Project 2012: Visanthe Shiancoe

So how excited are you guys for the big game in D.C. on Saturday?!

Yeah, me neither. I'll have the weekly preview and picks up tomorrow, but for now let's continue our Project 2012 series. We've covered Phil Loadholt and Cedric Griffin so far, and in both cases there seemed to be a general consensus among readers regarding both players. In Loadholt's case most people said some version of "he isn't good, but he's cheap and we need to fill other holes, so keep him around." Meanwhile, many fans agreed that Griffin shouldn't be a Viking next year.

Today's subject is much less straightforward when it comes to his future with the team. Tight end Visanthe Shiancoe has been a starter with the Vikings since 2007. His signing raised a few eyebrows since he hadn't done much in the first four years of his career with the Giants, but he proved to be a pleasant surprise. Shiancoe has been a very good pass catching tight end during his stead in Minnesota. While he hasn't found the end zone in the past two seasons like he did in '08 and '09, he still remains one of the Vikings' biggest threats close to the goal line.

The man everyone lovingly knows as "Shank" is great player, but by all accounts is an even better person. He's funny, engaging, and never shy about showing his personality off the field. (Heck, he isn't shy about showing anything if you remember that televised locker room incident from a few years back or take a look at his current Twitter profile picture.)

Visanthe Shiancoe has been one of my favorite Vikings since he arrived. Which is why it pains me so much to say that I don't think he'll be a Viking in 2012.

Shank is an unrestricted free agent next year. He'll probably get quite a bit of attention on the open market with his solid track record and outstanding locker room presence. If he does demand top dollar, it would be hard for me to get on board with the Vikings matching such offers. The biggest reason for the Vikings to spend their money elsewhere is the fact that the team drafted Kyle Rudolph, and Rudy appears to be the real deal. Shiancoe has seen the lion's share of looks but Rudolph has made some amazing grabs in his limited time on the field this year.

In an ideal world, Shank and Rudolph could co-exist and the coaching staff would build an offense that accentuates both tight ends, like the situation they have in New England with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. But there are two problems with that theory:

  1. I'm not sure that the coaches are capable of such ingenuity. If they haven't realized that Rudolph and Shiancoe are the only viable receivers outside of Percy Harvin yet, why would they suddenly change it up next year?
  2. The team currently has more holes than Casey Anthony's alibi. As much as I would like to keep Shank around, I'd rather see the front office spend free agent money on the offensive line. Or the defensive backfield. Or wide receiver. Or...well, you get the point.

I'm rooting for re-signing Shiancoe at a reasonable price, but that's probably not very feasible. Let's see what the other DN writers had to say about Shank's future:

CHRIS

As much as a cult figure as the man has become around these parts (It's a verb. . .to shank!), I really don't think there's any chance the guy winds up back here in any case. He can still be a contributor, but with the rebuilding process well underway for the Vikings and Kyle Rudolph being drafted to, presumably, take his place, it's highly unlikely he's going to want to become a part of all that.

If he was willing to sign for a reasonable price, he would be worth bringing back, but if he wants a bigger paycheck somewhere else, he's going to end up leaving. The Vikings are getting younger at tight end with Rudolph and Allen Reisner, and can continue to do so with a mid to late-round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. It's been great watching Shiancoe transform from the pass-dropping machine that he was when he first got to Minnesota into one of the Vikings' more reliable offensive threats, but I'm relatively sure that he's not going to be back in 2011, and that's probably for the best.

TED

This is a tough call, as I am a big Shiancoe fan. He's really matured into a good TE since he got here and had a case of the dropsies early on, and I am a firm believer that if you have a young QB that's developing, he needs reliable targets to throw to. Shiancoe fills that bill, and with the multiple TE sets that Bill Musgrave runs, he would seem to be a guy to keep.

There are two issues with him coming back, though: age and money. He's north of the dreaded age 30, he started to fight those nicks and bruises this year, and you wonder if this isn't the beginning of the end for Shank. I'm not sure what he would command on the open market, but with his age, nagging injuries this year, and playing on a bad team, I can't see him getting a huge contract in free agency.

