Minnesota Vikings Bargain Guide to the 2014 Offseason
Bargain hunting during the NFL's free agency period is one of the quickest ways to improve a team's roster without subjecting themselves to a salary-cap nightmare.
For Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman, the upheaval surrounding this franchise is going to put a spotlight on every decision he makes this offseason.
With a new head coach in town, Spielman needs to find a way to sign undervalued players who can contribute right away without putting the team's long-term plans in jeopardy.
Using advanced metrics and film study to address positions of need, it's time to start the slideshow below and check out the complete Vikings bargain guide to the 2014 offseason.
All stats and free agency info provided by NFL.com unless noted.
All advanced stats courtesy of Pro Football Focus (subscription required) unless noted otherwise.
RB James Starks, Green Bay Packers
As it stands today, the need to go out and sign a starting-caliber running back shouldn't be in Spielman's plans. With Peterson consuming the bulk of the snaps, going out and signing a low-key free agent tailback makes the most sense financially.
Last season with the Packers, Starks enjoyed a bounce-back campaign. Averaging 5.5 yards per carry, the 27-year-old running back helped solidify the NFL's seventh-ranked rushing attack.
Despite Tyler Dunne of The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel tweeting that the Packers have interest in re-signing Starks, the chances of that happening are slim.
For starters, Green Bay has a plethora of running backs already under contract. Young guys like Eddie Lacy, Johnathan Franklin and DuJuan Harris are more than capable of handling the workload.
Hitting the open market, Starks could fill the void current backup running back Toby Gerhart may leave behind when he hits free agency. Proving to be a reliable runner who can navigate his way through opposing defenses, Starks would be quite the coup for Spielman.
Add in the fact that he barely has any miles on his tires—Starks has registered just 322 rushing attempts during his four-year career—and what you get is a solid free-agent running back who makes a lot of sense for this Vikings roster.
WR Kenny Britt, Tennessee Titans
Looking at him from a physical standpoint, Tennessee Titans wide receiver Kenny Britt is a marvel.
The 6'3", 223-pound Britt has everything you'd want in a No. 1 wide receiver. He's athletic, fast and has displayed an obscene catch-radius on film.
Sadly, it's been Britt's issues off the field that have derailed his promising career.
After being phased out of the Titans offense during the 2013 season, Britt told John Glennon of The Tennessean that he "doesn't think he got a fair shake this year." If nothing else, Britt's days in a Titans uniform seem to be numbered.
Looking for a way to revitalize his career, on paper, Britt landing in Minnesota makes a lot of sense.
Head coach Mike Zimmer has historically been able to get the most out of players who have struggled with off the field issues—just look at Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Adam Jones.
For Minnesota, Britt would serve as nothing more than a low-risk, big-bodied target who has a tremendous upside. As NFL Media columnist Mike Silver (h/t Chris Wesseling of NFL.com) put it, "If you have a 12-pack of Coke and athletic tape, you can have Kenny Britt. Nobody wants him."
Putting himself in a good situation under Zimmer's tutelage could be exactly what Britt needs to get his career back on the straight and narrow.
WR/ST Kassim Osgood
A name you probably won't see mentioned very often in free agency preview articles is San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Kassim Osgood.
Listed as a wide receiver, Osgood's true value comes by way of special teams. According to TeamRankings.com, Osgood finished the 2013 season registering the eighth-most tackles for a specials teams player.
While he may not be a household name, Osgood is exactly the type of player the Vikings would love to have moving forward.
Contributing to an already dynamic special teams unit, Osgood's ability to help win the battle of field position is something any NFL franchise would cherish.
Talking to John Lund and Greg Papa of 95.7 The Game, Osgood expressed interest in returning to San Francisco next season. But, as Bleacher Report's Dylan DeSimone pointed out, the 49ers are a team "strapped for cash."
If Osgood ends up leaving the Bay Area, there's no reason why Spielman shouldn't uses his resources to lure the special teams ace to Minnesota.
DE Justin Tuck, New York Giants
Uncertainty at the defensive end position is reason enough for the Vikings to look at New York Giants defensive end Justin Tuck in free agency.
Confirming his desire to test the open market with Dan Graziano of ESPN.com, Tuck said, "I've never been in this situation before, and it's a great opportunity for myself. I would be doing myself a disservice if I didn't see what the market is, and I will."
Despite being 31 years old, Tuck graded out as Pro Football Focus' seventh-best 4-3 defensive end last season. Compiling 63 tackles, 11 sacks, one interception and two forced fumbles, the Giants pass-rusher showed the world that he still has a lot left in the tank.
