Now that it looks like the lockout might finally end in a week or two, it's time to take a look at something that should have happened around 100 days ago....Free Agency. The current news regarding the new CBA is that players will become unrestricted free agents after being in the league for 4 years. This change will make for a much larger pool of free agents. The rumor going around is if a new CBA is agreed on soon, the league year (and free agency) will start on July 15, allowing the free agents to be signed before training camps begin. A quick Google search led me to this list of free agents for the Vikings. I'm going to go through some of the major names on this list, and rate their value to the team, as well as their chances of being signed on a scale of 0-5 with 5 obviously being the highest.
The problem with Ray Edwards is that he is a good defensive end. He's not "great" like Allen, but it's not like he sucks either. Compounding this problem is that he wants "great" defensive end money and, unfortunately for the Vikings, there appear to be some teams (the Falcons) that may willing to pay him what he wants.
Statistically he has been decent the last two seasons with 8.5 sacks in 2009 and 8 in 2010. But with Jared Allen getting double teamed, and the Williams wall wrecking havoc in the middle, Edwards might just be benefiting from teams putting more effort into blocking the rest of the players on the Vikings defensive line than him.
I really don't see the Vikings being willing to overpay to keep Edwards, we have some young players on our team who should be more than capable of putting up numbers similar to Edwards as they will be put into a good position to succeed.
Value to the Vikings 2.5/5
Chance of re-signing 1/5
Sidney Rice (WR)
After two season of pretty much not doing anything notable, Rice had a breakout year with Favre. Some people think it's hard to tell whether it was Favre that made Rice good, or Rice that made Favre good,but I think this video clip settles it.
Sidney Rice Highlights (via AdrianPeterson28lm)
They're both good, but if their is one player the Vikings absolutely need to sign, its Sidney rice. If we lose him our receiving group goes from good to well, not so good. He is the kind of receiver that you can just lob it to regardless of how "open" he appears to be and chances are he come down with the catch. If Ponder is going to have any chance at a good rookie season, we need to keep Rice.
Rice's injury and surgery last season might be a blessing in disguise. Yeah, it made us waste a third rounder for Moss and was one of the reasons the 2010 season was a total disaster, but it also might make it easier for the Vikings to re-sign him. A few days ago Chris wrote about how other teams were concerned about Rice's injury and would not be as willing to sign him to a big contract. Since there will be less teams going after him, it will give the Vikings a better chance at being to retain him.
Signing Rice should be the Vikings top priority once the free agency feeding frenzy begins. Whoever is QB for the Vikings this season is going to need all the help he can get. Rice is the best receiver on our roster and letting him go would deal a big blow to our chances of getting back to the top of our division. If the Vikings are serious about becoming contenders again, they shouldn't just "match" offers for Rice. They need to offer him a better contract than what any of the other teams trying to sign him are willing to give.
Value to the Vikings 5/5
Chance of Re-signing 3.5/5
After leaving the
dark side of the force Packers in 2006 and coming to join the Vikings, he has been one of our most reliable players. However, he is a kicker and unlike money and HoF QBs, kickers just might grow on trees. Longwell has the 7th best field goal percentage of all active players, which makes it seem at first to be completely obvious that we should keep him. The difference between Longwell's field goal percentage and the 32nd best player's is 5.5%. However, this really isn't much of a difference. If a player kicks around 18-25 field goals a season. 5.5% is only one field goal a season. So the worst starting kicker in the league on average will miss one, maybe two more field goals than Longwell.
The second part of kicking is kickoffs and the fact is that the Longwell just doesn't send them very far. Longwell ranked 30th last season for both kicking distance with an average of 62.3 yards and touch backs with 3. Not very good at all. Even with the kickoff spot being moved from the 30 yardline to the 35 yardline, the touchbacks are not likely to be a more common occurrence for Longwell as he still averages below the 65 yards that will be needed for one. And of course shorter kickoffs equals a shorter distance to the goal line for opposing teams, which lead to them scoring more, which for obvious reasons is something we'd like to avoid.
Given that Longwell's higher accuracy only accounts for an extra 3-9 points a season. It would almost make sense to pick up another kicker who could give our special teams a big break. That said, chances are that we do re-sign him as it isn't like he is going to be asking for a gigantic contract, and like they considered last year, the Vikings could possibly bring a kick-off specialist. Only this time they should try and find one that can, you know, actually get touchbacks.
Value to the Vikings 2/5
Chance of re-signing 4/5
He has been a solid half of the Williams wall for the last 6 seasons, but unfortunately his time with the Vikings and the NFL may be nearing its end. An article from profootballtalk quotes Williams as saying his odds of coming back to the Vikings are 50-50. Williams also said that he was able to talk to Leslie Frazier during the short time the lockout had stopped and he was told that he is still part of the Vikings plans. Though our run defense wasn't quite as good in 2010 as it had been in previous years, it still was one of the Vikings strengths. Keeping Williams for another season or two would give the guys next in line another year to develop. If he wants to play, I think he will end up with the Vikings. I can't imagine that there would be many other teams in the market for a 38 year old defensive tackle.
Value to the Vikings 3/5
Chance of re-signing 2.5/5 (I think its higher, but I'll go with what he said)
Leber has been with the Vikings since 2006 and though he has been a solid player at outside linebacker it's becoming clear that at age 30 he is on the decline. Last season was the first year he failed to record as sack and he had only 46 tackles which is tied for the second lowest total in his career. Chad Greenway is quoted in profootballtalk as saying he thinks that Leber will not be with the Vikings next season.
Value to the Vikings 2/5
Chance of Re-signing 1/5
Chad Greenway is also a free agent, but the Vikings placed a franchise tag on him so he won't be going anywhere anytime soon. There is a 99.9% that the new CBA will still allow for franchise tags so there is nothing to worry about. The Vikings front office will have some tough decisions to make in the future regarding these players; vote in the poll for which player you think should be their first priority to sign.