There have been many critics of what the Minnesota Vikings have done in Free Agency this year.
Some claim they failed to improve any of their problem areas, and that they overspent on a position that is already set for the future (tight end).
I am of a different mindset.
GM Rick Spielman showed poise during the free agency period, refusing to overspend for the quick fix. While it would have been nice to see CB Brandon Carr or WR Vincent Jackson making plays in purple next season, three years from now, those contracts would hamstring a promising young team, by overpaying for (by then) under-producing players.
Bringing in depth rather than stars shows that Spielman and company have their minds on the long term, which should be taken as good news for Vikings fans who hope to see a return to dominance.
I like to view the signing of TE John Carlson similar to what the Detroit Lions did with Tony Scheffler.
The idea is to bring in a proven guy who can help a young quarterback while the younger and not fully polished tight end develops. For the Lions, it was former first-round pick Brandon Pettigrew, and for the Vikings that guy is Kyle Rudolph.
Both were immensely talented with a few holes they needed to work on coming out of the draft, and by giving Pettigrew a veteran to help take the pressure off, he was able to improve, as evidenced by his numbers last season.
The same thing is possible for the Rudolph and Carlson combination.
At defensive back, the Vikings were able to add some depth for cheap in Zack Bowman and Chris Carr, both of whom used to be starters. If either or both could regain their old form, it would be a tremendous value signing for the Vikings. Even if they don't, having guys with starting experience can only help the Vikings young corners such as Brandon Burton, Marcus Sherels and rookie Josh Robinson.
On the offensive line, the Vikings added another player who missed all of last season in Geoff Schwartz. A talented guard for Carolina Panthers two seasons ago, Schwartz was placed on injured reserve last season with a hip injury.
While he has played guard in the past, he has the size to play tackle as well (6'6'', 331 pounds). He could prove to be a valuable backup for all four positions, and he will compete for the starting right guard position. By adding a player who started all 16 games for a potent rushing attack in 2010, the team shows they are committed to improving upon the dismal offensive line play from a year ago.
And because he is coming off of an injury, he came cheap, signing a one-year deal worth $1,500,000 (via Spotrac).
Another singing worth noting was wide receiver Jerome Simpson.
A former Bengal, Simpson had a career year playing opposite A.J. Green and finally showed the talent that made him a second-round pick back in 2008. While legal troubles will cause him to miss the first three games, that could turn out to be a blessing in disguise for the Vikings, as they were able to get him much cheaper and basically risk free.
It will also give them a chance to better evaluate rookies Jarius Wright and Greg Childs as they try to fill in for Simpson.
All in all, while the Vikings might not contend in the tough NFC North this coming season, the moves they made showed that they are setting up for the future. With some of the right pieces already in place, this team looks set to improve and might only be a year or two from playoff contention.
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