Vikings Free Agency Tracker: Updated Signings, Rumors and Grades
With the trade sending Percy Harvin to Seattle, the Vikings are in a very precarious position at wide receiver.
While GM Rick Spielman has drafted well in his brief tenure, his free agency signings—notably Jerome Simpson and John Carlson—have been a mixed bag at best.
The Vikings are clearly rebuilding despite their success in 2012, so the question becomes—do they stay the course in the draft, sign a few bigger name free-agent wide receivers or make a big trade themselves?
Over the course of the opening of free agency, check back here for any signings or departing free agents as well as what either means for the Minnesota Vikings and their quest to improve on a surprising 2012.
Vikings Free Agents
While the offense is a point of concern, the defense isn't perfect by a long shot and could lose a few solid players to free agency. Players we'll watch closely include Henderson, Brinkley, Sanford, Felton, and Loadholt.
Erin Henderson, LB—signed, multi-year deal
Devin Aromashodu, WR, UFA
Joe Berger, C, UFA
Jasper Brinkley, LB, UFA
Jerome Felton, FB—signed three year deal, $7.5 million
Michael Jenkins, WR, UFA
Troy Kropog, T, RFA
Phil Loadholt, T—signed, mutli-year deal
Marvin Mitchell, LB, UFA
Jamarca Sanford, S—signed two year deal
Geoff Schwartz, G, UFA
Andrew Sendejo, S, ERFA
Marcus Sherels, CB, ERFA
Jerome Simpson, WR—signed, two year deal
Vikings Keep Some Players Home— Re-Sign Loadholt, Simpson, but Cut WInfield
Rumors were around this morning that the Chicago Bears were considering poaching tackle Phil Loadholt, so the Vikings made sure they got a deal done with him just before the start of free agency.
Tom Pelissero of 1500 ESPN says the move costs them about $5 million a year, but consistency at right tackle isn't cheap and it costs less than pursuing a replacement.
Along with Loadholt, Jerome Simpson was retained. As far as fans go, I've seen mixed reactions. The fact is that, a single year contract on the cheap is almost a no-risk scenario and no matter what you think of Simpson, he's more worthwhile than Mike Jenkins or Devin Aromashodu.
More than likely he'll get support by way of Jarius Wright and at least one free agent or drafted wide receiver, which will pull some of the pressure off him.
Meanwhile, the team released veteran corner Antoine Winfield. Winfield had a very solid 2012, but is clearly on the downside of his career and would have cost the team enough money to make them think twice.
Of course, this leaves the secondary a little thin at corner and one would expect some additions to be made sooner than later.
Jamarca Sanford Reportedly Returning to Minnesota
Pro Football Talk is reporting that the Vikings and safety Jamarca Sanford have agreed to terms on a two year deal.
Sanford was ranked as the 24th safety in the NFL (out of 88) by Pro Football Focus this past year, and did a decent enough job over the last few years. His coverage skills are so-so but he likes to hit and tackle, which at safety is more important many times.
With the release of Antoine Winfield though, he may be called upon more frequently to support coverage in which case he needs to step his game up. If he can do that, between he and Harrison Smith, this pair of safeties can be very dangerous.
Report: Jerome Felton Signs a 3 Year Deal with Vikings
I have one "HOORAY" for every NFC North team to use during free agency. I'll use the Vikings' cheer for Felton.
The Star Tribune's Dan Weiderer has reported that Felton has inked a three year deal with the club and has said he never wants to play anywhere else.
I love this move. As much as Adrian Peterson is, well, Adrian Peterson, Felton had a hand in how successful Peterson was. While Peterson prefers to run without a blocker, Felton's impact is huge.
And not only as a run blocker, but on occasional pass blocking downs as well.
While letting him slip away wouldn't have been the end of the world, it might have been an unfortunate bit of short-sightedness. Felton's role was significant and very, very positive.
I said early this off season that one overlooked, but vital free agent signing would be Felton. I'm glad to see the Vikings took care of business.
Why Would Greg Jennings Pass on Minnesota for a Return to Green Bay?
Pro Football Talk is reporting that, while Greg Jennings has an offer from the Vikings but might shine it on for a return to the Green Bay Packers.
On the face of it, that seems insane. We know the Packers aren't going to give him big time money. The Vikings might, he doesn't have to share the ball with anyone and will be their number one wide receiver.
