Vikings Free Agency: A few reasons not to panic.
In trying to gauge Minnesota’s fan base reaction to free agency thus far, it seems that there is about an even split between three broad categories: “Yay!” “Boo!” and “Yawn.”
Like everyone else, I get caught up in the anticipation and excitement leading up to free agency; like a kid on Christmas that hopes to see Santa left him his very own 70-inch 4K smart TV under the tree this year. I know there’s a super slim chance of that happening, but I also can’t help but get my hopes up.
Free agency has yet to yield any gifts quite so extravagant, and I can understand the disappointment expressed by many Vikings fans so far. Like any kid on the “Nice List,” however, I am grateful for what was left in the stockings this year anyway.
While I am admittedly going a little out of my way to keep things positive with this article, there are a few things I genuinely appreciate about Rick Spielman’s approach to free agency after the first big wave has come and gone.
5. Setting Up The Draft
The additions of Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers can (and will) be debated for their merits plenty this offseason and preseason, but regardless of what you (or I) believe the Vikings have purchased regarding talent, I do think they have bought something treasured: Draft flexibility.
With glaring weaknesses appearing to be filled, and only some secondary talents departing via free agency, Rick Spielman can now be considered unpredictable when it comes to his positional intent in the NFL Draft. We’ll talk plenty about “need” as the Draft approaches, but the Vikings have gone a long way towards narrowing the gap between positional talent gaps by adding these two offensive linemen.
Not only was the need for offensive tackles checked off the paper list, but I also think the signings did nothing to prevent the Vikings from drafting appealing offensive tackle talent if the opportunity arises. Both Reiff and Remmers provide positional flexibility—a willingness and ability to play multiple positions on the line—that should not prevent Spielman from taking a, for example, top left tackle prospect if available.
4. Setting Up Next Year’s Draft
The Vikings have lost “natural” unrestricted free agents Matt Kalil, Jeff Locke, Rhett Ellison, Captain Munnerlyn, and Audie Cole. They’ve only added two unrestricted free agents, so far, in Reiff and Remmers.
That means the football nerd in me is getting excited about finally having another possible chance at predicting what compensatory picks the Vikings will receive about 11 months from now. Of course, there is plenty of time for this to change and the secretive formula takes about a year to play out before results can be accurately predicted entirely, but it is still of note the Spielman is currently “plus three” in that formula.
Yes, that means if free agency ended today, I would expect three 2018 compensatory picks being awarded to the Vikings. They would probably be of the late-round nature, but still, they are a hidden value lost in all this that shouldn’t be ignored. Those picks are perhaps even more valuable this year, as they can now be traded like any other pick, which has never before been the case.
3. The Line Should Be Improved
I’m not a fan of the whole “nothing matters other than the line” analysis I’ve seen thrown out there, but I don’t discount how important it is that the blocking improve. On paper, I think Spielman has indeed accomplished that.
I believe the departure of Matt Kalil is an improvement in itself, to be honest. Personally, I think Rhett Ellison finding a new team is more problematic for this blocking unit than Kalil leaving.
Then, I think the additions of Reiff and Remmers are substantial additions that should bring some consistency and durability to an offensive line that is automatically better than last year if they have even a shred of, well… consistency and durability.
Remmers may not have us prepping our All-Pro articles around here, but I do appreciate that he can substantially fill the void left by Mike Harris (versatile swing tackle) if Spielman finds a right tackle that can beat him out for the job.
2. Nothing Too Crazy
According to Over The Cap, the Vikings contract to Remmers is worth up to $30 million over five years. $10.5 million of that is guaranteed. Those guarantees are mostly front-loaded and if this gamble doesn’t work out after a couple of seasons, the Vikings can part ways with minimal cap ramifications.
Remmers is 27 years old and hopefully has his best football still ahead of him.
Reiff’s deal is also over a five-year period, again according to Over The Cap, and worth up to a total of $58.75 million over that time. That $11.75 million per year average, along with a hefty $26.3 million in guarantees, is some serious money, without a doubt. Again, however, the guarantees are mostly front-loaded, and cap penalties drop drastically if Reiff hasn’t lived up to his contract after two seasons on the job.
Reiff is 28 years old and hopefully, has plenty of good football left ahead of him.
The hope is that both of these contracts look like steals two years down the road, of course, but if they don’t work out then the front office won’t be overly penalized for cutting bait. The players will need to play up to their contractual expectations to see those final years of their contracts, and if they do play that well, then these have probably been solid signings.
1. Still Plenty Of Opportunities
There are still plenty of talented free agents on the open market that could add to this roster in meaningful ways. Letting some of their players go and showing some level of restraint in the opening days of free agency can be hard to endure as fans, but the Vikings have left themselves with enough cap space to participate in the second round of free agency and also later waves of veteran cuts.
According to Over The Cap, the Vikings still have $26.9 million in cap space to work with. This should be enough to remain active and competitive in the open market, while also keeping enough in the bank to extend key members of the roster that will be needing it shortly.
There are still plenty of reasons to view the future as bright in Minnesota, and the organization can add multiple more reasons in the near future.