Free Agency

Lingering Questions and Thoughts From Day One of Free Agency

Splashy? Not really, no. That’s not Rick Spielman’s style, and day one of free agency ends with Vikings Nation’s two most coveted targets—guard Kelechi Osemele and safety George Iloka—signing elsewhere. But there’s a lot to smile about for Vikings fans. The team made numerous moves, most notably bringing in former 49ers guard Alex Boone and former Titans safety Michael Griffin, and resigning Mike Harris, and the refusal to shell out huge money may turn out to be the smart move in the long run (as it often is). And there’s more to come; numerous outlets have indicated the Vikings aren’t done, and there are still questions about whether or not the team will bring back some of it’s own free agents. So, in no particular order, here are a few thoughts and questions after day one:

Not breaking the bank, not standing pat.

There are some teams that go hog wild in free agency. There are some that do very little. The Vikings are somewhere in between. While they almost always avoid the big-money, prize free agents, they generally target a few key players who fit their system and go after them hard. We’re seeing that again this year. Osemele was all the rage for the last month, but the Vikings passed on making him the highest paid guard in the NFL. Instead, they went after Boone, who came considerably cheaper at only a slight downgrade in talent.

To me, that’s a win. VT founder Adam Warwas aptly pointed out to me recently that the Broncos have proven it can work to go on an offseason spending spree (adding Aqib Talib, DeMarcus Ware, and TJ Ward the same year), but that’s the exception, not the rule. More often, shelling out major dough for big-name guys ends with underwhelming results (e.g. Albert Haynesworth, DeMarco Murray, Nnamdi Asomugha, Matt Flynn, Javon Walker, everyone the Redskins have ever signed…should I keep going?). The way to set yourself up for long-term success is targeted, midlevel free agent signings and building through the draft. Spielman gets that.

Not done with the offensive line?

Even with the Boone and Harris signings, the offensive line needs help. Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports thinks they’re working on more moves:

I wouldn’t be surprised to see at least one more notable free agent offensive lineman signed.

We love Alex Boone already.

In 2013, after Clay Matthews took a cheap shot at 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, Boone had this to say about Matthews:

And who of us hasn’t had that same thought? He’ll fit right in. Welcome, Alex.

What’s going on with Rhett Ellison?

There was a weird, unexpected Twitter sideshow that broke out regarding Rhett Ellison on Wednesday.

The only source for any of this was Ellison’s dad posting on Facebook that Rhett wouldn’t be back with the Vikings. Then, soon after, this:

And then this:

Weird. Ellison isn’t under contract for 2016, but he’s one of the team’s unsung contributors and it was expected he would re-sign. For now, we don’t know.

Is this the end of Chad Greenway?

On day one, the Vikings were the most active at the linebacker position, adding depth and maybe another starter in Travis Lewis and Emmanuel Lamur (in addition to re-signing Audie Cole). With two starters firmly entrenched and teams employing far fewer three-linebacker sets than they used to, one wonders if the team might be parting ways with longtime Viking Chad Greenway. Greenway has had a fantastic career in purple, but saw his playing time dip sharply last season and is nearing the end of the line. The Vikings have said all the right things about Greenway, but he’s a free agent and we only have to look back to Antoine Winfield in 2013 to remember they aren’t afraid to move on from popular, well-tenured players who are late in their careers.

It’s looking more and more like Josh Doctson at 23.

I did a roundup of mock drafts earlier today, and 4 of the 11 teams surveyed had the Vikings taking TCU wide receiver Josh Doctson in the first round. Now, after they’ve released Mike Wallace and shored up some of the problems on the offensive line and at strong safety (early thoughts indicate Michael Griffin will have a chance to start), it seems even more likely the team could go receiver at number 23. Spielman will stick steadfastly to “best player available” rhetoric, but to say need doesn’t factor into first round draft picks is naive. Right now, Doctson seems like the best fit at that point in the draft.

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Sam Neumann

Sam Neumann is a freelance writer and lifelong Vikings apologist. He has seen his share of Vikings-related heartbreak, but believes we are united by the hope that one day that norse ship will come in. Sam is the author of three books, including the New York Times Bestseller Memoirs of a Gas Station. He lives in Denver, Colorado, and has had it with Broncos fans. You can follow him on twitter @NeumSamN.

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  1. Boone is more than a slight downgrade from Osemele. Come on man. According to most Boone struggled ALOT when he moved to LG last year. Fusco-itis. He much better at RG. Osemele on the other hand is amongst the best LG in the game.

    Not saying I hate the Boone signing, probably the best we could have done, but let’s not pour the koolaid this early…Boone only rated a bit higher than Fusco last year so let’s reality check. There is more than a slight difference in talent vs Osemele.

    1. I honestly think the Boone signing was as much about adjusting the attitude up front as it was the talent. I would have been disappointed if Harris left because of this signing, but with both under contract I like the move.

    2. Boone struggled last year,but SF changed to a zone blocking scheme.He was much better in previous seasons when working in more of a power blocking scheme.Sparano favours a power blocking scheme,so I’m sure that’s part of the reason for targeting Boone.I expect he’ll be fine with a fresh start on a contending team.

    1. Isn’t that the truth WTF? We have the nucleus of what could be a GREAT coaching staff and a FO that doesn’t stumble very often and seems bent on a championship.
      Believe it; The Vikings will win a Super Bowl in the next one to 5 years. Probably in the next three. . .
      OK, I’ll just go ahead and say it; Next year!

      1. “…and a FO that doesn’t stumble very often…”

        Generally speaking, Spielman has been much better at acquiring talented players on defense than offense, especially if you compare the respective first-rounders, and retaining our own free agents entering or in the prime of their careers than handling long-time starters (and their positions) closer to the end. Similarly, while his draft day gamesmanship has generally worked in our favor, I’m not so sure that his penchant for one-year “Prove It!” deals have done anything to either develop players or solidify positions. Overall, I give Spielman a B+, but he definitely has some areas that I’d keep a closer eye on if I were the Wilfs.

  2. Sparano leading this o-line, Boone on the left side, and Fusco back to the right side changes this o-line. I believe the Vikings are going to be a strong force drafting 3 o-line man in the draft, I am hoping Jon Theus, a OT, in the third round. I have the Vikings taking Derron Lee in the first round and Michael Thomas in the second round.

    1. Like your picks. Lee would be a great pick up for this surging D! Hope he’s there at 23. If RB Elliot slips, he would be hard to pass up. I’d take him.

      WR Thomas would be nice in the 2nd. I would like to see a SS. One or more of these guys should be available with the 54th pick – Von Bell, Su’a Cravens, Jerromy Cash and Miles Kellebrew. Gotta love a linebacker with “Brew” in his name.

      3rd and 4th could be OL. OT – Theus, Kyle Murphy and G – Sabastian Tretola, Denver Kerkland.

      Fun times!

  3. I still think Kalil needs to be replaced. Kelvin Beachum makes the most sense but I could live with drafting one in the first or second round. I just have zero faith in Kalil turning into a consistent, quality starter.