What Does Desmond Bishop Bring to the Minnesota Vikings?

Gary DavenportNFL AnalystJune 24, 2013

CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 23:  Desmond Bishop #55 of the Green Bay Packers reacts after the Packers 21-14 victory against the Chicago Bears in the NFC Championship Game at Soldier Field on January 23, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Once again, the Minnesota Vikings have looked to a division rival in an effort to improve their team.

After adding wide receiver Greg Jennings in free agency, Minnesota went the defensive route this time, agreeing to terms on a one-year contract with inside linebacker Desmond Bishop, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com.

The 28-year-old Bishop, who was released by the Green Bay Packers last week, missed the entire 2012 season after completely tearing his hamstring last summer, and some pundits wondered if perhaps that injury led to his release.

Bishop, for his part, told Tyler Dunne of The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that the hamstring is fully healed, shortly after his release.

“It’s definitely a serious injury,” Bishop said of the tendon, “but I definitely hit all the points I was supposed to hit as far as getting healthy. But the tear is 100%. I can do anything and everything.”

If Bishop truly has fully recovered from the injury, then he brings a lot to the table for the Minnesota defense.

Before the signing, the Vikings had sixth-year veteran Erin Henderson, who manned the weak side in Minnesota last year, penciled in as the starter at middle linebacker. Henderson asserted to KSTP-AM (via NFL.com) that "I'm playing the Mike," even after Bishop's visit.

Granted, it's possible that The Vikings could choose to play Henderson in the middle and Bishop on the weak side. A tweet from ESPN Radio's Tom Pelissero seems to bear out that the Vikings haven't made any decisions yet.

However, it seems probable that Henderson would slide back to Will with Bishop taking over inside, since that's where the players have experience.

Not only does Bishop have experience playing inside, but he's excelled at it.

In both 2010 and 2011, Bishop logged more than 100 tackles, and in 2010, Bishop graded out as a top-five inside linebacker, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).

In fact, Bishop represents a huge upgrade over 2012 starter Jasper Brinkley, at least if comparing Bishop's 2011 numbers to Brinkley's in 2012 is any indicator.

Not only is Bishop the likely starter in the middle, but the odds are good he'll be an every down player in the Twin Cities.

Granted, Bishop isn't a worldbeater in coverage. He ranked 37th among inside linebackers in that regard in 2011, according to PFF.

However, Henderson was even worse last year. Per Pro Football Focus' rankings, only two 4-3 outside linebackers in the NFL were worse in coverage than Erin Henderson.

All that would seem to indicate is that, if healthy, Bishop should usurp Henderson as the starter at middle linebacker and be an every-down player next to star strong side linebacker Chad Greenway.

With that said though, that "if healthy" is the elephant in the room.

As Bleacher Report's own Zach Kruse recently reported for Cheeseheads TV, the track record for NFL players returning from a complete hamstring tear isn't good.

A June 2013 study from the American Journal of Orthopedics looked at 10 confirmed cases of ruptured hamstrings in the NFL from 1990 to 2008.

While nine of the 10 players in the study returned to play the next season, only five of the 10 played more than one game following the injury.

In addition, two of the 10 players returned and had major injuries occur to the same leg. One suffered a torn Achilles tendon and another re-ruptured the same hamstring (the player was a linebacker). On this note, it is worth noting that Bishop has already been dealing with a strain in the same hamstring he injured in August.

That's sobering news, and it goes a long way towards explaining why Bishop's deal is only for one year.

At the end of the day, though, it's hard to view this as anything but a win for the Vikings. If it works out and Bishop returns to form, then a linebacker corps that was considered a potential weakness for the Vikings would suddenly become a strength.

A starting trio of Bishop, Greenway and Henderson is not shabby at all.

If it doesn't and the hamstring becomes an issue again, then the Vikings have made only a minimal investment (and possibly none at all, since we don't know how much of Bishop's deal is guaranteed).

The possibility of a huge reward with little risk?

Sounds like a shrewd signing to me.