NFL Free Agency 2011: 10 Free Agents the Minnesota Vikings Must Target

Ray TannockSenior Analyst IMay 9, 2011

NFL Free Agency 2011: 10 Free Agents the Minnesota Vikings Must Target

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    SAN DIEGO, CA - DECEMBER 16:  Wide receiver Vincent Jackson #83 of the San Diego Chargers celebrates scoring a touchdown in the second quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at Qualcomm Stadium on December 16, 2010 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Do
    Donald Miralle/Getty Images

    After a rather decent 2011 draft, the Vikings next course of action will be targeting specific needs in the free agency pool; a process that could have a significant impact on the team.

    Today I want to highlight players the Vikings should target once the playing field (no pun intended) finally opens up.

    This is not to say that the Vikings should target every single player here, as that is simply impossible.

    Let’s take a look at the options in free agency and who the Vikings should target, shall we?

QB – Marc Bulger

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    BALTIMORE, MD - CIRCA 2010:  In this handout image provided by the NFL , Marc Bulger of the Baltimore Ravens poses for his 2010 NFL headshot circa 2010 in Baltimore, Maryland.  ( Photo by NFL via Getty Images)
    Handout/Getty Images

    There’s no shortage of quarterbacks in this year’s FA pool, but from the numerous options, Marc Bulger’s name stands out.

    The Vikings obviously need a veteran QB who can show Christian Ponder the ropes, and perhaps to run the offense as well.

    Bulger was even impressive enough to have Baltimore keep him around in 2010, despite many scouts belief that he's no longer starting material due to the number of concussions he's sustained.

    Interesting right? The guy was “good enough” to possibly compete for a roster spot in Baltimore last year, but after not playing for a full year, yet he's suddenly no longer starting material…okay.

    Either way, it could be that scouting report that might also afford the Vikings—or another team—the ability to scoop him up at a cheaper price, so time is of the essence here.

    In his career as a Ram, Bulger threw for 22,814 yards, had a 62.1% completion rate and enjoyed a 122 to 93 TD:INT ratio.

QB – Matt Hasselbeck

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    CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 16:  Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck #8 of the Seattle Seahawks looks to throw the ball during pregame before taking on the Chicago Bears in the 2011 NFC divisional playoff game at Soldier Field on January 16, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois.
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Another solid option for the Vikings to consider is Seattle’s Matt Hasselbeck.

    Seattle Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevel has already “reached out” to Hasselbeck according to one ESPN source, but there are conflicting reports over whether he wants to return or test the market.

    According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the thinking is that Hasselbeck will not return to Seattle.

    Either way, the Vikings can always try and extend an offer to Hasselbeck to see if the Seattle gunslinger bites.

    Why not, right?

    During his residence in the Queen City, Hasselbeck threw for 29,434 yards, putting together a 60.1% competition rate with a 174:128 TD:INT ratio.

    The major issue with Hasselbeck is figuring out what's true and what is just rumor, so the Vikings would be better off offering a tender in the event that Hasselbeck is ready to move on.

WR – Vince Jackson

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    SAN DIEGO, CA - DECEMBER 16:  Wide receiver Vincent Jackson #83 of the San Diego Chargers dives into the endzone for a touchdown in the fourth quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at Qualcomm Stadium on December 16, 2010 in San Diego, California.  (Pho
    Harry How/Getty Images

    Back to this again, are we?

    The most attractive receiver on the market this year has got to be Vince Jackson, hands down, but is he the right option?

    The short answer is, yes.

    Whether it’s Christian Ponder or another veteran QB at the helm, the Vikings need a receiver who is a legitimate downfield threat; and one who is oriented to vertical offenses.

    That’s Jackson all the way.

    The Vikings did offer Jackson a two year deal worth $18 million dollars last year, but could never equal the compensation San Diego was willing to offer.

    This year could be a much better situation for both parties involved, so long as San Diego doesn’t come looking for the deed to the farm as part of the deal.

WR – James Jones

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    ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 15:  James Jones #89 (R) and Greg Jennings #85 of the Green Bay Packers celebrate after Jones scored a 20-yard touchdown in the second quarter against the Atlanta Falcons during their 2011 NFC divisional playoff game at Georgia Dome
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Let's assume that the Vikings and Sidney Rice agree to some sort of deal, and let's also assume Bernard Berrian high-tails it out of Minnesota, as expected.

    This sort of situation would require the Vikings find a cheap replacement for Berrian, and offer an outside/inside threat to compliment Rice and Percy Harvin.

    Jones could fit that bill.

    He is a player who has proven he can make the big plays in various situations, and he is a player who is likely to draw some interest from other teams as a result.

    But Ted Thompson is unlikely to match any inflated offers, which could make Jones an easy acquisition.

    Adding Jones to the receiving mix would be an immediate upgrade over Bernard Berrian, and an upgrade that would benefit the Vikings' attack greatly.

WR – Steve Breaston

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    GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 05:  Wide receiver Steve Breaston #15 of the Arizona Cardinals is unable to catch a long pass against the St. Louis Rams during the NFL game at the University of Phoenix Stadium on December 5, 2010 in Glendale, Arizona. The Rams de
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Another receiver the Vikings could kick the tires on is Arizona’s Steve Breaston.

