5 Veteran Free Agents the Minnesota Vikings Should Bring in to Camp
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The Minnesota Vikings have been busy this offseason, drafting promising rookies and signing free agents to help bolster a team that went 10-6 and made the playoffs last year.
Here's a list of the offseason transactions that the Vikings have executed since March (excluding draft picks):
- March 12: Re-signed OT Phil Loadholt
- March 14: Signed LB Erin Henderson and WR Jerome Simpson
- March 15: Signed C Joe Berger and S Jamarca Sanford
- March 16: Signed QB Matt Cassel and WR Greg Jennings
- March 18: Re-signed FB Jerome Felton
- March 19: Signed OG Seth Olsen
- March 28: Signed LB Marvin Mitchell
- April 30: Signed CB Jacob Lacey and DE Lawrence Jackson
- June 27: Signed LB Desmond Bishop
Even with these free-agent signings and selections in the NFL draft, the Vikings may need to still look at the remaining list of veteran free agents on the market. Whether the team looks to slot in a playmaker or add depth on the bench, the slew of available options are intriguing.
The challenge with many of these players are either contract demands or diminishing ability with age. A prime example includes former Viking Randy Moss, who last played with the San Francisco 49ers but is still available.
Let's take a look at five veteran free agents who are on the market and could add value to the Vikings this season.
WR Brandon Lloyd
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Brandon Lloyd had an impressive year for the New England Patriots in 2012, recording 74 receptions for 911 yards and four touchdowns. His best season came in 2010 with the Denver Broncos, when he racked up 77 receptions for 1,448 yards and 11 touchdowns.
According to ESPN Boston, the release of Lloyd was caused partially by finances (a $3 million roster bonus), as well as locker-room chemistry. However, with the release of Aaron Hernandez, the team's receiving corps is a bit up in the air, meaning New England may want to check back in with Lloyd at a future date.
While the Vikings signed free agent Greg Jennings and selected Cordarrelle Patterson in this year's draft, Lloyd still offers 11 years of NFL experience. Jerome Simpson may have received a one-year contract from the Vikings, but the former Patriot would be an excellent No. 2 wide receiver for Christian Ponder.
CB Sheldon Brown
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Sheldon Brown has played in 175 of 176 games over his 11-year career. In 2012, he recorded 60 combined tackles and 12 passes defensed, including three interceptions and one touchdown.
Over the past three years with the Cleveland Browns, his numbers have been very consistent, totaling 171 combined tackles and 34 passes defensed. He has 26 career interceptions.
With the departure of Antoine Winfield, the Vikings are in need of a veteran cornerback to help anchor the defense. While there are high expectations for rookie Xavier Rhodes and hopes for a comeback year from Chris Cook, a player with Brown's resume would be a welcome addition.
DT Justin Bannan
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Justin Bannan also entered the league in 2002 and has, over 11 NFL seasons with four different teams, developed a solid resume. His most recent stint with the Denver Broncos saw the Sacramento native record 42 combined tackles and four batted passes during the 2012 season.
Even with the drafting of Sharrif Floyd and another season with five-time All-Pro Kevin Williams, the Vikings would stand to add great value should they sign an experienced journeyman like Bannan.
The 6'3", 312-pound defensive tackle has demonstrated the ability to take on multiple offensive linemen, while allowing other defenders to get to the ball-carrier or rush the quarterback.
For the Vikings, Bannan would provide a fresh body in Minnesota's defensive line rotation and be someone to help spell DE Jared Allen.
S Sherrod Martin
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Sherrod Martin brings less experience than the previous players highlighted, but he deserves an evaluation from the Vikings' front office.
The former second-round draft pick of the Carolina Panthers has played in 59 out of a possible 64 games the past four seasons, recording 199 combined tackles with 20 passes defensed and seven interceptions.
While second-year standout Harrison Smith has clearly secured a starting safety role, players like Mistral Raymond and Jamarca Sanford could benefit from the competition. With a combined six seasons between the two players, their interception total (3) pales in comparison to Martin.
With the 24th-ranked defense against the pass in 2012, the Vikings would greatly benefit from an experienced center fielder with great hands and playmaking ability. Martin would bring these qualities to Minnesota and combine nicely with Harrison Smith in the secondary.
WR Austin Collie
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Austin Collie was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in the fourth round of the 2009 NFL draft. During his four years with the Colts, he recorded 173 receptions for 1,845 yards and 16 touchdowns.
The wide receiver out of BYU has great quickness off the ball and an ability to separate against pressing defenders. He runs crisp routes while coming back to the ball and exhibits reliable hands in traffic.
Like Brandon Lloyd, Collie would provide another weapon for the Vikings offense, especially since he is a fundamental, technically-sound receiver who excels at getting open in short distances.
The knock on Collie has been that he's injury prone; he suffered his third career concussion in the 2012 preseason and then a season-ending injury to his right knee early in that regular season.
For the Vikings, the risk with Collie is low, and an invitation to training camp could provide further depth to an already improved receiving corps.
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