Think about it for a moment though, and ask yourself which team is closer to a Super Bowl?
If we're honest, it's the Packers. In fact, there is a lot to like about the Packers' offensive situation if the money isn't what he'd hoped. Aaron Rodgers is much more stable and attractive a quarterback for a wide receiver. Even sharing the ball with others, he's bound to see good stats.
A better shot at the Super Bowl and a better overall offense might mean more than the money.
We may find the answer out tonight at midnight eastern standard when I am on my 45th cup of coffee and am mainlining pixie sticks to stay awake.
Vikes Lock Down Another Free Agent: Erin Henderson Signed to 2 Year Deal
While it has yet to be officially announced or confirmed, it appears as though the Vikings are bringing back another of their ten free agents—this time outside linebacker Erin Henderson.
Tom Pelissero of 1500 ESPN says his sources are reporting a "multi-year deal" which I would assume means two, or at the very most, three (the third being voidable—again, that's just a guess).
While Henderson wasn't spectacular last year coming off the outside edge, and was a little more than marginally better than Jaspar Brinkley.
At the end of the day, I call this sort of thing a "bridge move". The Vikings already have plenty of holes to fill, and need to pick and choose what they will attack when.
Releasing Antoine Winfield along with this signing, says to me they are likely to go after secondary help this year in the draft, while holding off on linebacker until later in the draft or perhaps until next off season.
Is Henderson going to be the lynch-pin of this defense? No, of course not.
But it will buy them time to build it and find someone who can be.
Greg Jennings Still in Play, Visiting Vikings Thursday
There's something to be said for not throwing money around on the first day of free agency.
For the Vikings it could mean that they can get Greg Jennings at a reasonable price—and with Pro Football Talk reporting the former Packers receiver is heading to Minnesota Thursday morning, they may do just that.
Jennings hasn't found the market he'd hoped for. Things looked promising when Brian Hartline signed with the Miami Dolphins for a five year $30.775 million contract with $12.5 million guaranteed, but the market has since died.
Jennings had been looking for a sizable payday, but the market just isn't there for a 29 year old receiver coming off two injury plagued seasons. Add to that the (fair or not) theory that Jennings might be more successful because of Aaron Rodgers and the system and it looks like he may have to settle for less.
Enter the Vikings, who need a vertical threat and a new number one now that Percy Harvin is gone.
We'll see how this plays out, but waiting for the market to settle was the right choice.
REPORT: Matt Cassel Signs with Vikings
1500 ESPN's Tom Pelissero confirmed it a short time later.
Cassel, who replaced Tom Brady for New England when Tom Brady suffered both torn ACL and MCLs in after a hit by Chiefs safety Bernard Pollard. Cassel served well as the Patriot's starter, parlaying it into a starting job with the same Chiefs the next year.
After that, things got bad as Cassel hit the wall of his ability while the Chiefs collapsed around him.
Cassel is a solid backup and a much better player than Joe Webb—something on the team's mind after this year's meltdown in the playoffs. He might actually excel if they needed him to, behind a very good offensive line, with Adrian Peterson running the ball.
He (and Ponder) would do better with Greg Jennings in house, but that is (hopefully soon) another post.
For now we await the contract details on Cassel and applaud what appears to be another solid signing by Minnesota.
Greg Jennings Signs Five Year Deal
After much back and forth and hedging, Greg Jennings has closed one door and opened another to a new start with the Minnesota Vikings.
Jennings signed what is reported by ESPN's Josina Anderson to be a five year deal worth up to $47.5 million dollars with $18 million guaranteed.
The Vikings were in dire need of a vertical threat so they got one. I'll have a full breakdown on how he fits a bit later, but for now the gamble they are taking is that he stays healthy (not the case the last two years) and can produce with Ponder.
Jennings said in his press conference that he spent time watching Ponder's games to "see what he was getting into" and felt the quarterback was hamstrung by a lack of weapons.
He's dead right, but it's safe to wonder how that's changed. Yes, Ponder has a vertical threat in Jennings, but he's lost Percy Harvin. There's still Jarius Wright, who will be a very good receiver and Jerome Simpson who will be better for having Jennings there to take the pressure off.
But otherwise, this is still a paper thin group.
It will be up to Jennings to put the passing offense on his shoulders and carry it.
He's certainly paid enough to.
I give this one an 'A'