Last but not least (except for in the NFC North) in my review of the division’s activity during free agency, are the Minnesota Vikings. They’re definitely in full-on rebuilding mode; they’re working hard to make sure Christian Ponder is the franchise quarterback. The Vikes are now in the process of trying to find the right pieces to surround Ponder and Adrian Peterson, which has led them to a very busy free agency period. Unlike the Detroit Lions, the Vikings have quite a few free agents, 29 of them to be specific, to attend to. Here’s a look at what they’ve already done.
G Steve Hutchinson
This is going to be a sizable (pun intended) loss for the Vikes. Pretty much every NFL mock draft has Minnesota selecting offensive tackle Matt Kalil out of USC, who will impact the O-line immediately, but Hutchinson is one of the best in the league. He’s a seven-time Pro Bowler and now he’s off to Tennessee because Leslie Frazier and management did not believe he was worth the $7 million he was due in 2012. I know that’s a lot of money for a 34 year old dude, but this is no way to protect your developing quarterback.
CB Cedric Griffin
Griffin was released earlier in March after being with the team since in rookie season in 2006. He worked his way into the
Vikes’ starting lineup and signed an extension for 5 years and $25 million after the ’08 campaign, which was statistically his best season. This guy looked on track to become a top-notch starter at cornerback, but a couple of ACL injuries slowed him last season, thus the Vikings were through with him. Probably a smart move for the salary cap, but personally, I’m happy to see a talented coverage guy leaving the NFC North, as he’s made an impact against Detroit on more than one occasion. Also, this is cool: it’s Griffin’s wire mic recording from their first game against the Lions last season.
CB Chris Carr and CB Zack Bowman
Similar to Griffin, Carr’s 2011 season was hampered by an injury, but that didn’t stop the Vikes from offering him a one year deal. They’re filling their roster with a bunch of nickel and dime backs in hopes that one of these guys will improve their atrocious secondary of a year ago. Zack Bowman comes over from the Bears, also with a one year tender. I think is more talented of the two CBs; he’s had an up-and-down last few years: getting a starting role, becoming the Bears’ number one guy, then getting benched. Bowman doesn’t have the injury history though, and I think he’ll be starting opposite of Asher Allen next year, unless they upgrade in the first or second round of the draft.
G Geoff Schwartz
The Lions were targeting Schwartz for a while in free agency, but he passed on the Motor City after visiting all of his options. This guy was a seventh round pick in 2008 by Carolina, where he quickly become a starting guard. He sat out all last season (noticing a trend here?) with an injury however. To put it simply, Schwartz is no Steve Hutchinson. To that extent, he may not even be a Stephen Peterman.
TE Visanthe Shiancoe, TE Jimmy Kleinsasser, TE John Carlson
Not an incredibly pressing issue here, but the tight end situation has made a kind of swap. Kleisasser, whose been in Minnesota forever, has not been resigned yet. Neither has Shiancoe, whose yardage and touchdown receptions have plummeted since Brett Favre left. John Carlson was brought in from Seattle, which was a good move because he fits the role of a dual-tight end. He blocks, but also runs those middle-distance routes, which are perfect for young quarterbacks to check down to.
Overall Rating: C-
The Vikings didn’t make a big impact in free agency, as many had expected them to. While the Lions also, to a degree, stood by as the good FAs got signed, Minnesota did so without the same talented core that the Lions have. A whole bunch of one-year deals are nice for the budget, but they also give tell to the quality of the signee. There were a lot of tough decisions made by management during an overhaul, and if they’re going to improve at all, they’d better have the best draft out of anyone. The Vikes will be in trouble next season with a sparse secondary, questionable O-line and unproven quarterback.