Vikings Corner's Daniel House, highlights the free agency decisions and roster moves the Vikings have made this offseason.
All Minnesota Vikings fans were looking for this offseason was to build upon what was started last season. A 10-6 affair and a berth in the playoffs had optimism high. A quick exit from the playoffs partially caused by an unprepared quarterback led Vikings fans to believe the quarterback position would be an area of emphasis this offseason.
Cassel signs with Vikings
Just a few days into free agency the Vikings signed recently released quarterback Matt Cassel. Cassel was widely successful in his seasons with the Patriots and was considered one of the top backups in the league. When Tom Brady tore his ACL, the Patriots turned to Cassel and he didn't disappoint. He led them to a 11-5 record and was eventually traded to the Chiefs when Tom Brady returned. This leads me to believe that if the Vikings were to be placed in the same situation as the NFC Wild Card game vs. Green Bay, it would have been a different outcome. The Vikings knew that they needed a new backup after Joe Webb looked poor on a big stage. The battle at training camp will be between young quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson and Joe Webb for the final 3rd string quarterback spot.
Vikings trade Harvin to Seattle
The Vikings didn't waste any time and decided to make a personnel move we all didn't see coming. The Vikings traded star wide receiver Percy Harvin to the Seahawks for a 1st round draft pick this year, a late round pick in this year's draft and a fourth round pick in the 2014 draft. Harvin was the definition of turmoil and wasn't a team player. The NFL is a business and ultimately it is one of the biggest team sports. If Percy wasn't here for the right reasons and didn't want to play with the team, then it was time to part ways. The team chemistry for our team last year was remarkable and was the reason we rallied to win our last four games and punch our ticket to the playoffs. Percy missed half the season and was one of our most talented players, but we still managed to win football games. I didn't like the way Percy handled the ankle injury and how he left the team to focus on himself. If he was a true team player, he would have traveled with the team and supported his teammates. We can't see inside the locker room when we as media aren't around, but we have to believe that much more went on behind the scenes. I don't understand how you couldn't get along with Leslie Frazier. He is one of the most respected coaches in the league and truly cares about his players. If Harvin wanted to be that way, then it is best for him to hit the road to Seattle. I'm always of the belief that the team comes first and if you can't respect that you aren't playing the game for the right reasons. You can have all the ability in the world, but if you don't get along with the people you work with on a daily basis, then you aren't going to be an asset on the team. Percy will work well with the Seahawks for two or three years and the honeymoon will wear off, which will result in the same problem again.
Loadholt resigned, Winfield Released
The Vikings then decided to resign offensive tackle Phil Loadholt to a four-year $25 million extension. All five starters from last season's offensive line are back, which means we will able to see continuity on one of the most successful offensive lines in the NFL. General Manager Rick Spielman felt very strongly about Loadholt's value to the running attack and you can bet Adrian Peterson will see the benefits. The Chicago Bears made a serious run towards Loadholt and were prepared to pull the trigger on a deal larger than the Vikings. In response, the Vikings released cornerback Antoine Winfield to come up with sufficient funds to afford Loadholt. Winfield was due to make $7.25 million in 2013 and had expressed interest in playing out his career and finishing his 15th season before hanging it up. The Vikings haven't ruled out the potential of Winfield returning at a lower price. He visited the Redskins, but they couldn't afford his contract demands, so he has scheduled a visit with the Seattle Seahawks this Monday. If a deal can't be struck, I think he will return to the Vikings at a lower price. I hope he returns because I like his leadership and the mentorship role he took on last season. He is a leader we can't afford to lose this season.
Who did we retain in Free Agency?
