Minnesota Vikings Former Free Agents: A Rooting Guide

A number of dearly departed Vikings have signed (or will sign) with other teams, and like any good fan, we need to know whether or not we can continue cheering for them in a small capacity as they enter the 2014 season and beyond. Some players will likely be polarizing (like Percy Harvin last year), but some are relatively easy calls. As in most years, most players will be easier to cheer for than against.

I get paid the big bucks to make these tough calls for you, and I’m sure you’ll disagree.

Jared Allen

Team: Unknown, but they’ll probably be easy to hate because he’s deciding between the Dallas Cowboys and the Seattle Seahawks (and a team yet to be named?)

Reasons to cheer for him: He’s Vikings history. He holds the team record in sacks, he’s been a team leader and he’s been stellar here. It’s hard to overstate his impact on the field. He’s been a huge asset both for his production and for his effect on the rest of the team. With a constant motor and a relentless supply of energy, he’s led the team and his unit to perform. Allen is a wonderful person who devotes more than money to help wounded veterans; he devotes significant personal time. Most athlete charities are suspect and many can be seen as ways to create tax write-offs while paying members of their family on the board. Not so with Allen, who clearly genuinely cares about his cause. He builds homes (as in multiple, physically, with his own hands), hosts (night time) golf tournaments, visits the troops abroad and more.

Reasons to cheer against him: He took up a lot of cap space last year, I guess. Some people don’t like rednecks, which he is I suppose. The bigger issue is the team he signs with, which will likely be detestable to Vikings fans. The Seahawks have a history of stealing away Vikings players and the Cowboys are simply easy to cheer against. Whether it’s the 1975 push-off, Jerry Jones, the incessant national coverage they receive or Tony Romo, the Cowboys have provided ample reason to dislike them.

Verdict: For. It’s tough to cheer “for” a player playing for a team that you want to cheer against. Initially I figured the best outcome (if he plays for Seattle) would be to cheer for a record sack season but get bounced out of the first round (or, if he plays for the Cowboys, miss the playoffs by a game again), but I really would like Allen to get a ring. So a record sack season, regardless of rotation, and a ring. I’d like him to win the Super Bowl more than I don’t want Seattle or Dallas to win one.

Full disclosure: Seattle fans have been extremely kind to me and I’ve interacted with them a lot in regards to the Seahawks. I personally cheer for Seattle a little bit. I suppose if I was a “purer” Vikings fan, I would cheer against them.

Toby Gerhart

Team: Jacksonville Jaguars

Reasons to cheer for him: A former Heisman runner-up (that really should have won it) and talented all-purpose back was asked to change roles and styles with the Vikings, asked to be a backup to the best running back in the NFL and gained weight to perform more of a “power” role than he had at Stanford. When asked to fill in for Adrian Peterson, he’s been nothing short of spectacular. He has averaged 4.7 yards a carry in his career (276 attempts)and averaged 4.9 yards a carry in his only season with 100+ rushing attempts. He truly deserves a chance to start, and with the Jaguars, he will at last get the lead role in their running back committee, if not the role of a true bell-cow back. Gerhart has been a consummate professional and a great guy.

Reasons to cheer against him: I guess he had a propensity to be called for fumbles that weren’t really fumbles. Remember the Baltimore game last year and the San Francisco game the year before? Both terrible calls that could hardly be considered his fault. I have no ill will towards the Jaguars and would like to see them do well, too.

Verdict: For. It’s easy to cheer for him. He’s talented and deserves better, and he’s signed with a team that’s easy to like and hard to hate. The Jaguars play out of conference and are coming off of a disastrous season. They have an extremely charismatic coach and a smart front office and it will be fun to see them rise along with Gerhart.

Kevin Williams

Team: Unknown

Reasons to cheer for him: He’s an institution. The second Williams Wall member to remain on the team, Kevin has been extremely productive in his career with Minnesota. A class act that even took a salary cut to help the team before putting up another great year (and even performing at a high level in the nose tackle role), Kevin Williams has been great to have in Minnesota. He’s averaged 5.0 sacks a season when playing as a defensive tackle, a hard feat to pull off. He’s represented Minnesota’s strength on the line and it will be tough to see him go. In all honesty, despite his age, I think it would have served the Vikings better to re-sign him than sign a younger Tom Johnson.