    The Cardinals have extended a first round restricted free agent tender to Breaston, but are unlikely to do anything more, especially with second year man Andre Roberts in the mix.

    In his four year stay with the Cardinals, Breaston was able to haul in 187 catches for 2,528 yards and seven touchdowns, while also showing himself to be a decent contributor on special teams.

    The Cardinals are not going to overspend on Breaston just to keep him around, since they know he's a better leverage tool than anything else.

    Breaston could be an inexpensive option for a third receiver this year if the Vikings decide to explore.

DB – Richard Marshall

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    ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 02:  Tony Gonzalez #88 of the Atlanta Falcons against Richard Marshall #31 of the Carolina Panthers at Georgia Dome on January 2, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    The Panthers extended a tender to Marshall and a bevy of other players, but that only means the players have reached their four year mark, with the tenders not likely to stick.

    This is good news because Marshall is a player who came into his own in 2010, and is considered a valuable score off the wire.

    Marshall is quick on the back end in defense, solid against the run and is a competent pass-defender—all qualities the Vikings are interested in.

    Marshall will be looking for a long-term deal, however, so he might not be a possibility just yet.

    Still, a target worth looking at nonetheless.

DB – Eric Wright

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    NEW ORLEANS - OCTOBER 24:  Eric Wright #21 of the Cleveland Browns in action against the New Orleans Saints at the Louisiana Superdome on October 24, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    OK, Eric Wright may be a curious pick here considering he started the season hot, and ended extremely flat.

    But poor play from one player—on one team—doesn’t always dictate the player’s true ability.

    For what Wright’s draft class offered, he was one of the better choices, as he offered more instinctive play and athleticism than many of the other players available.

    Because of his shoddy performance in 2010, his overall price tag is sure to drop.

    Now, I am not an NFL scout, but I have to admit that if the Vikings can grab him out of free agency and retool what he has already learned, we could see the version of Eric Wright many expected him to be, and not the Cleveland Browns version.

    Worst case scenario, he adds quality depth at a fraction of the cost.

S – Atari Bigby

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    CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 23:  Atari Bigby #20 of the Green Bay Packers celebrates 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/Gett
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    I know this guy is on the move.

    As a free agent, With Morgan Burnett and Charlie Peprah in the mix, Bigby is not likely to return to Green Bay.

    Still, Bigby could wind up being a big time free agent acquisition for a team in need of a quality DB/S.

    Burnett is expected to be the starter in 2011 with Peprah backing him up—testified to by his recent two year, $2.3 million dollar signing.

    Bigby is a motor driven, speedy back who can cover well despite struggling at times with basic applications.

    However, struggles are nothing more than blips on the radar that only need repair.

    For the price that Bigby could come at, the Vikings could do a lot worse.

S – Donte Whitner

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    MIAMI - DECEMBER 19: Cornerback Donte Whitner #20 of the Buffalo Bills at Sun Life Stadium on December 19, 2010 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
    Marc Serota/Getty Images

    I'm mentioning Whitner for several reasons, so follow me here.

    Whitner is not going to return next season in a Buffalo uniform; let’s get that out of the way.

    When it comes to Whitner, the Vikings could simply sit and take a “wait and see” approach.

    Whitner has drawn interest from the Browns; the same Browns who have former Buffalo coach Dick Jauron as their defensive coordinator.

    Jauron was Whitner’s old DC, and was also Jauron’s first round draft pick when he was with Buffalo.

    Cleveland is also not likely to re-sign FA Abram Elam, which could open the door for a deal between Buffalo and Cleveland.

    This could open a door for the Vikings to also explore Elam as another solid option at safety, particularly in the respect to adding depth.

    Three teams, two players and lots of possibilities.

    Isn’t that what free agency is all about?

    In the end, both players could fit the bill as inexpensive bench additions for the Vikings; additions that could end up with a starting role somewhere down the line.

LB – Stephen Tulloch

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    NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 1:  Stephen Tulloch #55 of the Tennessee Titans looks on during the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at LP Field on November 1, 2009 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    One of the best linebackers in Tennessee right now, and believe it or not, he's unlikely to return in 2011.

    Titans fans may disagree with me here, but all the reports I've read suggest the organization loves Tulloch, wants to keep him, but are unlikely to offer the long-term contract Tulloch is seeking.

    Especially in lieu of the two linebacker draft picks the Titans scored in the 2011 NFL draft.

    The Vikings need more than Ross Homan—period. The Vikings also need more than Jasper Brinkley.

    Tulloch is tailored to be an aggressive linebacker, capable of playing multiple roles, and he could be a perfect fit for the Vikings scheme.

    There isn’t any harm in offering a deal and seeing what happens, and I believe the Vikings have to target this guy even if it doesn’t work out in their favor. Tulloch has too much talent to pass up.

    I hope you guys enjoyed the list, and if you're fantasy football fans, please check out some extended coverage on the Top 5 WR options in 2011.