Free AgencyQuestion Of The Week

VT QOTW: High-Priority Defensive Free Agents

If anyone knows about winning, it’s legendary Alabama Crimson Tide coach Bear Bryant. In 25 seasons at the head of the football program, Bryant won 232 games and hoisted six national championship trophies. It’s no surprise, then, that Bryant is credited with the famous quote: “Offense sells tickets, but defense wins championships.”

And in Minnesota, Mike Zimmer’s following that same formula. The Vikings may not have won the Super Bowl this year, but they rode a top-five defense to an 11-5 record and the NFC North division title. They’re set up for long-term success, especially on defense, where a number of key players are in their first or second year with the team. A few of those contributors, though, are set to become unrestricted free agents in March.

Playing the role of general manager Rick Spielman, the Vikings Territory team analyzed the players and picked one as their highest priority to re-sign this offseason.

Which defensive unrestricted free agent should be the highest priority for the Vikings to re-sign?

[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″]
  • Chad Greenway
  • Terence Newman
  • Josh Robinson
  • Robert Blanton
  • Marcus Sherels
  • Andrew Sendejo
[/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″]
  • Audie Cole
  • Casey Matthews
  • Kenrick Ellis
  • Jason Trusnik
  • Justin Trattou

Adam P.: Marcus Sherels

It is pretty remarkable to think that Sherels has been able to remain with the franchise as long as he has. Walk-on in college, undrafted in the NFL, and now, one of the top punt returners in the league.

Re-signing Newman would be great, but bringing back Sherels should be more of a priority. During his time with the Vikings, he has become one of the team’s best (three punt return touchdowns in the last four seasons) and most reliable special teams players (one lost fumble in 81 career games).

By not re-signing Sherels, Minnesota could cause an unnecessary, self inflicted wound to their return unit. What if the new punt return man struggles and creates a whole new problem that eventually begins to impact the outcomes of games? The Vikings have plenty of other problems they need to fix this offseason. They should do their best to avoid creating even more and re-sign Sherels.

Adam W.: Josh Robinson

Robinson seems to have a negative stigma attached to his name within the Vikings fan base these days. Leslie Frazier misused him as a slot corner for a season, Alshon Jeffery combined with poor safety help embarrassed him in 2014, and then an injury derailed his 2015 season up until he was called upon to pinch hit in the playoff game, where he allowed Doug Baldwin to score Seattle’s only touchdown.

Despite all of that, I think the Vikings have a 25 year-old cornerback that possesses ideal speed, and showed plenty of promise (Alshon aside) within Mike Zimmer’s defense in 2014. Despite the rocky start to his NFL career, I still believe Robinson has all the tools to play the position at a high level, and I think getting him back on a relatively inexpensive second contract could be a boon for the Vikings.

Andy: Terence Newman

It’s weird to say a soon-to-be 38-year old cornerback is a team’s top unrestricted defensive free agent, but here we are. I had my misgivings about Newman coming over from Cincy last offseason, but he was extremely solid all year as a starter. Not dominant statistically, but brought a veteran presence to a young defense, was never the weakest link in the chain, and was a virtual extension of Zimmer on the field. With the way he trains and maintains his body (red wine, son), I don’t foresee a huge drop off next season, nor do I see him starting over somewhere else. Our hope is that Trae Waynes will step into a starter’s role next season, but having Newman back as a dimeback/backup safety would be the depth, continuity and leadership this team needs to take it to the next level.

Carl: Terence Newman

Newman’s one year contract of $2,250,000 for his services in 2015 was money well spent. The 13-year veteran tallied 62 total tackles and three interceptions while hold off first-round pick Trae Waynes for the starting job most of the season. It looks as if Waynes will be handed the starting job heading into the 2016 season, but the need to retain Newman should still be a high priority. My fingers are crossed that the market for a 37 year-old cornerback will be slim enough that the Vikings will be in good position to re-sign this versatile and productive ageless wonder.

Brent: Terence Newman

Trae Waynes looked much better as he filled in for Newman in the first round of the playoffs, coming away with a few nice pass breakups and his first career interception. That said, I like the safety blanket that is Newman, as he knows Zimmer’s defense incredibly well and can be trusted to maintain his responsibilities. Furthermore, I really like Newman’s ability to move to safety in a pinch as he did in Arizona when the defense needed to moved pieces around to cope with injuries. Newman’s veteran presence is nice to have in the locker room of a fairly young team and I would want him back in a heartbeat.

Nik Edlund, Draft Season: Terence Newman

I think the Vikings have to make bringing back CB Terrence Newman their highest priority defensive free agent.  Last season, Newman at age 37, proved that he still has it.  He started every game and had 63 tackles and 3 interceptions.  His versatility also proved valuable, as he was at times forced to play safety and more than held his own there. The fact of the matter is the Vikings still don’t know what they have yet in last year’s first round corner Trae Waynes.