Reasons to cheer against him: If you really held the Starcaps controversy or the draft pick issue against him, that’s your call. From a labor law perspective, I can see why the courts ruled against the Williamses, but it’s hard not to be sympathetic to the claim that the supplement they were taking did not list the banned ingredient (the ingredient the NFL knew was in the supplement). Also, there’s no reason to be upset at him for the kerfuffle involving the botched trade with the Baltimore Ravens in 2003. I suppose you could be a little annoyed that he would refuse to play nose tackle, where the Vikings needed him, if he could.

Verdict: For. Hopefully he plays for a few more years.

John Carlson

Team: Arizona Cardinals

Reasons to cheer for him: He’s a friendly guy who has had a promising career get derailed by injuries. It’s not his fault he was offered such a massive initial contract, and life is tough enough as an NFL player that you can’t blame him for taking it. He also did pretty well after Kyle Rudolph got injured.

Reasons to cheer against him: Who? This dude showed up in perhaps two games before Rudolph’s injury, if that. The Vikings weren’t paying him to block, which means they were using almost about $300,000 a game to get less than a catch a game in 2012 (8 receptions in 14 games). After he restructured, things were better, but it was clear he was underperforming his contract. We’ll probably never know what his true production would be if the Vikings fielded competent quarterbacks, but it’s too easy to blame him for not living up to his contract when cheaper players did more.

Verdict: Against-ish. I don’t really find a reason to care about the Cardinals one way or the other (although the Vikings’ recent history with them has not been so great), and I don’t have a lot of ill-will towards the guy, but if there’s no other reason cheer one way or the other in a game, it’ll be easy to either make fun of his production or angrily demand explanations for why he’s producing for them and didn’t for us.

Chris Cook

Team: San Francisco 49ers

Reasons to cheer for him: He’s become a new person after the off-field incident (that he legally didn’t do) that got him suspended for a season.

Reasons to cheer against him: Do you really get credit for becoming an OK person only after you’ve (probably) committed an evil act? Unlike Michael Vick’s work on the behalf of dogs, I haven’t seen Cook do much work for charities or nonprofits designed to empower, protect or otherwise work with battered and abused women. Whether or not you believe he deserves a second chance after (probably) brutally beating his girlfriend, he hasn’t really gone out of his way to prove he’s done anything with it other than not continue to do bad things. Also, he sucked at football. He was perhaps unfairly blamed on occasion (the first Chicago game is a good example), but it’s clear for all his positioning, he was never able to do anything when the ball was thrown in his direction. Adding to all of that, there’s no particular reason to cheer for San Francisco. Their coach comes off as a jerk, and the Vikings have a (dormant) rivalry with the 49ers, sort of. The fact that Cook is embarrassingly bad at social media doesn’t help.

Verdict: Against.

Greg Childs

Team: Unknown

Reasons to cheer for: While at Arkansas, Childs injured one patellar tendon while playing on a sprained ankle. After recovering and having a blazing Pro Day performance (4.41 40-yard dash and 41.5″ vertical), there was hope that he could be the receiver could be the kind of player that made him one of the top players in the country and phenomenal draft prospect. Then in camp, he suffered an incredibly rare and extremely surprising bilateral patellar tendon tear and he was out for the next two seasons. Watching him play at a high level would be a triumph not just for him, but for the human spirit.

Reasons to cheer against: The only reason to cheer against him is if you’re a terrible person, even if you’re a fan of an Arkansas rival and he signs for the Packers.

Verdict: For.

Josh Freeman

Team: Unknown (Oakland was interested, but they just traded for Matt Schaub)

Reasons to cheer for: Greg Schiano hates him. Leslie Frazier acted like he hated him. He got screwed out of a real chance and the only game he was put in was 12 days after he got off the plan from Tampa Bay to play in a completely new system. He has massive upside and could have turned into a real success in the right system, like he did under Greg Olson in 2010 and for almost all of 2011. Under Mike Sullivan, he was terrible, and it’s hard to argue that it’s a good system—despite Glennon’s good TD/INT ratio, the more telling statistic was the worst-in-the-NFL net yards per attempt. The fact that he wasn’t active for games where the backup QB (Christian Ponder) was injured is a slap in the face to him and to Vikings fans.

Reasons to cheer against: It really is unfair to judge Freeman on a game he had no business playing in; it’s no coincidence that the worst game of his career happened to be in the most bizarre situation in his playing life. The same thing happened to Carson Palmer. Even still, it was a really bad game. Really, really bad. After a while, reports leaked out that he started showing up late to meetings and coasting. After a while, it seemed like he stopped caring.

