One thing is for certain when free agency comes around, it often coincides with draft needs. It would be great to be in a position where you could shop desire over need, but for 99 percent of the teams out there, need trumps desire every time.
The Vikings go into the free-agency period around the middle of the pack when it comes to money under the cap—currently around $10 million. That amount could grow if Minnesota parts ways with veterans who have seen better days, earn too much for the return investment or who just haven’t produced.
I would like to see the Vikings keep several of their free agents, mostly out of loyalty, but I understand the reality of the business and why I couldn’t be a GM.
However, it is my hope that the Vikings keep these three: Steve Hutchinson, Erin Henderson and Antoine Winfield.
Most Vikings fans look at some big names like Vincent Jackson, Cortland Finnegan, Carl Nicks, etc. to be wined and dined in the Twin Cities, but if that happens, I fear it will be out of gamesmanship or simply to find out if the players would settle for less by coming to a franchise lacking solid footing right now.
Now, I don’t want to sound depressing, but sometimes, reality is depressing, and well, real.
Before I start, here are the positions the Vikings will not only look at in free agency, but in the draft. For most, they are no mystery. I only provide them to give the article some context.
Here are some other names that may be swinging by to hear what the Vikings have to offer.
In all seriousness, if we cannot land Vincent Jackson, Marques Colston or Pierre Garcon, of whom I have reservations about Garcon, the Vikings should just wax the idea of pursuing a WR in free agency, tell Aromashano-no to take a pay cut and go after a WR in Round 2 or 3 of the upcoming draft.
However, for kicks and giggles, let’s pursue the FA matter.
Jackson will cost way too much. Yes, I know there was a pursuit a couple of years ago, but these are different circumstances, and the Vikings are not just one player away from a Super Bowl run. As much as I would like to see Jackson in purple, my money is on Chicago. You don’t know how much that pains me to print that. But don’t be surprised to see the Broncos bid for Jackson’s services as well.
Marques Colston is an interesting prospect, and perhaps, one we could afford. He will not be able to demand huge amounts of money given the shorter track record compared to Jackson.
If you look at what Sidney Rice got last year from the Seahawks, (five years/$41 million), that sounds about right. My worry is whether Colston can play outside of New Orleans and garner the same respect from defenses that he gets in New Orleans. However, I do believe they would have a quality person in Colston whether that matters or not.
Another intriguing player is Pierre Garcon who sometimes has key drops, but he definitely stretches a field. But again, is he a product of Manning?
Most of the other credible receivers have been franchised or signed to longer-term contracts, so what was once going to be a wide-open market, no pun intended, has quickly become one that is quickly drying up.
Once again, we are focusing on lesser known free agents, so Carl Nicks is definitely out, and Grubbs might be out as well. However, if the Vikings could make one splash in free agency I would prefer they make it on the offensive line.
Since the Rams have traded the No. 2 pick, the Vikings are assured of drafting Matt Kalil, and if they don’t, then Spielman might want to quietly make his way out of town before the mob shows up at his door.
I have said before, you do not pass on a franchise LT. Yes, Blackmon and Claiborne are highly talented, but most of your Pro Bowl caliber tackles are drafted in Round 1. However, don't be surprised if Minnesota continues to throw out smoke bombs about trading the pick or being extremely interested in Claiborne.
If the dominoes fall into place and Hutch decides to restructure—that in and of itself—could be a good free-agency move, then Charlie Johnson could move to right guard, and at that point, the line looks a lot better than it did a year ago.
If Hutch is released, then you have two-year man DeMarcus Love as an option, but now, depth becomes an issue.
Let’s look at a couple of low-end players that would be good bargains.
Paul McQuistan, Seattle Seahawks, T, Experience: five years; could be a solid backup
Jake Scott, Tennessee Titans, G, Experience: eight years; although he is on the other side of 30, he could be a bargain, and with his experience, would be a nice addition.
I am not sure if the Vikings are in the market to pursue this position given that they seem to have some faith in Jamarca Sanford, Hussain Abdullah, Mistral Raymond; however, there will be opportunities to shop around.
This year’s crop of safeties is a solid one, but Tyvon Branch has re-signed with the Raiders, and Michael Griffin re-signing with the Titans. That leaves a few big names out there, but the pool is quickly dwindling, but if the Vikings have their eye on a couple of guys, here are a few that might be decent bargains.
Mike Adams, Browns, S, Experience: eight years; again a little older, but you would like to mix veteran leadership with youth, and more often than not, that experience needs to come from the safety position.
Dwight Lowery, Jaguars, S, Experience: four years; the Jags had a solid defense, and Lowery played well last year and has played well since coming into the league, so the Vikings could find a diamond-in-the-rough with Lowery.
