Opinion

Free Agency 2019—What’s Up with the Vikings?

Man, a guy goes on a short (well, a couple weeks-long) vacation during the 2019 free agency period and all Purple hell breaks loose. WT(insert your preferred expletive initial, there)! Anthony Barr is gone; Barr comes back. The bloody New Orleans Saints became Seattle Seahawks south and are attempting to steal our team. The Vikings didn’t have much for guards last season and then lost three prospective starters. And now Marcus Sherels is headed south. This is no way to relax on a vacation.

Nice job, whose ever it was to hold down the Purple fort in my absence. It was like the Argentines swooped into the Falkland Islands and tried to usurp our squad (I had to use the Falkland Islands analogy—as contrived as it may be—in hopes that I can write off my trip there last week). Latavius Murray moves on and Ameer Abdullah fills the void. We needed a new offensive line and now we basically have an offensive squiggle.

Okay, that’s enough. Suffice it to say it wasn’t the most stellar free agency period in the team’s history—in my opinion. I know that cap space was limited, but you figure some player contracts would be reworked (well done, Griff; are you listening, Kirk?), and others would be let go (hasta luego, Sendejo.) The bottom line, so they say, is that every year’s team is different, and this one already has that in spades. I was thinking it was going to be an improved one, however, and so far, I am not seeing that.

Let’s a take a quick look:

I was long petitioning for the return of Barr. Couldn’t believe that head coach Mike Zimmer, who loves having his first draft pick as a head coach on his team, would let him go without a fight. And he didn’t. But it seems that it was more like Barr not believing he was going to leave. I like the fact that he is here; I like the fact that he wanted to be here; and I like that Zim wanted that also. They moved Everson and earth to get it done, and that is commendable, also. Everson Griffen is not done yet, and I didn’t not want to see him sacking Kirk Cousins for another team next season.

Murray leaves and it turns into Abdullah. This is a step backwards for the position—there was so much to like about Murray. I don’t understand him wanting a bigger role and moving on to New Orleans for a similar one to his Vikings role, but then I wasn’t in on the contract negotiations where the money was discussed and promises of his new role were made. I just know that Abdullah is not the same kind of back that Murray was, so Mike Boone better start eating his Wheaties.

The Saints most recent larceny has to do with the Vikings’ longtime return man and cornerback Marcus Sherels. I have finally, after nine seasons, realized my mistake and did not write him off the opening roster last season. I learned my lesson about the local dude who made it big, and now he up and leaves. The agreement was recently announced, but the contract details were not, so we need to see what they come out to be. But I want to believe somehow that he will still be on the Vikings’ opening day roster (like in Monty Python’s “Upper Class Twit of the Year” sketch in which “Oliver has run himself over . . . he’s dead, but he is not necessarily out of it”) . Too late. The former Rochester, Minnesota, product is gone. Of course, he and the other new Saints are going to break Vikings fans’ hearts next season. You heard it here first.

Speaking of those new Saints, they were able to pry guard Nick Easton away from the Purple with a hefty contract that the cash-strapped Vikings were unable to muster. This is the biggest blow of the free agency period for Minnesota. They let guard Mike Remmers go to increase some salary cap room and then lost the player who was slated to start at the other guard position. The Vikings needed to make some free agent strides forward at the position, yet they have instead moved in the opposite direction. Was it money? Was it some bad feelings from last training camp when Easton injured his neck and opted for a second opinion and a season-ending operation? Perhaps, a bit of both. Regardless, his defection last week created a huge hole in the offensive line, as last year’s starter Tom Compton signed with New York Jets.

The Vikings did sign former Titan offensive lineman Josh Kline. It should give them some position flexibility (as he has played both guard spots for Tennessee) and perhaps some consistency—Kline has missed just four games since becoming a fulltime starter in 2015. Durability has been a concern for the Vikings offensive line. But signing Kline to play opposite an Easton still in Purple would have been the optimal desired result for this free agency period, in my estimation. Had they had the cap room, of course.

The Vikings lost Sheldon Richardson, but resigned Shamar Stephen. It was somewhat expected because Richardson would command too much money, but his loss is another bad one, in my opinion. The Stephen signing is great, but I think the Vikings will have to back that up with a one-year contract for Tom Johnson.

I am good with the parting of ways with Andrew Sendejo and the signing of Anthony Harris. I am not sure the Vikings will miss Sendejo on the field (I know they won’t miss his penalties, and writers will get by without Sendejo’s recalcitrant nature in front of the tape recorders), as Harris stepped up quite well in his absence. But Sendejo could hit and became a nice compliment to Harrison Smith. The jury may still be out on this one, but I am in support of it.

Finally, the Vikings re-signed kicker Dan Bailey and punter/holder Matt Wile. These aren’t major moves but were needed to be made. I like that they’ll have an offseason of working together to improve their performance, because I think the days of drafting a kicker in the mid-rounds may be over for this head coach.

All-in-all, free agency thus far hasn’t been a bust, but it hasn’t been a time for Purple flag waving. We all recall the high-times of last season when the Vikings made the biggest free agency purchase in team history at quarterback, and we’re still discussing the merits of that one a year later. Free agency is not the crapshoot that the draft can be, but there are no guarantees in it, either. There is always a reason a player is available, and sometimes those reasons come home to roost.

But you can’t color me purple pleased just yet. I am now more convinced than ever the Vikings have to take linemen early and often in the draft—and won’t that be exciting. Hell, I think I need to plan another vacation.

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Joe Oberle

Joe Oberle is a veteran sportswriter/editor/reporter and has covered the Vikings since 2008. The author of three books, he has been published in numerous periodicals and websites. He is the managing editor for VikingsTerritory.com and purplePTSD.com, as well.

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