With Jim Kleinsasser probably retiring (bows head, moment of silence) it makes sense to bring him back for a year or two and ease the transition to Kyle Rudolph as the starter. They'll need to address tight end in the draft or free agency anyways to backfill The People's Champion, and keeping Shiancoe makes sense.

So yeah, if the price is right, bring him back.

SKOL GIRL

As a tight end known more for his receiving, it looks like Visanthe Shianoe's talents overlap with Kyle Rudolph's. That could make Shiancoe expendable if the team wants to go younger across the entire roster. That said, it seems unwise for the Vikings to part ways with a reliable receiving target when they are trying to develop rookie quarterback Christian Ponder. With Jim Kleinsasser's retirement appearing imminent, a veteran tight end could also provide some stability to an offense (well, really it's the whole team) in flux.

However, Shiancoe may command a higher price than the Vikings feel like meeting, in which case, the Vikings might try to persuade Kleinsasser to stick around for another season to fill the role of veteran tight end. Because Kleinsasser is primarily a blocking tight end, he doesn't duplicate the abilities Rudolph has and may be more valuable to the team. That, however, doesn't seem to be likely at this point.

KYLE

Shiancoe has definitely proven he's still a good player with something left in the tank, even with his recent hamstring injuries. One important question I suppose with the aforementioned suffering in mind--will those hammys heal up and he become even better for a season or two, or will his age turn them into the 'nagging injury' he'll be dealing with the rest of his career?

Either way, I'm a bit torn and yet still leaning towards keeping him--if, of course, the price tag is alright. While this team may be in rebuilding mode, I'm also not of the mindset a la 2010 Carolina Panthers as far as "screw it, just dump all the vets regardless of how good they are". Before you call me a hypocrite because of my suggestion in regards to trading KWill, keep in mind if Shiancoe leaves, we get bupkis in return, so there is a difference.

While Rudolph is definitely the future, Musgrave has always expressed his interest in two-TE sets, and we've seen some of that this season. Keep in mind how the Patriots run that--Gronkowski is undeniably awesome and their starting TE, but their two-TE sets also have the very good Hernandez too. I'm not sold on Reisner or Schuler being our second TE, so unless we want to open yet another hole on this team, I think we should try and secure Shiancoe for another season or two while we address our other significant deficiencies. The Shiancoe-Rudolph tandem makes for a really good two-TE play set, in my opinion. And considering our troubles at WR, it's not like we don't need good receivers, technical position be damned.

The flip side is of course Shiancoe's impending FA. He's going to test the market, and the bidding war could potentially get too steep for us. His veteran status may keep things from getting out of hand (Sidney Rice), but there's still the potential there for trouble regardless. And of course the bigger question would be--does Shiancoe even WANT to come back? I wouldn't blame him if a true contender sent out a good request and he simply took it, hoping to end his career with a SB win--I doubt he will get the opportunity with us, sadly. As with all NFL players, he'll want to cap his career with a ring, and again, I don't blame him one iota. So there's always that.

In conclusion--if we can, keep him. If the price is too steep or if he just would prefer to bolt for greener pastures to wrap his playing time up, then its au revrois, dude, and thanks for everything.

MARK

I think he is gone. He will be an UFA and there is no chance he will want to come back to a team with a 2-14 record, a rookie QB and coach, no stadium and not sure where they will play, and that just drafted the top TE in the 2011 draft. The writing is on the wall for less playing time which translates to less money. It is in the best interests of the Vikings to NOT resign Shiancoe and start Rudolph. They need to free up his $3 million to use on other free agents specifically in the secondary, linebacker, and DE positions.

I personally am a fan of drafting another TE this year. Coby Fleener is one I like but he may be too much like Rudolph. A HB/FB type player that is really good is Evan Rodriguez from Temple.

They also have Reisner and Shuler who should get every chance to make the team and backup Rudolph.

I think the Vikings will let him test the market and I think he will get an offer from another team. If not and they are desperate then they can resign him. I would not. I would just go with the youngsters and let them grow.

So that's what we think--now it's your turn. Let us know what you think the Vikings should do with Shiancoe in the poll and comments.

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