The Aftermath: Did the Minnesota Vikings' Free Agents Earn Their Money?
One year after a huge spending spree by the Minnesota Vikings, it is time to analyze exactly what each key free-agent signing has brought to the Vikings team. If the Vikings decided to spend more money through free agency this season, they should look back and see what last year did for them.
The Vikings had the third highest payroll in the NFL in 2008, and much of it can be accredited to the three big offseason signings the Vikings made.
They signed Safety Madieu Williams, who was payed over $8 million just last year, Bernard Berrian, who was payed well over $13 million last year, and then the big guy Jared Allen, who was payed a whopping $21 million last season.
With the Vikings spending over $40 million on three guys last year, the question that comes to mind is, did they earn their money?
Madieu Williams, S
Madieu Williams was the least expensive of the three free agents, but he was not looking for loose change either. Williams started off earning his money by riding the bench. Not because he was a bad player, but because he injured his neck in the pre-season.
Williams played in the final nine games, and had a major interception in his first game back against the Houston Texans. Williams got another interception later in the season, and defended three passes in 2008.
He complemented his pass defense with 38 solo, ad four assisted tackles in 2008. Williams' numbers even took a slight dip from his 2007 season with the Cincinnati Bengals, when he was payed not nearly as much.
However, Williams' impact in the secondary was greatly appreciated. Once Williams returned in Week Nine, the secondary got a notable lift. The secondary seemed to be more comfortable, and they rose in the pass defense once Williams became the starter.
Overall, the Vikings pass defense improved from dead last in 2007, to a respectable 18th in 2008.
Did Madieu earn his money: Yes, despite only playing nine games, his impact in the secondary was huge in turning around the worst ranked pass defense.
Bernard Berrian, WR
Bernard Berrian came to the Vikings from division rival Chicago, making it a double win for Minnesota because not only did they get a WR, but they also stole the division rivals top receiver in 2007. Berrian was maybe the most questionable signing by the Minnesota Vikings as he raked in money usually reserved for a Pro Bowl caliber WR.
Berrian battled some injuries all year, but he never missed a game. Berrian got off to a slow start with Tarvaris Jackson at quarterback, only catching three total passes for 38 yards, and no touchdowns. When Jackson was replaced in Week Three, Berrian more than doubled his season stats in just one game, grabbing three more balls for 79 yards.
Berrian took off with Gus Frerotte throwing him the ball, as he caught at least five balls the next five games, and not only became the Vikings' first receiver to get 100 yards in a game since 2006, but he did it in back-to-back weeks.
Berrian slowed down a little but was clearly the best WR the Vikings have had since the departure of Randy Moss in 2004. Berrian ended up with four 100-yard receiving games, and a career high seven touchdowns.
While Berrian's receptions went way down from his 2007 season in Chicago, he posted career high's in total yards, touchdowns, and yards per catch.
Did Bernard earn his money: Yes, Bernard was the best receiver the Vikings have had in four years, not to mention he posted career high's in yards and touchdowns. The only things left for Berrian to do in future seasons, is to get a 1,000-yard season and maybe make it to his first Pro Bowl.
Berrian finished just 36 yards short of 1,000 yards this season.
Jared Allen, DE
Jared Allen was by far the highest paid free agent the Vikings picked up in the off season, and because he was a restricted free agent, the Vikings not only had to give him a $70 million contract, but they also were forced to give up a first-round draft pick, while also adding two third-round picks.
Jared Allen came into the home opener against Green Bay fired up, but his play did not back up his emotions—Allen finished with zero tackles, zero sacks, and his only stat was one pass defended. Afterwards, Allen said it "was the worst game he had ever played."
That game must have fired up the leagues sack leader, because he came alive quickly. By the bye week, Allen had totaled five sacks, 22 total tackles, three passes defended, and even one safety.
Allen was starting to show signs of his 2007 self heading into the bye week, but coming out of it, Allen had transformed into the sack monster he was in 2007. In his first seven games back, Allen totaled 9.5 sacks, 26 more tackles, and a second safety.
Needless to say, Allen was starting to show his worth to the team. Allen closed out the season on a bit of a slow down, but his Pro Bowl teammate Pat Williams was injured, leading to more coverage for Allen. Allen finished off the season with 14.5 sacks, making him fifth in the NFL in sacks.
Was Jared worth his money:Yes, Allen did exactly what the Vikings payed him to do. He brought the pass rush back to Minnesota, and out-gained the Vikings 2007 sack leader by 9.5 sacks, not to mention the countless number of hurries he put on opposing quarterbacks.
If the Vikings are looking to do some spending in free agency in 2009, they would be well merited after last year's success. The Vikings greatly improved both their pass defense and pass offense by signing three big-time free agents.
Look for the Vikings to try and find a right tackle and a quarterback this year, whether that be through the free agency or the draft in April.
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