Friday, February 8, 2013

Offseason Prescription

Could Tyler Thigpen be an option for the
Vikings as a backup?
How can the Vikings further develop and improve before the 2013 season? It all starts in the unrestricted free agent market on March 12th.

 Christian Ponder needs a wide receiver that can stretch the field from a vertical perspective. This season's wide receiver class is one of the best in recent years, as players like Greg Jennings, Dwayne Bowe, and Mike Wallace are all premier wide receivers that will be available come free agent time. Do the Vikings have the money or interest to intrigue a big-time wide receiver to join the organization? This is a major question and will be verified when we receive more information regarding Percy Harvin's status with the Vikings. His contract will be expired at the end of the 2013 season and the Vikings will have to make a choice about whether or not he will be a contractual obligation in 2014. If he is, the Vikings must draft a wide receiver that will face a smaller cap hit, or release/trade an existing player with a large salary. Jared Allen is the first large salary the comes to my mind. With a cap hit of nearly 17 million in 2013, Allen is a huge salary cap casualty. With a dip in performance, is it really worth keeping Allen on the roster? He has huge trade leverage and could be another way for the Vikings to address the wide receiver position. It all starts with dynamic players on the offensive side of the ball and the Vikings need one receiver that can compliment the pieces we already have in place. I'll soon review a potential scenario in a future post that I will release very soon.

The next place that must be addressed is the linebacker position, which was a key issue for the Vikings this season. Erin Henderson under performed and was not a legitimate coverage linebacker. Chad Greenway was second in the league in tackles, but the other players at the linebacker position caused running backs to get open in the passing game. The draft class is moderately filled with linebackers, but overall the draft class is going to be very young. With the record amount of underclassmen entering the draft, development could be slightly longer than usual. The first college option that comes to mind is junior Alec Ogletree from the University of Georgia. Ogletree dominated in the Capital One Bowl vs. Nebraska and was one of the strongest impressions I saw at this position during the entire college football season. There are additional possibilites, but I will profile these in a seperate post detailing statistics and facts of possible college players the Vikings will target.

In addition, the defensive tackle position has a strong amount of uncertainty surrounding the status of Kevin Williams in 2013. He is a free agent this season, but in order to be resigned he will need to take a significant pay cut. Is he willing to do this? I say yes, just for the sheer fact that Williams won't attract much attention from other NFL teams. He is an aging defensive tackle that has seen a slight drop in production over the past few seasons. I still feel like he is an option for this organzation, but I believe this position could be upgraded sooner rather than later to ensure we are ready when Williams departs. The defensive tackle position actually has more depth than in year's past and will be highlighted in the post discussing Vikings Pre-Scouting Combine Draft Options.

The backup quarterback position is a concern for the Vikings and was shown in full fruition in the NFC Wild Card loss vs. Green Bay. We found that Joe Webb is definitely not a quarterback option in this league. The Vikings decided to release Sage Rosenfels before the season began and it proved to be costly. The team wanted to get younger, but didn't keep a veteran to fill a possible void. Obviously, not many anticipated the situation would take place in a playoff game on the road at Lambeau Field. McLeod Bethel-Thompson impressed me in Training Camp and has great skills, but hasn't had an opportunity to establish himself in the league. Bethel-Thompson has tip-toed among many NFL teams and finally may have an opportunity to be a long-term backup option for this team. The Vikings need to draft a backup that is able to throw the ball and not just run all over the field. There aren't as many prospects in this year's draft, but this issue could also be addressed in the form of a free agent backup option. Former Panthers and Dolphins quarterback Matt Moore is a free agent and could fill this hole. In addition, former Vikings draft pick Tyler Thigpen is hitting the free agent market this season. He impressed the Vikings when he was in Training Camp, but couldn't be slid onto the practice squad. Thigpen played at Coastal Carolina and is a passing threat. He played with the Buffalo Bills, but struggled to see the field on a frequent basis. This is the one scenario I could see coming true in free agency.

Overall, I feel like defensive tackle, linebacker, quarterback, and wide receiver must be improved in order to successfully win games in 2013. I like the way we have become younger and put more pieces into the puzzle, but the picture still needs to be created. Leslie Frazier has a great coaching staff and the Vikings front office is one of the best in the business. I'm confident that Rick Spielman has a path for this team and we soon will see the direct effect of his leadership in the next few years.

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