Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Vikings Free Agency Analysis

How will the Vikings 2014 free agent signings impact the formulation of the roster? See what Daniel House thinks as he analyzes every signing the Vikings have made during the free agency period. 

The Vikings had the cap space to make a splash in free agency in 2014 and so far they have done just that. While adding a nice mix of new talent, the team has also made signing their free agents a priority, as well. Mike Zimmer has stressed the importance of building the defensive front and it appears this will be a huge focus during free agency.

Each signing is explained and analyzed below: 

Everson Griffen- 5-year, $42.5 million, $20 million guaranteed:

- Everson Griffen was obviously the top priority among the Vikings pool of unrestricted free agents this season. In a limit amount of snaps (717), Griffen managed to amass, 5.5 sacks, seven quarterback hits, and 30 quarterback hurries. Everson has started just one game in his four year career, but Mike Zimmer has plans to utilize his raw skill-set. The Vikings were forced to rise to the stakes when the Broncos swooped in and offered Griffen $9 million per year to join their front-seven. Mike Zimmer passed on Michael Johnson, who was a familiar acquaintance in Cincinnati last year. This explains to many how much Zimmer felt Griffen could fit within his defensive plans, especially when he passed upon one of his former young players in the process. The expectation level for Everson Griffen will be high and he will need to produce for the Vikings investment to pay dividends down the stretch.

Jasper Brinkley- 1-year, terms undisclosed:

- Jasper Brinkley is a familiar face to Vikings fans as he was drafted by the team in the fifth-round of 2012 draft. After starting at middle linebacker for the Vikings in 2012, the team decided to part ways with Brinkley heading into the 2013 season. Brinkley found himself in the middle of the Arizona Cardinals 3-4 scheme, which didn't fit his skill-set. Brinkley is known for his abilities in run support, but from a pass coverage aspect, he has left much to desired. He doesn't have much speed and that has really gotten him into trouble during his tenure in the NFL. Brinkley is simply a two-down run support linebacker that will be evaluated during training camp.

Larry Dean- 1-year, terms undisclosed:

- Larry Dean has been a special teams standout for the Vikings since 2011, when he entered the league as undrafted rookie out of Valdosta State. Dean has been second in special teams tackles over the last two seasons. He plays a key role in the punt and kick return game, which has excelled since his arrival. Dean is a low-risk investment at an affordable price for this team. Special teams players are very underrated and with some more work with Mike Zimmer and the continued familiarity with Mike Priefer, this move was very logical.

Marcus Sherels- 2-year, $2.2 million contract:

- Marcus Sherels has appeared in 49 games in his three years with the Minnesota Vikings organization. Sherels played in all 16 games last season and set the Vikings single-season record with a punt return average of 15.2 yards per return. Sherels has not only been a reliable punt returner for this team, but he has provided a serviceable backup option at the cornerback position, as well. He is a low-cost player, who can make an impact in many different ways on the field, which is sometimes difficult to find in this league.

Joe Berger- 1-year, terms undisclosed:

- Joe Berger has quietly made a huge impact for this team in the three seasons he has been a part of the organization. Berger has been the rotational offensive lineman the team has leaned on in many situations. He has the flexibility to play guard and center, which was huge when both Brandon Fusco and Charlie Johnson went down with injuries last season. Berger could wind up being the starting left guard depending on the plans the team has in the draft and the remainder of the free agency period. This signing truly proves that free agency isn't all about flashy signings, but players who provide depth and versatility to a roster.

Linval Joseph- 5-year, $31.5 million contract:

- Linval Joseph was one of the players I highlighted before free agency started as a bargain bin player. He is a very athletic player who has insane athletic skills for his body size and type. Joseph is durable and has missed just one game in three seasons with the New York Giants. He fits the mold Mike Zimmer was searching for at nose tackle and can be a dominating run-stuffer for this team. The Vikings haven't had a solid interior defensive tackle since Pat Williams was a fearsome force in the middle of the defense. Joseph models his play after the former Vikings and stated this in an interview with the media at Winter Park today.

"Pat, he played like he had something to prove. I want to bring that style," Joseph told the media at his introductory press conference on Wednesday.

One thing is certain, Mike Zimmer has made bolstering the defensive line a priority during the free agency period and by establishing the starting defensive front, this could be just the beginning.

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