Sunday, March 8, 2015

5 Free Agent Fits for the Vikings

Photo Courtesy of Kickoff Coverage

Free agency will be in full force this week and Daniel House provides five players the Vikings should have their eyes fixed on. 

Updated: March 11th, 2015 11:55am

By: Daniel House

The Vikings have already started to talk with players and agents about joining their team when the free agency window opens on Tuesday. I will be looking for the Vikings to add one rotational defensive lineman, a linebacker or safety, and potentially an offensive lineman. The front office won't make a splash, but instead will add valuable players that will be priced in the middle tier of the free agency spectrum. In this post, I have provided you with five players to monitor closely as free agency speculation increases over the next few days.

Defensive End- Adrian Clayborn: The Vikings have reportedly expressed interest in free agent defensive end Adrian Clayborn. Clayborn has had major injury issues throughout his career, but has shown flashes when he has been on the field with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He missed 15 games last season with a torn biceps tendon and 13 games in 2012 with a knee injury. Mike Zimmer doesn't like players who can't stay healthy, but a fresh start might be the best way to get him back on track. In his rookie season, Clayborn corralled 7.5 sacks and in a healthy 2013, he notched 5.5 sacks. Rick Spielman had his eyes on Clayborn when he entered the draft in 2011 and this might be the perfect opportunity to groom some of his talent. The team can add him for a relatively affordable price because of his injuries concerns. Mike Zimmer is looking for a rotational defensive end and Clayborn is the perfect player to develop and coach this offseason.

Linebacker- Brandon Spikes: The Vikings haven't had a solid middle linebacker and it really has hurt their defense. Brandon Spikes spent four seasons in New England and signed a one-year deal with the Buffalo Bills last season. He played a pivotal role in the Bills defensive scheme and has really developed himself into a solid run defender. Spikes has two career interceptions and two sacks along with five forced fumbles. He made $3.25 million last year and should be paid somewhere in this neighborhood again. He has the versatility and played in a 4-3 scheme last year, along with a 3-4 earlier in his career. Spikes plays with physicality and you have to love the way he plays with attitude. Mike Zimmer would be a great fit for a player like Brandon Spikes. His price will be in the medium range and provides talent to a position of need on the defense.

Safety- Rahim Moore: According to Arif Hasan, the Vikings have expressed interest in safety Rahim Moore. Moore is most famous for Jacoby Jones getting behind him in the AFC Championship game. With all of that aside, Moore has really solidified himself as a safety in this league. He is developing his ball coverage abilities and corralled four interceptions last season. The Broncos liked to use Moore as a single-high safety because of his athleticism and ball skills. He is not the fastest player on the field, but has the ability to be a solid playmaker. By adding Moore in free agency, the defensive scheme could evolve and Harrison Smith could spend more time in the box during base packages. Pro Football Focus gave him a +4.2 pass coverage grade for the 2014 season and he finished sixth in coverage snaps per reception. However, he isn't the best in run support and Pro Football Focus graded him -3.5 in this area last season. The coaches are looking for a solid coverage safety that can make plays and Moore could be that guy. He is asking for about $5 million per year and the Vikings could be in the position to make this deal happen. However, they still may make some contract restructures to ease the burden on the salary cap for other moves.

Offensive Guard- Clint Boling: The Vikings need to be sure they have the left guard position solidified before they enter the draft. If they want to add a top-tier guard, they will be paying a player like Mike Iupati upwards of $8.5 million per season. That is just unrealistic and the Vikings will look towards a solid second-tier player who can upgrade their offensive line. Boling ranked as the league's 8th-9th best left guard, per Pro Football Focus, with an overall score of +5.0. His run blocking score was most impressive and he finished with a +5.4 in this category. He has the flexibility to play some tackle in a pinch and is well liked as a road grader. He was drafted in 2011 by the Bengals in the 4th round and Mike Zimmer is very familiar with him from his time in Cincinnati. Boling would be an affordable option and could provide the offensive line with stability heading into the season.

Quarterback- Brian Hoyer: The Vikings have expressed some interest in quarterback Brian Hoyer, but it seems unlikely he would land in Minnesota. Hoyer could get a job with a team like the Jets or Houston and have the opportunity to start. In Minnesota, he will never get the chance to scratch the surface unless Teddy Bridgewater became injured. However, he would be a great fit for the Vikings and his connection with Norv Turner makes the thoughts of this even more enticing. The only way Hoyer could land with the Vikings is if Turner could make solid pitch and Hoyer didn't have intentions of starting. All of this seems unlikely, but you can't deny the fact he would provide the Vikings with a nice sense of security behind Teddy Bridgewater. Look for the Vikings to add Shaun Hill as the backup if no other options become available.

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