Minnesota Vikings: 7 Moves the Vikings Should Make This Offseason
The Vikings' 50th Anniversary season was quite an extravaganza. From the terrible timing on Sidney Rice's hip surgery and the ill-fated trade for Randy Moss to the firing of head coach Brad Childress and the eventual collapse of the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, the 2010 season was a bitter pill to swallow.
This year the Vikings are hoping to turn the ship around. With a new head coach, new offensive coordinator, a fresh crop of talented young rookies, and a solid core of veteran players, there is plenty of optimism among fans and players that the Vikings will bounce back in 2011.
The NFL lockout seems to be drawing to a close, and free agency could be right around the corner. When an agreement is reached, it has been reported that players whose contracts have expired need only four years of experience to become unrestricted free agents. This will make for a nice free agent pool. And once free agency begins, there will likely be a whirlwind of activity as teams try to quickly prepare for the upcoming season.
The Vikings had a nice 2011 NFL draft, where they made some tremendous value picks, while at the same time filling some of their team needs. However, like most NFL teams, the Vikings still have holes to fill. And according to ESPN's John Clayton, the Vikings are one of a handful of teams that will be over the new CBA's salary cap, so Minnesota might be forced to cut bait with some players in order to create cap space. Let's take a look at seven key moves the Vikings should make once the NFL is open for business.
Extend Adrian Peterson's Contract
Adrian Peterson is arguably the best running back in the NFL. This season he is set to break virtually every rushing record in Vikings' franchise history. After four seasons in the NFL, Peterson is averaging 94.8 rushing yards per game (trailing only Jim Brown and Barry Sanders).
With either rookie Christian Ponder or second-year player Joe Webb taking the reigns this year, the Vikings might have to rely more heavily on a ground and pound style of play. Toby Gerhart has shown promise, but Peterson is a very rare player, and securing his future in Minnesota should be a top priority for the Vikings once the lockout is lifted.
Re-signing Peterson to a new multi-year contract would also help free up a little salary cap space. Peterson is scheduled to make $10.72 million this season, but by restructuring his contract, the Vikings could give him a nice signing bonus that would not be counted toward the team's 2011 salary cap.
Peterson has a tremendous work ethic and is a team player. He should be wearing purple and gold for many years to come.
Re-Sign Sidney Rice to a Long-Term Deal
After two disappointing seasons with the Vikings, Sidney Rice finally had his breakout season in 2009, compiling 1,312 yards on 83 receptions with 8 touchdowns. The following year Rice missed most of the regular season while recovering from hip surgery. He has battled injuries throughout his professional career, but when healthy, he is one of the best in the business.
Under the new CBA, it looks like Rice is set to become an unrestricted free agent this season. The 2010 season highlighted how important he is to the Vikings' offense. A true number one receiver with elite skills, Rice will be looking for a nice payday this spring. The Vikings have made it clear that they would like to retain his services, but Rice has stated that he will test the waters of free agency before returning to Minnesota.
The Vikings will have a young, inexperienced quarterback (Joe Webb or Christian Ponder) under center this season, so it is important that they make re-signing Rice a top priority once the NFL is back in business. When all is said and done, I think Rice will be back in purple this year with a lucrative long-term contract.
Cut Bernard Berrian
In 2008 the Minnesota Vikings signed Bernard Berrian to a six-year, $42 million contract. His first year in purple, Berrian had a respectable season, accumulating 964 yards while leading the NFL with an average of 20.1 yards per catch. Since then it has been down hill for the speedster.
Over the last two seasons with Minnesota, Berrian has almost completely fell off the map, and if the Vikings are able to retain Sidney Rice, they might want to cut Berrian, who is due $3.7 million this year.
There are several young receivers on the Vikings' roster that would compete for a more prominent role if Berrian left town. Jaymar Johnson, a speedy receiver who missed all of last season after being placed on injured reserve, could be first in line to step up. A few other possibilities on the roster would be Emmanuel Arceneaux, who the Vikings recently signed from the CFL, and Juaquin Iglesias, a former 3rd round draft pick from the Chicago Bears.
