Early Offseason Report Card
Free agency took off like a rocket. We were all anxious for what the Vikings would do. After all, they had a good chunk of cap room available. There were also rumors floating around from the combine that the team was going to be very active. And, let’s face it; there weren’t any shortage of holes to fill.
But nothing happened on that first day. The Vikings were quiet… Eerily quiet. Fans were not. Almost immediately, people were calling for Spielman’s head. How could he not acquire Vincent Jackson. How could he not get Pierre Garcon? How could we just sit on so much money when there so many voids to fill in this team to make it a contender again?
Finally, the Vikings started making some moves. Now, that’s not to say fans pulled back and gave Spielman some breathing room. The acquisitions were questionable… Questionable players signed to deals for amounts that were somewhat puzzling to most fans. We were signing people who were injured (and hadn’t played in a year), fullbacks, and… point guards.
While the offseason is far from over, two weeks in, we now have a fair amount of information to look at and develop more comprehensive opinions on how the team has done. What I wanted to do here is recap what the Vikings have done so far this offseason while giving my personal opinion of each move and an overall grade. If you’re ready (it’s long!), continue reading by clicking the button below.
Another indicator that the Vikings may have spent big in free agency was the release of three veteran players: Steve Hutchinson, Anthony Herrera and Cedric Griffin. Those releases opened up a substantial amount of cap space and led everyone to believe that the Vikings would probably look to either make a big signing on the offensive line or the defensive secondary.
Steve Hutchinson had been declining steadily. He simply wasn’t the guard that he used to be. Granted, he wasn’t bad. Not at all… But it got to the point where Spielman had to evaluate Hutchinson’s future with the team and determine whether or not it was worth the cap hit to keep him on board. Now, you may be saying, “Well, why did we need the cap room if we weren’t going to use it?” Well, I would argue that the Vikings did believe they were going to use it. Unfortunately, I think the ball just didn’t bounce our way (I’ll touch more on that later). Overall, while I think Hutchinson would have been a great mentor for Matt Kalil (assuming he’s drafted with our #3 pick), I don’t think it would have been worth the price tag. I support the decision to let Hutchinson go, as hard as it is. It was in the best interest of the long-term future of the team. (Grade: 4/5)
Anthony Herrera also had injury concerns, a slip in production and was getting older. With the addition of Matt Kalil, I believe the front office thought they could shift some things around and have a just as strong, if not stronger, offensive line. Losing Anthony Herrera wasn’t huge. He will probably be replaced by Geoff Schwartz or Charlie Johnson and, overall, I predict our line will be much improved from last year. Again, the front made a decision that, I believe, was in the best interest of the team. (Grade: 5/5)
Cedric Griffin needed to go. From Adam’s Offseason Preview column, “[Griffin] had a miserable season in which he looked slow as can be, was held out at times for disciplinary reasons, was benched, was short and snippy with the local media, and had an overall bad season. He ended up with 67 tackles, nine defended passes, and three forced fumbles. He was flagged nine times and gave up five touchdowns. Griffin ended the season questioning his own future with the team.” (Grade: 5/5)
Overall, the release of these three veteran players was entirely necessary for the future success and growth of this franchise.
Sage Rosenfels was re-signed simply to be a sideline quarterback. He will provide mentoring and guidance for our two young quarterbacks while just being available in case anything were to happen to Ponder and Webb. While Rosenfels is not an elite quarterback, he has been in the league for quite some time and should be able to assist in the development of our quarterback of the future.
Guion is a player who has flashed at times showing good potential and floundered at other times. Pat William’s departure from the team has left a big (literally) hole next to Kevin Williams. On top of that, Kevin Williams will probably only be around another year or two. Once a position of great strength for the Vikings is suddenly a liability. Letroy Guion received a good sized contract so the team obviously believes he will continue to improve and could maybe be a long-term solution at tackle. It’s hard to say at this point whether or not the team made the right decision… But I definitely don’t believe it was a wrong one. Guion needs to show this season that he is worth the slightly inflated contract he received.
As the Vikings first real signing of the offseason, this pick was met with a lot of skepticism. There are injury concerns for Carlson (he missed the entire 2011 season), the contract seemed a little too hefty and some people didn’t understand why our first major move was at a position that we already have a promising up-and-comer at (Kyle Rudolph). In reality, though, Carlson is supposed to be 100%, his contract wasn’t as bloated as originally believed (only 11 million guaranteed over 5 years) and we needed to replace Visanthe Shiancoe with an above-par tight end. When Carlson was healthy, he was more productive than Shiancoe and adding him to the other side of the line, opposite of Kyle Rudolph, could create some serious mismatches for defenses. Personally, I would have preferred the Vikings try and find another tight end through the draft, but unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of promising prospects after the one or two that will go in the second round.
Overall, I like the Carlson signing. While neither Rudolph or Carlson are blocking tight ends, they will cause major problems for defenses in two tight end sets if Christian Ponder has the time to throw (which he should this year with an improved offensive line).
Check out Adam’s opinion of the Carlson signing for a more detailed view.