There is no doubt the Vikings have some looming questions about this position even before they consider free agency, or perhaps, they have already made decisions the public does not know of yet, and we will find out sooner rather than later where the Vikings are headed at the corner position.
Winfield is due $6 million and has two years left on his contract. He's currently rehabbing in Minnesota which gives you the idea that he wants to stay and seems willing to renegotiate. Chris Cook is in the midst of his trial, but it's unlikely that resolution will occur before the free agency begins, and the old adage is "timing is everything."
Some of the big-name corners have already been re-signed by their teams, but much like safety, there are plenty of available players. For the Vikings, the biggest question is perhaps finding a corner that understands their modified Tampa 2 and does not have off-field issues.
Brandon Carr will be too expensive, unless the Vikings focus on one major signing for the free-agency period. Again, this seems doubtful.
Brent Grimes, my top choice, re-signed with Atlanta, but the Giants will have to decide who to keep between Aaron Ross and Terrell Thomas. Yes, Thomas is coming off a torn ACL prior to the beginning of the season, but he was really making a name for himself. The decision will not be an easy one for the Giants.
The other name out there that the Vikings could pursue and sign is Tim Jennings of the Bears. Yes, Jennings was benched late in the season, but I think that was part and parcel of the Bears just falling apart down the stretch. He’s only 5’8”, but Jennings has great leaping ability and make-up speed, and he looks to be very available.
Another name to throw into the mix would be William Gay of the Steelers. The five-year veteran will be hard to sign because of Pittsburgh’s cap situation.
The last name to consider is Richard Marshall of the Cardinals. He just finished his sixth-year and his one-year contract with the Cardinals. Depending on what the Cardinals see as their priorities, Marshall may slip out of town and be ready to bargain.
Should I stay or should I go?
This is one of those areas where some people feel absolute that the Vikings will try to find someone in free agency, while others say the Vikings are looking at the draft to fill in some of the gaps at linebacker.
There are some formidable players out there who are free agents, the Vikings have two, but it is looking more like the Vikings priority is to keep Erin and let E.J. Henderson go. I have made my feelings known about E.J. in the past. In his early years, I was highly critical of him, but he made a believer out of me and the way he returned from that horrific injury is nothing short of amazing.
With that said, my loyalty wants E.J. to stay in a back up role to Jasper Brinkley, the heir apparent it would seem, but E.J. probably feels as though he can start elsewhere. I see E.J.s departure like that of Keith Brooking in Atlanta. He may start for someone next year, but he will be relegated to back up duty after that.
Two big name LB’s to hit the market are Stephen Tulloch, Lions, and Curtis Lofton, Falcons. Lofton is younger, but Tulloch has a more complete game.
Lofton is a great run-stopper, but his coverage skills are a liability, so it would seem the Vikings, given their back-end woes last year are looking for a MLB who can fill that deep middle for the Tampa 2; Tulloch would be the ideal fit, but mucho dinero he would cost.
OK, here are a few names that could be available as second tier to either give Brinkley a run for his money or to at least back up.
A guy who intrigues me is Joe Mays for the Broncos. He’s more of a two-own guy, and that may be a strike against him in the Vikings' defensive scheme. But, against the other big names on that defense, he did not get a lot of notoriety, and it will be interesting to see how much the Broncos try to keep him.
Last guy is David Hawthorne of the Seahawks. His productivity (2011: 115 tackles, three INT) rivals that of Lofton, and so, maybe he’s not a fly-under-the-radar guy even in Seattle.
Side note: I still feel the Vikings should get Everson Griffen out there at LB. The kid is just too talented to be playing only a few plays a game.
Given the uncertainty of Visanthe Shiancoe, and how the Vikings are going to utilize Allen Reisner, they could look at tight end.
It is doubtful the Vikings will pursue anyone based on the fact there are so many other areas of need, but two players that could come at a reasonable price would be: Jonathan Fanene, Bengals or Brodrick Bunkley, Broncos.
It certainly would be no surprise if the Vikings were quiet during free agency, but you never know, maybe they are secretly holding back on making a big splash with maybe one player. Only time will tell, and since we are just days away from the beginning of free agency, we may find out very soon.
I was going to insert a poll, but I thought that I would create one through the idea of readers replying via comment.
Realistically, if you had to put a percentage on the amount of an article you read at any given time, what would that percentage be?
For example, I would like to think you read 100 percent of this article, but realistically, I know that's not the case, so if you would put a percentage, and this is on average, of entire articles that you read here on Bleacher Report.
Thanks for your input.