Unless the Vikings lose Sidney Rice to free agency, I don't see Berrian back in Minnesota this season.
Release Madieu Williams and His Inflated Contract
After the 2007 season, Madieu Williams left the Cincinnati Bengals for a six-year, $33 million contract with Minnesota. Williams, like Berrian, has been very disappointing for the Vikings, and he is due $5.4 million this season, so letting him go would help the Vikings' salary cap situation considerably.
Williams was a solid player in Cincinnati, but has failed to put it all together for the Vikings. According to Rotoworld, in 2010 Williams allowed a 114.0 passer rating on passes thrown in his direction, while also taking bad angles to the ball on running plays. On top of that, Williams only has one interception is his last 29 starts.
Leslie Frazier could decide to give Williams one more year to prove his worth, but the Vikings will also have Husain Abdullah, Jamaraca Sanford, Tyrell Johnson, and rookie Mistral Raymond competing for the two starting safety spots.
If Williams really wants to stay in Minnesota, he should be asked to take a substantial pay cut.
Re-Sign Ryan Longwell
Ryan Longwell will be an unrestricted agent this year, but according to Fox Sports, Longwell fully intends to stay in Minnesota as long as he receives a fair offer.
Longwell, who is now 36 years old, has been a model of consistency for the Vikings for the last six years. Throughout his career, Longwell has converted on 82.2 percent of his field goal attempts (fifth best in NFL history).
The new NFL kickoff rules could even prolong Longwell's career. Last year the Vikings ranked 30th in the NFL in kickoff touchback percentage, only kicking a touchback on 4.6 percent of kickoffs. With the new rules moving the kickoff up five yards, Longwell should be able to kick the ball deep in the endzone much more consistently.
Longwell is arguably the most accurate field goal kicker in the NFL today, and the Vikings will probably try to re-sign him but will not overpay for his services.
Sign Free Agent NT Brandon Mebane
Pat Williams, the Vikings nose tackle, has previously stated that there is a 50-50 chance he will be back in Minnesota this season. However, Williams is 38 years old, and with two very young, inexperienced quarterbacks, now would be as good a time as any to get younger at the position.
Mebane is on 26 years old, but has started 53 games for the Seahawks during his four year career. He will likely be an unrestricted free agent this season and he doesn't believe he will be back in Seattle.
In an interview from the Tacoma News Tribune, Mebane said, "I feel like I wasn't in their plans. And I feel like I have the right to think that because I got a third-round tender. If they really wanted me, they had plenty of time to do what they had to do."
Mebane is best suited at nose tackle, and if the Vikings don't bring back Pat Williams, they will not have a true nose tackle on their roster. Rookie Christian Ballard and up-and-coming player Letroy Guion are both better suited playing the three-technique tackle position (Kevin Williams position), so the addition of Mebane would fill a potentially big hole in the center of the Vikings' defensive line.
Sign Undrafted Free Agent LB Mark Herzlich
Mark Herzlich had a great career at Boston College totaling 218 tackles, seven forced fumbles, 11 interceptions, and three sacks. He had to sit out the 2009 season after being diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer. In 2010, he returned to the field and played out his final year of eligibility.
According to Scout.com, Herzlich is now cancer free, cleared to play, and if Herzlich not had the unfortunate bout with cancer, he might have been drafted as high as the first or second round.
If the Vikings lose Ben Leber to free agency, they will have a hole to fill. Erin Henderson or Heath Farwell would be next in line to start, but Herzlich would be a great addition to the team. The guy is a winner.
Herzlich has drawn some comparisons to the Vikings' Chad Greenway, and according to NFL.com, Herzlich has been training at the IMG football academy with the Vikings' Christian Ponder, Joe Webb, Kyle Rudolph and others. Herzlich could be in high demand once the lockout is over and he may get to pick which team he wants to sign with. Maybe Ponder and company will convince him that Minnesota is the right fit.