

  6. I think Bacca will get the first shot at replacing Charlie Johnson, Rick doesn’t place a high value on that guard position. DE/CB would be the two positions I expect them to hit early. Adam, if your worried about receiver depth, you must be terrified of what we have going on at DE. I’m more in favor of them getting something done with Everson Griffen than giving Johnson a big deal, mainly because he’s almost two years younger and in my opinion a better pure pass rusher (Johnson only has 9 more sacks than Everson but he’s played one more season and been a starter), but there is more to playing that position than sacking the QB, so maybe Johnson will be a better fit. Verner is the guy I’m watching, but he’s likley going to command $9-10 million a year and I don’t know if he’s worth that or not.

  7. I feel the best use of cap money is to resign Griffen DE, acquire Verner CB, Joseph DT and Moates OLB. IMHO we should be able to get all four for around $21 Million / yr. leaving $14 million in cap space. I also think that one Viking (ex-pro-bowler) is available for trade, could get us an additional early – mid round selection.

  8. Eagles WR Jason Avant and Jacksonville RG Uche Nwaneri just got cut,.. for those of you not following twitter.

    I can’t wait til march 11!

  9. If we can get Griffen resigned, then sign Michael Johnson and Joseph and Verner. That would be a great offseason.

    • I don’t think Johnson and Griffen would both sign with us. They both want to be starters.

      • I agree, it’s one or the other on the Griffen/Johnson deal. The only way they both end up here is if Everson overprices himself so badly that he is still available a month into free agency and just takes a one year deal to hit the market again next year…and even then I doubt it would be with the Vikes if they brought Johnson in.

  10. would like to sign both Joseph and Johnson (I am greedy after all). also prefer Verner over Byrd as I have watched more of his play over Byrd’s, but hey, again will not be upset with either of them.

  11. I don’t know if any NFL team ever tried this, but now I am putting a little idea I had out there.

    Seeing how teams avoided kicking the ball to Patterson after learning about his talent, it could become a killer combo to utilize two insanely talented returners. Imagine the opposition not being able to avoid kicking the ball to a good returner, that would give Vikings an incredible advantage in field position.

    Of course this came to mind again, after seeing a mention of McCluster in the article.

    How do you like this? Have this been tried before?

    • Oh I’ve seen a few teams employ this technique and it drove me crazy last year that they didn’t use Sherels, Wright, or more realistically, Webb as a secondary return man on short kicks. We got John Carlson and Sharif Floyd.

  12. I like the focus on defense. My thinking concerning the DB’s is this. Re-sign Chris Cook for depth. Move Josh Robinson back outside. Sign a corner with slot experience, like a Captain Munnerlyn, or if you want to save a little money, maybe Corey Graham. Both are solid players, and have played outside and inside. In regards to safety it seems that Sendejo is being groomed for the job. However people like connecting Bengals to the Vikes, so maybe we go after Taylor Mays, at safety. I don’t think we go after a safety; especially a 9 million/year safety. This is supposed to be a deep corner draft, so I would also look for one in rounds 2-4.

  13. As for the defensive line I hope we’re able to retain Griffen. After that Linval Joseph would be great. If he gets too expensive another player I would like (maybe even prefer) is Arthur Jones. He’s a DE for the Ravens. Again, like Munnerlyn and Graham, he has experience playing multiple positions. He played DE in the pros and DT for Syracuse. If the Vikings continue rotating ends to the inside, Jones would be able to do that as well. If we want a Fat Pat type DT we could continue the Packer to Viking trend with B.J. Raji, but I think a cheaper option, if we go the run stuffer route, would be Paul Soliai. If we did that I wouldn’t mind re-signing Kevin Williams, and rotating him in on passing downs. We will need DE depth through the draft, but I’d wait until the 4th round or later. I think we need to address DB, LB, and QB in the early rounds.
    In regards to LB, a utility type like Arthur Moats would help and be cheaper than the splashier Brandon Spikes; although the Vikings have been connected to D”qwell Jackson. If you want a Bengals connection Keith Rivers. If you prefer the Packer to Viking trend, maybe Mike Neal works for us. In my thinking we’d sign Moats and with the first pick take a LB. If our QB isn’t there; if he is, LB in the 2nd round. It’s to bad about Henderson, because even though he wasn’t real good, I thought he could play, and losing him creates at least two LB openings for 2014. Maybe Mauti and/or Hodges has developed enough to start in 2014; hopefully. There are so many holes on defense the Vikings could go about solving them several different ways. What I’m advocating is going with solid free agent less expensive signings, not expensive splash signings.

  14. The reason for multiple less expensive signings is because there are so many holes to fill on defense.


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