Monday, August 3, 2015

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The Minnesota Vikings have stopped becoming somewhat active in free agency, like most teams, and have signed most of who they were going to sign. After losing Henry Melton to the Dallas Cowboys, the Vikings chose to sign former New Orleans Saints defensive tackle Tom Johnson, which makes it extremely unlikely that they re-sign Kevin Williams.

I’ve tracked the Vikings’ moves below. Any signings that occurred after January 1st 2014 is a “new addition,” which is why there are some names there that you may not recognize from the free agency period. Signings added to the team or practice squad in 2013 were not categorized as “new additions.”

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With the Minnesota Vikings signing “backup” defensive end Everson Griffen to a lucrative contract worth $8.5 million per year (though guaranteed only for the first two years, making him easy to cut should it be necessary), the shape of the roster is becoming clearer. Known mostly as an athletic wunderkind who dropped in the draft to off-field issues (and had some run-ins with the law since), Griffen’s signing was widely described as an investment in potential.

That’s not quite a fair analysis. Since joining the Vikings in 2010, Griffen hasn’t simply been a ball of unmolded potential and an unknown athletic quality; he’s had over a thousand quality snaps with the Vikings playing the position they’ll ask him to play—snaps they and the rest of the NFL would use to gauge his value. In fact, the Denver Broncos were willing to offer Griffen a deal worth $500k more a year.

With all that attention what does Griffen bring to the table?

 Last week Darren Sproles was “all the rage” when Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported that multiple teams had expressed an interest in the ultra-explosive multi-purpose running back. Originally expected to be released by the Saints, Sproles was instead traded to the Philadelphia Eagles for a fifth round pick.

 Norv Turner and Sproles had success together in San Diego for four seasons, so naturally the Minnesota Vikings were among the teams linked to the speculation and trade rumors.

 The Vikings obviously weren’t interested enough to offer their fifth round pick for Sproles…  and so, with the departure of Toby Gerhart to Jacksonville via free agency, Adrian Peterson could be looking at a heavy work load as it stands. 

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Edit—Because of a logical oversight, there’s an update to these numbers at the bottom of the calculation discussion that expands the space the Vikings have.

Reading into a series of mundane team moves can easily lead to some hyperbolic speculation; any team may simply be taking advantage of the time they have and the situation they’re in to take care of some house cleaning. But that won’t stop me or you from trying to read the tea leaves that the Minnesota Vikings have left behind with a series of small but interesting moves.

As an update, the Vikings have signed nose tackle Linval Joseph (a great move), cornerback Captain Munnerlyn (a good move), linebacker Jasper Brinkley (a likely unimpactful move) and cornerback Derek Cox (a… move) while having re-signed defensive end Everson Griffen, quarterback Matt Cassel, cornerback Marcus Sherels, interior offensive lineman Joe Berger, running back Matt Asiata, defensive tackle Fred Evans, special teams player/linebacker Larry Dean, guard Charlie Johnson and receiver Jerome Simpson.

The Vikings could be on their way for even more.

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Prior to free agency I narrowed down five guys I thought might make some sense for the Vikings to target.  Two of them received reported interest from Minnesota and one of them actually ended up signing, so I’m feeling all full of glee about that, and want to give it another shot.

The second wave of free agency is still in progress with a number of higher end players still hanging out there (especially in the aging pass rusher department), but let’s get a jump start on looking for some bargains in the basement.  Here are five that I’d consider:

5.  Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Age 31

Let me start out by saying that I assume the Vikings will go into camp with four quarterbacks, which means they still need to add two.  While I don’t feel as comfortable saying this with certainty, I do think there is a good chance the Vikings part ways with Christian Ponder before training camp, and that would leave them needing to add yet another quarterback.

The Titans released quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick this week at the age of 31.  Fitzpatrick started nine games for the Titans last season, with Jake Locker missing time due to injury, and fared pretty well.  He threw for 14 touchdowns on a 62% completion percentage, ran the ball pretty well which included three more scores, and misfired on 12 interceptions.

Like Matt Cassel, the Vikings wouldn’t be getting a franchise quarterback by signing Fitzpatrick, but they would be getting a dependable and experienced veteran that is sure to be relatively inexpensive.  If the Vikings are really going to draft their franchise quarterback this May, then I’d rather have Cassel and Fitzpatrick ushering him into the NFL than an eager-to-move-on Christian Ponder.

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