Sure, he flashed at times, but having Newman still on the roster is one great insurance policy, just in case Waynes can’t handle starting duties in year two.  The Vikings should bring him back on a one year deal, with plans at playing him at nickel.  Newman is almost like having another coach on the field with all his years of experience, and his presence would be a huge benefit to the Vikings young secondary.

Matt Falk, Draft Season: Chad Greenway

This was a tough call between the old fellers Greenway and Newman. But as it stands now I think it is most important to keep whatever depth the Vikings can at the linebacker position. Greenway’s days of being a game changer on defense are over but still plays at a high enough level to add quality depth and pass his smarts down to the younger guys. Also a greedy part of me wants to see him in the new stadium, he has earned to get a final 1-year deal with the Vikings and go out the right way.

Austin: Chad Greenway

This was a tough decision between Newman and Greenway, but given Minnesota’ depth at cornerback, I opted for Greenway, everyone’s favorite Iowa linebacker. With Trae Waynes set to compete or take over opposite Xavier Rhodes next season, it’s hard to see the Vikings sticking with the 37 year-old Newman in 2016. Yes, he was an ageless wonder for Mike Zimmer, but also showed signs of his age in coverage. Greenway, meanwhile, took a back seat to Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr as Zimmer transitioned to more nickel-heavy looks. Still, his leadership in the locker room was key to their success, and it’ll be tough to replace if the Vikings do decide to part ways with No. 52.

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Austin Belisle

Austin Belisle is the West Coast's biggest Vikings fan, a football diehard cheering on the purple and yellow from sunny California. After graduating from San Jose State University in 2014, he began working full-time in corporate marketing and blogging on various sports websites. Austin's passion for the Vikings led him to Vikings Territory, where he hopes to share his lifelong enthusiasm for the team with readers on a daily basis. You can follow him on Twitter @austincbelisle

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  1. Good article. I believe all these guys at the right price should be considered. Sherels has given us some quality minutes no doubt. He just keeps on earning his spot and has been extremely reliable. However, Stefon Diggs was absolutely electrifying returning punts in the preseason hence Mike Wallace comparing him to Antonio Brown. I believe we could upgrade that position but, I’d hope he doesn’t go to one of our division rivals. Josh Robinson would be a great dimer or our 1/4back, lol. Getting Newman back because of his versatility would be my second choice. And Greenway would give us important depth who can play every LB position.

  2. Agree with aussie and Adam P. – Sherels. But Greenway, with how Austin put it….
    ” his leadership in the locker room was key to their success, and it’ll be tough to replace if the Vikings do decide to part ways with No. 52.”….
    Resign both.

      1. I think that they learned that Winfield was done, as he never played another regular season down in the NFL.

        The fact that some people cannot distinguish between an old, washed up player and someone who belongs on a 53 man roster is why the NFL has GMs. Letting the general population vote on who makes the roster would be disastrous. One only need look at the Pro Bowl voting to see what happens when the general population is allowed to make football decisions.

        Letting football fans vote on who would be on a 53 man roster would work out somewhat better, but then a football fan has legitimate football knowledge. I see a lot of people posting on football sites who really have no legitimate knowledge. People who voice opinions based upon emotions only really should not be called fans. There are other, much more descriptive, terms which should be used to describe them.

        1. This is a vote on a blog. “Playing the role of general manager Rick Spielman, the Vikings Territory team analyzed the players and picked one as their highest priority to re-sign this offseason.”
          And then we, as fans, participate….you are a fan Mike. What’s your point?
          Letting Winfield go was a mistake. You are wrong, just like you were on Peterson.

  3. I voted Greenway. He proved against San Diego that he can, in fact, still be a ‘game changer’. On a snap count he can be very effective and I feel he can be a crucial part in mentoring and spot start if needed. It was hard to not select Newman, but I feel the people calling Waynes a bust already are in for a big surprise. We can add depth via the draft at CB and DE. If Greenway departs Trattou can be that depth at DE and leaves another pick for the OL.

    PS- If all Sherels does is contribute on special teams and returning punts while being basically useless as a CB, then why is it so difficult for people to accept Patterson in the role?

    1. I love sherels as the always underdog, I feel given more game time he could be good at CB. With that being said I feel we should have put Patterson at pund return as well so he could flash in the pan a few times as we see he will not be a receiver in the NFL we know if u put the ball in his hands anything can happen.

  4. It was a close call for me but it was between Josh Robinson and Trattou. I don’t trust the depth at corner or DE without those two coming back and Robinson still has a ton of potential. I don’t see either Newman or Greenway getting picked up by other clubs. I think both of those guys will be available to call upon right before training camp if need be, if they don’t retire. I do think a lot of these guys will be back on one year type deals and half will get bumped off the roster by rookies after the pre season. Robinson is my pick.