Vikings Release Guards Hutchinson, Herrera: Is Carl Nicks on Minnesota's Radar?

Tanner ThomsSenior Analyst IMarch 13, 2012

CHARLOTTE, NC - NOVEMBER 07:  Carl Nicks #77 of the New Orleans Saints against the Carolina Panthers during their game at Bank of America Stadium on November 7, 2010 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

On March 11, the Minnesota Vikings released their two starting guards from last year. Those two guards being left guard Steve Hutchinson and right guard Anthony Herrera.

Herrera, who is billed at 6'2", 315 pounds, was signed as an undrafted free agent, out of Tennessee, in 2004.

Herrera made his debut for the Vikings in 2005, where he went on to start six games. In the span of 2006-2011, Herrera started in games 64 out of 96 games.

Although never earning a Pro Bowl selection, Herrera was considered both a positive run-blocker and pass-protector.

Going on 32 years of age, Herrera isn't likely to garner all that much interest on the market. At this point in his career, he's more of a solid veteran that can fill in where it's needed.

As for Hutchinson, who goes 6'5", 315 pounds, he should have plenty of suitors for teams in need of a solid, veteran left guard.

Hutchinson was drafted with the 17th pick in the 2001 draft by the Seattle Seahawks. After five seasons with Seattle, Hutchinson signed a seven-year, $49 million contract with the Vikings.

In his six seasons with the Vikings, Hutchinson made it to the Pro Bowl four times, but failed to do so in 2010 and 2011. He was also an All-Pro guard in 2006-2009, and won the Offensive Lineman of the Year in 2006 and 2009.

So, why are the Vikings letting Steve Hutchinson go? It's simply because he'll be nearly 35 when the 2012 season begins, and his blocking skills are in decline.

For a guy who hardly ever committed a penalty in his first ten seasons, Hutchinson was flagged on numerous occasions this past year.

Don't kid yourself, though. Hutchinson still has plenty that he can give to a team in need. Minnesota would have kept him, had his salary not been so high.

Now, with the Vikings having next to nothing at guard, will they try to make a run at Saints free agent guard, Carl Nicks?

Perhaps they will also make a run at Ravens guard, Ben Grubbs. Either one would be a great choice for Minnesota.

That being said, I feel as though Nicks is the best guard in football, therefore Minnesota would be wise to look his way first.

The Saints are in serious turmoil right now with the bounty scandal, and they really don't have much money to dish out, especially with Drew Brees' contract situation yet to be worked out.

If Nicks is able to hit the open market, there's no doubt he will have upwards of 15+ suitors, but which teams truly have the money to dish out to him?

I can safely tell you that the Vikings are one of the teams that has plenty of salary for Nicks' services. Even before they released Herrera and Huthcinson, the Vikings would have been able to afford Nicks.

It's clear that the Vikings want to be able to protect their future in Christian Ponder, but they are going to have a tough time doing so, if they don't make any improvements.

Despite what some think, Minnesota doesn't really have that many needs they need to address. Yes, they need to find a tackle, but that will be fixed with Matt Kalil.

Second, they have only one receiver who can make plays in Percy Harvin. This will likely be fixed with a free agent receiver, with the money left over from Carl Nicks (Mario Manningham, Marques Colston, Brandon Lloyd, Pierre Garcon, Vincent Jackson).

If they don't address their receiver situation in free agency, don't be surprised if they either pull a trade for someone like DeSean Jackson or Brandon Marshall.

However, their best option would be to spend their second round selection on a receiver like Alshon Jeffery, Reuben Randle or Mohamed Sanu.

Lastly, Minnesota needs to upgrade their secondary. This could happen in the form of Morris Claiborne with the third pick, which many believe to be true.

The Vikings will likely do all they can to make a run at Brandon Carr or Cortland Finnegan, but they may be outbid by teams with more money (Tampa Bay, Denver, Kansas City).

With New Orleans re-signing Marques Colston, they have no money left for Nicks. Therefore, he's hitting the open market, where he will be paid higher than any guard.

The Vikings and GM Rick Speilman reported weeks ago that Minnesota plans to be aggressive in free agency. Thus far, they have done next to nothing, but it's the Viking way to take their time.

There have been only a couple teams with public interest in Nicks' services, but his market value will be the furthest thing from slim.

With Christian Ponder at quarterback, Minnesota will continue to be a run-first team, despite Adrian Peterson's potential absence.

In order to be a great running team, you need a great offensive line. Currently, the Vikings have only one great lineman in John Sullivan, but the other four spots are clearly in question.

If the Vikings weren't shy about signing Hutchinson in 2006, why would they back away from it this time around?

One could even argue that Minnesota's offensive line situation is far worse than it was six years ago. Remember, six years ago, Bryant McKinnie was playing at a high level and Matt Birk was dominating at center.

Minnesota is bound to be in a bidding war for Nicks, but there's no reason why they should give up in their pursuit. If the Vikings want to win now, they need to make the moves to do so.

Besides, there's no way the Vikings will go into next year with two rookie guards, or even a rookie and Chris DeGeare. This would be a recipe for disaster.

With free agency just beginning, plenty has yet to happen. Nicks will likely take his time before he signs, as he will wait out for the best possible offer.

As always, if there are any updates, I will be posting them on Bleacher Report. Stay tuned for any further details on potential free-agent blockbusters.

Be sure to follow Tanner Thoms on Twitter @TannerThoms


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