Spielman & Zimmer
Image courtesy of vikings.com

Spielman & Zimmer Let Important Players Leave … Which Is New.

Since Rick Spielman and Mike Zimmer joined forces in Minnesota, as general manager and head coach, respectively, the masses have scrutinized the on-field performances with a watchful eye. The reviews have largely been positive when it comes to talent acquisition, and save for a few clock management hiccups and a suspicious stuffed animal rumor, Zimmer has enjoyed a Minnesota honeymoon that has been almost unanimously celebrated by Vikings fans.

This season will mark the beginning of a new era, however, and Vikings fans will be analyzing decisions in a way that has yet to occur since their head coach was hired in 2014.

This is the first year of Zimmer’s tenure that a substantial number of highly-regarded Vikings players have left for other teams, some of whom are amid the prime of their career from an age standpoint. The franchise’s best running back of all time, a left tackle selected in the top five, a popular and gritty veteran nickel corner, a kick returner that could be the NFL’s best before his career is over, a punter that finally seemed to be grooving and a blocking tight end whose dad might be inclined to describe this as an “exodus.”

Their presumed replacements have now been acquired through free agency and the draft, but only 16 games of football can give us all a real idea as to whether or not this has all been a net upgrade.

In a way, this sort of doubles Spielman and Zimmer’s chances for failure. Even if a replacement does well — which is of course no guarantee — a departing player thriving in his new surroundings can leave a bitter taste in the mouths of Vikings fans.

In a recent episode of VT Roundtable, I expressed the offseason narrative that perplexed me the most was the Vikings’ handling of their kick returner situation. The team seemingly allowed a historically-great returner in Cordarrelle Patterson to head to Oakland, which will pay him a relatively modest salary on a two-year deal that is actually just a one-year deal if they so choose.

This resulted in the Vikings having an extra hole in their roster this offseason, with a recent attempt to fill it taking place during the fifth round of the NFL Draft when the team invested in South Florida’s Rodney Adams. Of course, we hope that Adams goes onto be a great fit for the Vikings, but it simply strikes me as sure-fire downgrade at the specialist position when the team willingly let Patterson leave, in his prime, knowing that he may go on to be the most statistically productive returner in NFL history.

The result of such scrutiny does not have to equate to criticism, however, and could instead turn into praise fairly quickly.

For example, the decision to let Adrian Peterson flounder in free agency and replace him with Latavious Murray and Dalvin Cook could end up being a hugely positive thing for the Vikings. Replacing their aging centerpiece with a more explosive committee has all the makings of turning a stagnant running game into a strength. People will discount how hard this decision had to have been — because the money made it a no-brainer — but it should not go unnoticed if Minnesota’s offense indeed thrives this upcoming season.

Similarly, many signs point toward Matt Kalil’s departure and Riley Reiff’s arrival being a lateral move at worst — and possibly even a sweeping improvement. Reiff landed a contract in Minnesota of slightly greater value than the one Carolina signed Kalil to, but if he can prove more reliable and consistent than Kalil, the swap will be a gold star for the Vikings front office and coaching staff.

Coming hot off of a very active draft, Spielman and Zimmer have a plethora of new pieces to attempt to work into the mix in 2017. That said, however, they will also have to figure out how this is all going to work out in relatively short order. Fans and analysts alike will be keeping a watchful eye on how all of it works out, of course, but it is only natural that another eye will be keeping tabs on how the now-former Vikings are faring with their new teams.

This critique dimension will play the role of a new way evaluation method for the Spielman-Zimmer tandem — something we haven’t had a chance to track yet — and the individual results will be almost as interesting to tabulate throughout 2017 as the NFC North standings.

6 COMMENTS

  1. I am sure most of it came down to the big contracts coming up for other players still on the roster that the Vikings wanted to keep more. It’s not that some of the players you mentioned aren’t serviceable players, they just were not the highest priority or bang for your buck.

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    • Oh yes, I 100% agree, Jake. I have no doubt that there was a plan and that these are the results of that plan, which includes having cap space left over to retain other players with soon-expiring contracts.

      Still, comparing the new arrivals to the recently departed will be a fresh twist on how this regime is viewed moving forwards.

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  2. meh. Most of the guys that walked were of average value at best. Patterson wanted too much and had too little to offer in return – a great specialist, yes, but not a good receiver – especially considering the NFL is considering getting rid of kickoffs altogether. Peterson and Kalil were overpaid and arguably way overvalued until they were allowed to leave. Kalil has been a dumpster fire for a long time and Peterson hasn’t had a decent season since he was 29 years old, which was, what, 3 years ago? In a what have you done for me lately? business environment, all the player moves except losing the slot corner were not anything to be overly concerned about.

    And I and a lot of other fans sure as heck aren’t worried about losing a punter, a kick returner and an aging running back (who signed a contract with the Saints as a backup for 1/4th the salary he was due from the Vikings).

    It’s preseason. Please, carry on with the exaggerations on the team falling apart because they let a bunch of middle/bottom of the pile guys leave for a different team this year. It’s football. It’s business as usual.

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    • 1. Thanks for reading.
      2. I meant this part: “The result of such scrutiny does not have to equate to criticism, however, and could instead turn into praise fairly quickly.”
      3. I didn’t suggest this team is falling apart. They already did that last November.

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  3. Oh, Please! You must be getting a serious case of writer’s block if you have to resort to this kind of narrative.
    There wasn’t a player that left (including Adrian) that had tremendous upside left to discover or offer this team. To a man – their value was receding – in some cases rapidly. There is way too much talent remaining on this team that offer more improvement in the years to come. Rick keeps bringing in even more! Dalvin Cook, Pat Elfein, MICHAEL FLOYD!!! It’s obvious this team is being built around Bradford for a long successful future! Mike is a master of getting the best out of these young players. Better days are coming. So quit your whining!

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    • I like (and share) your optimism, Rick. I think if you read again carefully you’ll find that I’m not whining about these moves (outside of maybe Patterson being allowed to walk, I suppose), but rather stating that this many players being replaced is something we haven’t seen under this current regime and adds a new dynamic to the evaluation of this offseason once hindsight kicks in. That evaluation can be negative, or positive, and most likely will be a mixture of each.

      Thanks for reading.

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