I don’t understand why everyone was so up in arms over this pickup. It’s not like the front office signed this guy to a big contract and expect him to immediately start, solving all of our issues in the secondary. They liked what they saw out of him, believed he has potential and gave him a small contract with probably very little guaranteed to prove himself. So what if he was a point guard and has little football experience? Again, very small contract. Had the Vikings managed to sign some big names during free agency, I imagine this signing wouldn’t have received nearly as much criticism. But it’s not uncommon for teams to bring in people with very little experience to compete in camp and try to earn a roster spot. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this move by the front office, in my opinion.
Not impressed by this move at all. Fred Evans has been with the team for five years and hasn’t managed much of anything. It’s not like the NT position has been strong since Pat Williams left, making it hard for Evans to make an impact. He didn’t receive tons of money or anything, but honestly, I would have rather had the Vikings try and find ‘rotation’, or depth, at the position in the draft. More opportunity for upside…
Again, two players with potential upside brought in to provide depth and competition at a position that may need it (depending on how Adrian Peterson’s rehabilitation goes). The contracts are not long-term (just one year) and they came at a cheap price. Both Lex Hilliard and Jerome Felton are young, have shown some promise with their previous teams and have potential for growth.
I’m glad that Ayodele was released but disappointed they waited until after paying him a deferred portion of his signing bonus. The team says the move had nothing to do with Ayodele’s involvement with the Saints bounty scandal… but is anyone buying that?
Another player signed at a discounted rate due to injury concerns (Schwartz was sidelined the entire 2011 season). Spielman could very well end up looking like a genius if some of these risky moves pan out. When Schwartz was healthy, he was “near-dominant” at the guard position and will most likely end up on the starting line-up. Schwartz signed a one-year, $1.5 million dollar contract. While the amount of the contract is great, in my opinion, the length is not. For a team that is trying to rebuild through young talent, it would have been potentially better for the team to sign him to a multi-year deal. If Schwartz ends up having a great year, we could be on the hook to substantially upgrade his contract next year. On the other hand, don’t we want these guys to pan out and, as a result, earn more money? Maybe these short contracts are better for the team if these guys don’t pan out and live up to expectations.
It got a little ugly but the Vikings managed to get our up-and-coming linebacker re-signed and happy. Erin Henderson could be the best kept secret at linebacker in the league and only time will tell. Again, though, the team chose to only give him a one-year contract. This short contract will be great for the team if he doesn’t pan out but bad for the team if he does. Personally, I believe Erin will have a great season, and therefore, think the Vikings should have worked to get him a multi-year contract (three years, preferably).
I thought Aromashodu managed to make some clutch grabs last year so am not disappointed to see him re-signed. In this case, I think the one-year deal was to the benefit of the team while it tries to [hopefully] find talent at wide receiver through this year’s deep draft class. If we find better options in the draft, we can easily part ways with Aromashodu. If we miss out on receivers in the draft… Well, let’s just say (pray) we don’t…
Zackary Bowman was not a starter for the Bears last year. In other words, Zackary Bowman will be a starter for the Vikings in 2012 (unless we strike gold in the draft). This is another short, low-risk, cheap contract for a player who, with a change of scenery, could do good things. In the 2009 season, Bowman had six interceptions. Let’s hope his productivity increases when in purple.
I would have loved to have Pierre Garcon as a Viking this year. I think he would have provided a great target for Ponder and pulled some of the attention directed at Percy Harvin by defenses. Unfortunately, this year the market for wide receivers was incredibly inflated. It has been reported recently the Vikings were one of the teams in the mix for Garcon’s services and I have to say, I am very happy we missed out. Pierre Garcon was given $42.5 million, $21.5 guaranteed, over the course of five years. Some believe the Vikings topped out at $18.5 million guaranteed and I think even that is a little lofty. Garcon’s stats are almost identical to Bernard Berrian’s before coming to the Vikings in 2008. I think it’s great that the team didn’t overpay for another borderline #1 receiver and will instead use its large amount of draft picks to find new talent.
Extra Credit: The Vikings Free Agency Theory
As I stated at the beginning of that article, (almost) everyone was expecting the Vikings to bring in some marquee players through free agency. Obviously, that didn’t happen. Instead, the team has decided that it will not pay big bucks for free agent players who may not produce in their new environment and instead utilize this year’s promising draft prospects and the team’s above average number of picks to make improvements. This is what great NFL franchises do. I know that it’s hard as a fan to watch. It looks like the team isn’t doing anything. It looks like the Vikings don’t care about making improvements in 2012. I believe that is far from that case. I think Spielman wants desperately for this team to win a Superbowl (doesn’t everyone?). Whether or not he has the ability to make that happen is yet to be seen but at least now there is a singular person responsible for the direction of this team and the decisions it makes. The Vikings have 6 picks before the fifth round in this year’s draft, three of which are in the fourth round – a round the Vikings have had good success in from prior year’s drafts.
Overall Grade: 81% (B-)
Adam’s Grade: C