The Vikings resigned several players including Jerome Simpson, Joe Berger, Jerome Felton, Erin Henderson, Jamarca Sanford, A.J. Jefferson, Marcus Sherels, and Marvin Mitchell. These players were all contributing factors last season and deserve to return to the roster this season. Simpson struggled, but was plagued with a back injury for most of the campaign last season. I think he has alot to prove, but was placed behind the eight ball for much of last season. Berger is the perfect utility offensive lineman and has flexibility to play guard or center on the offensive line. Felton was brought in after skipping between Detroit, Indianapolis, and Carolina. He was one of the keys to Adrian Peterson's success and deserved every penny of his 3 year 7.25 million dollar deal he received. Henderson struggled at times, but was able to make some crucial plays last season. He may have some competition if the Vikings draft a linebacker like we projected in our NFL Mock Draft 2.0. Jamarca Sanford was a rotational player at safety and was able to shift frequently in and out of the lineup at safety. He was even more of a critical addition on special teams and made some key tackles on kick and punt team. Jefferson signed a low tender contract which means he will receive 1.33 million this season. Jefferson was a key cornerback last year and started several games after Antoine Winfield broke his hand at the end of the season. The trade early before the season turned out to be positive down the stretch for the Vikings last season. Sherels was a great punt returner last year and was pivotal in the victory vs. the Lions at Ford Field. His punt return jolted the team and lifted them to victory in a game where offense was no where to be found. He came up clutch at several moments during the season and was a reliable punt returner last season. Mitchell was one of my favorite new additions last year. He was a key special teamer and was able to fill in at linebacker when injuries arose. He had some injuries problems of his own at the end of the season, but was worth every penny when he was one the field.
Who have we lost in Free Agency?
Linebacker Jasper Brinkley was signed to a multi-year deal by the Arizona Cardinals just days after the Vikings resigned linebacker Erin Henderson. We knew the Vikings could only afford Brinkley or Henderson and they felt Henderson was more consistent. Brinkley was never the same after he suffered a hip injury which resulted in him missing the entire 2011 season. Jasper struggled with agility and didn't have the same speed we were accustomed to seeing. The Vikings will look to find Brinkley's replacement through the 2013 NFL Draft.
The Vikings lost hybrid offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz to the Kansas City Chiefs early in free agency. Schwartz didn't see extended time with the Vikings and was primarily used for "heavy" packages. The part of Schwartz I will miss is his interaction with the fans that he established in Minnesota. He had ticket giveaway contests and wanted the fans to be connected to the team he was playing for. I wish him the best of luck in Kansas City.
Vikings sign Greg Jennings
Greg Jennings a 29-year-old wide receiver who previously played seven seasons with the Packers, visited the Vikings once and decided they were the right team for him. Jennings was given a five-year deal, which is worth up to $47.5 million with $18 million guaranteed. The Vikings were used to seeing Jennings torch the Vikings twice a year, but now he will be able to return the favor to the Packers this season. I'm looking forward to seeing Jennings as a vertical threat because he finally gives Christian Ponder someone to extend the field with. Essentially the Vikings traded Percy Harvin to the Seahawks for three draft picks and ultimately received Jennings too. Greg brings a great locker room presence and character to the team; replacing the attitude once held by Percy Harvin. Of course as Minnesota Vikings fans we have to hear the Green Bay Packers fans tell us over and over again, "Hope you enjoy our sloppy seconds." First of all, get create Packers fans and second of all, can't you respect a player that assisted you for seven seasons and put a classy thank you in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel? You can't tell me that if you were offered more money and felt that the move would benefit your family, that you wouldn't make the switch to a division rival. Ultimately the Packers fans will see they made the wrong move. We are glad to have him in our colors and will gladly accept the addition he will bring to our receiving corp this season.
What is left to address?
The last Minnesota Vikings free agent is wide receiver Devin Aromashodu, who has under produced in his short time with the Vikings. If the Vikings become desperate, they may be able to tempt him at a cheap discounted rate, but Aromashodu's meager two-season totals: 37 catches, 650 yards and one touchdown would seem to indicate the Vikings should move on.
Vikings Corner Team Needs:
WR, DT, LB, CB- all of these positions will be addressed immediately during the NFL Draft and will need to be addressed in order for the Vikings to grow next season. We will profile the talents to look for during draft day in a future post.
Overall, I'm happy with the moves the Vikings have made and feel like they are putting themselves in the position to be successful this season. With two first round draft picks, we can add fresh talent to a team that was on the stepping stone of success last season.
We will have more for you in the coming days, including the top 10 players to watch as draft day hits on April 25th.