Wednesday, April 1, 2015
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larry grant

Due to my unexpected time off, I have yet to really weigh in on the Vikings interest in former Packers linebacker Desmond Bishop, who was a surprising offseason cut after he missed all of 2012 with a torn hamstring.

Bishop had been with the Packers since 2007 and started as an inside linebacker both in 2010 and 2011.  As a member of their 3-4 defense, Bishop really began to make a name for himself, but his hamstring injury derailed an entire season and now he is looking for work.  With reports swirling that he has offers from the Vikings, Chiefs, and Giants it is hard to imagine he’ll be unemployed very much longer.

The Vikings claim Bishop had a good workout with the team, which hopefully means trainer Eric Sugarman came away unconcerned about his health, and this speculation is another sign that Erin Henderson is destined to move back to his native position on the weakside.  Henderson, as we all know, is the current guy with his paws on the starting Mike job.  At a minimum, Bishop represents very significant competition at the position.

Of course, as Kevin Seifert wisely notes, assuming they aren’t looking to him as an outside linebacker might be a mistake.

Bishop turns 29 in about a month and his official profile says he stands at 6′ 2″ and weighs 238 pounds.  In five seasons he has started a total of 16 games, only once playing in every game of the season, and had a career high 115 combined tackles in 2011.  Over his career he has nine sacks, nine deflected passes, eight forced fumbles, and one interception (which he returned for a score).

Changing to a 4-3 scheme, as well as the injury concerns, could be a reason to have only cautious optimism that things will work out between the Vikings and Bishop.  Also, while he might represent an upgrade over some current options at the middle linebacker spot, Bishop isn’t exactly a game-changer in any facet of the game.  He is more your solid and dependable guy that does a decent job with gap discipline and sound fundamentals.

On the other hand, Spielman may look like a genius for waiting so long to find a middle linebacker, as he is arguably the best one to be available in free agency this offseason.  Karlos Dansby’s decline, Larry Grant’s suspension, and Rolando McClain’s bizarre personal life are all reasons to call Bishop the guy with the highest ceiling of this offseason’s choices.

The Vikings are thought to have about $7.13 million in current cap space.  That should be plenty to sign all three of their first round draft picks (the rest of their draft class is already signed) and also bring in a veteran or two, such as Bishop.

There is some speculation out there that the Greg Jennings signing caused the Vikings to max out their credit card, from a salary cap standpoint, and will be done spending in free agents.  While it seems likely the Vikings are close to the spending threshold, we do not yet know what Greg Jennings’ cap hit will be, and there could be more restructuring or releases in the near future that give the Vikings some flexibility.

So, let’s assume for a minute that the Vikings end up having some money left to spend, but not enough to go shopping for big names.  Who could they target at what positions?  Here are seven guys I think could be great bargains at this point in the offseason:

Larry Grant, LB, 49ers:  Signing Jennings gave the Vikings some flexibility when it comes to their first round draft picks.  Signing a guy like Grant, who filled in well for an injured Patrick Willis in 2011, could provide them similar flexibility as it now assumed the Vikings will be targeting a middle linebacker early on.

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