Verdict: For. It might be best that he doesn’t come back, but it’s easy to hope that the right situation appears for him. We always ask our athletes to compete, but it’s difficult for us in our work lives to care about our jobs when our employers clearly don’t. He mailed it in, and that may be enough to swing your vote but another environment may do wonders for him.

Joe Webb

Team: Carolina Panthers

Reasons to cheer for him: Joe Webb is a fantastic person with a great attitude. I’ve never heard Webb complain about getting jerked around or being put in a poor position to succeed, despite ample oppurtunity to and didn’t just do what his coaches asked of him—he embraced it enthusiastically. It’s also difficult to forget his more amazing moments, like against Detroit, Philadelphia and Chicago. In some ways, it’s always easy to cheer for a player that gave you so many electrifying moments. He was very probably misused and certainly hurt for not being able to develop as a player with one position. Perhaps sitting behind an offense built for a running quarterback in Carolina will help him better use his exciting skill set.

Reasons to cheer against him: He hasn’t been very good. In all honesty, the great moments he had weren’t sustainable or reasons you could count on him for the future, and he produced one of the worst quarterback playoff performances of all time. Despite a career completion rate lower than 50% and yards per attempt lower than even Christian Ponder’s, he somehow found himself in quarterback controversies a bit too often. Maybe not his fault, but definitely something that inspires some resentment.

Verdict: For. Unless you really, really dislike Carolina, it’s hard not to cheer Joe Webb on. If Cam Newton gets injured and Webb leads the Panthers to the playoffs (or better), that will give us confirmation that the old coaching staff was terrible, and it feels good to be right. For all of his faults, he was probably misused in Minnesota. That isn’t to say he was a good football player, but when he was on the field, the ways he was used were suboptimal. Last thing: it’s kind of cool that Spiderman and Superman are paired together.

Erin Henderson

Team: Unknown

Reasons to cheer for him: Undrafted free agents are always a good story, and he really was underrated as a middle linebacker. He was very good against the run, but he was abysmal against the pass. He was consistently slighted before he even took a snap at MLB and it wasn’t really fair. As an outside linebacker, he was stellar for one year in subpackage play and average another year.

Reasons to cheer against him: Being underrated doesn’t mean he was good. Replacing him at MLB is the best option, and the Vikings will likely improve some time in the next two years with either Michael Mauti, Audie Cole or a draft pick. He frequently spoke to the media with anger and his you-don’t-believe-in-me act was getting kind of old.

Verdict: Meh. One has to wonder if he could make a good outside linebacker somewhere. He takes on blocks well, diagnoses running lanes well and has good gap discipline. He may be limited to a two-snap role, but Brandon Spikes has made some good money with that role. I wish him well, but the team he ends up signing with (I assume he’ll get signed; Brinkley did) will dictate my cheering more than he will. It’s not like he wasn’t a team player.

Letroy Guion

Team: Green Bay Packers.

Reasons to cheer for him: He never struck me as a bad guy.

Reasons to cheer against him: He’s playing for the Packers. There doesn’t need to be much more said, but it also doesn’t hurt that he was somehow able to 1 starting job despite being an inferior player (one of the worst, in fact), with better players behind him on the roster. Not only did he have the starting job, he kept it forever. In his 31 career starts, he’s had maybe 2 or 3 good games and 20-odd bad ones. He was a huge liability on defense and he hurt the team. It almost felt like it would have been a better idea to field ten men on defense than ten men and Letroy Guion.

Verdict: Against. He’s playing for the easiest team in the league to hate, and when he played for the Vikings he was one of the worst players in the NFL. I hate the Packers so much, that I hope he plays every snap for them.

Desmond Bishop, Marvin Mitchell, Seth Olsen and J’Marcus Webb

Team: Unknown

Reasons to cheer for: None of them, as far as I can tell, are bad people. They all were on the Vikings roster and Webb and Mitchell even played some snaps! Mitchell wasn’t very good, but it really doesn’t feel like he should have been playing there at all anyway. Olsen considered retiring after a nasty hit led to a concussion and Bishop was a top-tier linebacker before a series of injuries took him out. J’Marcus Webb deserves to be lauded for all the terrible things he did to the Bears (as a Bear).

Reasons to cheer against: Like I said, Mitchell wasn’t very good, but it’s not like he was as bad as Greenway or Robinson. He only played 300 or so snaps, so it’s hard to get a sense of him. Like Mitchell, the other three didn’t leave much of an impression. They weren’t wastes of roster spots or anything, but I suppose you could be upset for the fact that technically, a better player could have been invited to camp.

Verdict: Meh. Like Henderson, the team they eventually sign with will determine my cheering priorities.