Although he put up big numbers in 2013, Tuck's age should hamper his value on the open market. That's why, if the two sides can come to an agreement that is mutually beneficial, Tuck would be a nice addition to Coach Zimmer's new-look defense.
Athletic enough to consistently get by opposing offensive linemen, Tuck would inculcate a layer of creativity into Zimmer's scheme.
OG Willie Colon, New York Jets
Staying in a New York state of mind, New York Jets offensive guard Willie Colon is another free agent who would be a great bargain for the Vikings.
Going by PFF's count, Colon finished the 2013 season with a positive 11.1 grade in pass protection.
Playing in all 16 regular season games at right guard, the eight-year veteran helped an underwhelming Jets offense manufacture eight wins.
At 31 years old, Colon would serve as nothing more than a short-term solution to help improve Minnesota's offensive line.
Although signing veteran players to low-risk deals isn't usually something Spielman does, even if he decides to address the guard position in the upcoming draft, Colon is still a player worth bringing in.
With current guard Charlie Johnson set to hit free agency, Minnesota would be wise to bring in a veteran player who could replace his lack of production. According to PFF, Johnson finished the 2013 season as the 48th-ranked offensive guard in the NFL.
CB Corey Graham, Balitmore Ravens
Baltimore Ravens cornerback Corey Graham could be the most underrated defensive back floating around free agency.
A versatile player who's scheme friendly, Graham has experienced playing in the Ravens 3-4 defense as well as the Chicago Bears 4-3 look.
Netting himself a positive 4.0 grade from the good folks over at PFF, Graham found immense success lining up as the Ravens' No. 3 cornerback this past season.
Talking about his future, the seven-year veteran told of The Baltimore Sun:
Obviously, being a free agent means that it’s a little different situation. I don’t know what’s going to happen, whether I’m going to be here or going to be somewhere else. I’m just going to leave that up to my agent. I’m just going to get back to work, get back to working out and try to get better.
Out of all the areas of need Spielman has to address this offseason, improving the NFL's 31st-ranked pass defense should be at the top of the list.
When you surrender a league-high 37 touchdowns through the air, sweeping change is needed to rectify the situation.
Because of his versatility and production on the field, Graham would be able to help Minnesota's defense improve from Day 1.
OG Shelley Smith, St. Louis Rams
One of the biggest "under-the-radar" offensive linemen set to hit the open market in 2014 is St. Louis Rams guard Shelley Smith.
Playing both right and left guard this past season, PFF awarded Smith with a positive 7.0 grade. Working in a backup capacity, Smith provided St. Louis' offense with depth and stellar play.
Talking about the Rams offseason plans, Bleacher Report's own Steven Gerwel wrote:
Shelley Smith may be re-signed as left guard depth, but he has virtually no shot at winning the starting job. If the team feels that second-year player Barrett Jones is ready to go in 2014, there's a good chance Smith will be gone.
Bringing Smith to Minnesota would not only help shore up this offensive line, but it would allow the Vikings to have a resourceful player who could play both guard positions with ease.
CB Charles Tillman, Chicago Bears
For those of you won't don't know, Chicago Bears cornerback Charles "Peanut" Tillman has terrorized the Vikings for years.
One of the most prolific and tactical defensive backs you'll ever see in the NFL, Tillman made a name for himself punching footballs out of opposing wide receivers hands.
Now facing the daunting world of free agency, Tillman told Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune that he's not sure if he'll be rocking a Bears jersey next season.
Discussing the prospect of leaving Chicago, Tillman said, "I don't know (if I will reach the open market). You think about it, but if it's meant for me to be back, I'll be back. If it's not, we'll move on. I don't take it personal because it's all business."
Traditionally a player who's thrived playing in a Tampa-2 style of defense, Mike Coppinger of NFL.com suggested the 11-year veteran make the switch over to safety.
No matter what he decides to do, the imposing brand of physical football Tillman plays would work wonders in Minnesota. The only concern about luring him over to the "dark side" will be can he adapt to Zimmer's scheme?
For all of the hyperbole that was just spewed about Tillman, fans want to know, would he sign with the Vikings? Understanding that the NFL is a business, Tillman would have no qualms about playing for another team—he even expressed interest in joining the Detroit Lions when talking to Kyle Meinke of Mlive.com.
At 33 years old, Tillman would provide the Vikings with a low-cost veteran presence who could help alter the landscape of this defense.