Thanks to the NFL lockout, the NFL off-season, once it got underway, was one week of pure, unadulterated, football. There is no truth to the rumor that sales of Red Bull went up 4,211% in NFL cities, as coaches and general managers had to work at a breakneck pace to sign undrafted free agents, unrestricted free agents, draft picks, and make trades.
Going in to free agency, the Vikings had several needs, among them veteran quarterback, defensive line, safety, and maybe some offensive line depth. Of the unrestricted free agents that the Vikings had, Ray Edwards and Sidney Rice were the two biggest names out on the market, and it seemed like the Vikings had a good chance to retain the services of Rice, but the chances of Edwards coming back were slim at best.
Let's take an in-depth look at how things shook out once the NFL got back to the business of football.
The Wide Receiver Situation: The first two days of free agency were the most hectic, by far. For awhile, it looked like the Vikings had a good chance to retain Sidney Rice, but in the end the Seattle Seahawks won out, signing Sid the Kid to a 5 year, $41 million contract, with $18 million guaranteed. Chris made some good points about how maybe Losing Rice might not be the end of the world, and now that the Vikings have signed Donovan McNabb, there might be some truth to that. In Rice's place, the Vikings signed Devin Aramoshodu from the Bears, and veteran Michael 'Holy Buckeye!' Jenkins from Atlanta...via THE Ohio State University, woot woot! Ahem...
I'm not going to lie to you and say I was happy that Rice signed with Seattle; I thought he would be an important part of a new-look Vikings offense. The Vikings signed Michael Jenkins and Devin Aromashodu to shore up the receiving corps, and they didn't cut Bernard Berrian. And I think that's where most of the heartburn lies, truth be told.
But when I look at the wide receivers that the Vikings have on the roster, it's a group of guys that have the potential to produce. Granted, it's not the 1998 team, but it isn't the 2006 squad, either. Let's break it down statistically.*
*All stats courtesy of Pro Football Focus.
In 2010, the Vikings pass offense was 30th in the NFL, with an overall rating of -75. Yikes. That said, Percy Harvin was the fourth best receiver in the game, with a rating of 12.2. Michael Jenkins was 12th at 6.9, so Jenkins is a net plus addition. The biggest culprit was Bernard Berrian, who statistically was the third worst receiver in the NFL last year (ranked 197 out of 199) with a rating of -12.7, ahead of only Bryant Johnson and Darius Heyward-Bey.
But how would Braylon Edwards or James Jones, the two receivers most rumored to be in the mix for the Vikings, have been in terms of a replacement? Well, those guys weren't much better. Edwards was ranked 161st, with an overall rating of -4.6. James Jones? He was even worse, with a rating of -5.3, coming in at 169th overall. I was never really sold on either of those guys, and quite frankly, I'm glad the Vikings didn't sign either one.
It seems, at least by the folks at Pro Football Focus, the Vikings picked the right guy. The right guy who WENT TO OHIO STATE, BABY! WOOOOOOOO!
Ahem, sorry. The Vikings need a guy that can take pressure off of Harvin, and they have it in Jenkins. He's not a deep threat, but he is a big guy that can make the 'move the chain' catches and keep defenses honest.
Oh, and a little bit of a defense of Berrian here. First off, Leslie Frazier says he needs to step up this year, and so far, that's the understaement of camp. But in Berrian's last healthy year of 2008, his overall rating was 0.9, with a pass rating of 4.9. So if he's healthy, I think he'll be an asset. Look, I get it's a flimsy defense, but so was Casey Anthony's. #toosoon?
Donovan McNabb: For whatever reason, several radio stations have interviewed me about this trade the last few days, and the more I talk about it, the more I'm getting on board with it. I've been an adamant 'no' in regards to acquiring McNabb, because it just looks like his last season in Washington he was going through the motions, much like Brett Favre did in New York. Most everybody, including me, wants the Christian Ponder era to begin, but if you hand the keys to Ponder, can the Vikings realistically contend when you consider that he has been to no OTA's, mini-camps, and and will be at an abbreviated training camp? No, I don't think it is. Yes, rookie quarterbacks in recent years have come in to the NFL and produced right away, but that is still the exception, and not the rule. With McNabb, the quarterback position is undoubtedly better, and maybe a change of scenery from the schizophrenic dysfunction that is the Dan Snyder Washington Redskins is just what McNabb needs to get back on track. He has a fantastic running game in Minnesota, something he did not in Washington, and he'll have an overall better receiving corps.
Granted, he has the same questions surrounding him that Favre did when he arrived, but overall, I can live with this. And Favre was a smart play in 2009, so maybe McNabb can have a career revival in Minnesota. And worst case scenario, he stinks and Christian Ponder starts halway through the season. As I look at the landscape, I'd much rather wait a year or two for Ponder and watch the Vikings make a serious run at the playoffs as opposed to knowing the Vikings would pretty much be mathematically eliminated by the end of the first quarter in week 1.
Other Issues: As the Vikes open training camp in Mankato, I would still argue that the Vikings have more pressing needs than quarterback and safety. They addressed the defensive line depth by signing DT Remi Ayodele, and with Fred Evans signing his tender and the drafting of Christian Ballard, the d-line looks, from left to right, like it will be Brian Robison, Ayodele, Kevin WIlliams, and Jared Allen. That's not the Purple People Eaters, but I think it has the potential to be a good line, as long as Evans, Ballard, and Guion can hold the fort down while Kevin Williams will probably be suspended for the first four games.
Oh, and really, Vikings front office...please feel free to sign guys with easy names to spell. Between Devin Aromashodu and Remi Ayodele, I've had a hell of a four days. And please, for the love of all that's holy, if you sign Brandon Manumaleuna...well, just don't. And not because of his name, but because he was, in fact, statistically the worst tight end in the NFL last year.
For me, the biggest concern is the safety position. Madieu Williams was released, but the Vikes are going with largely the guys that were, for the most part, terrible last year. Husain Abdullah, Eric Frampton, Tyrell Johnson, and Jamarca Sanford inspire no confidence, and it will be the weak link of the defense. Abdullah actually played well, at times, so I think he can step up and be a good player, but the other three? I would have really liked to have seen somebody get signed in free agency at the safety position, but the Vikings will apparently roll with these guys.
MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENT: We've got all the details finalized, so we might as well announce it now. There will be a lot of training camp battles on both sides of the ball, and we'll be looking forward to all of them. And The Daily Norseman will be covering them from training camp on Friday and Saturday of this coming week. I know some of you guys aren't fans of the sponsored posts, but Comcast and SB Nation, along with the Vikings, have made it possible for DN to send our bloggers to Mankato. The Vikings are giving us two days, and we're going to make the most of it. We've been assured full press access, so we'll get to interview and ask questions to members of the Vikings, the coaching staff, and/or the front office. Chis is busy defending our country and stuff, so that, unfortunately, has to take precedence. I mean really Gonzo, let's start prioritizing, okay? However, I will be making the drive from St. Louis and will be there both days, giving you the access to the team you all deserve. So if there are questions you want asked, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and if I get to interview the guy you want the question asked to, I will, unless it's one that could potentially result in me getting my ass beat. I love you guys, but I'm not taking an ass beating for you, got it? I'll also be reporting practice information and summaries, attending press conferences, and will hopefully get to post a ton of pictures.
So, as Hall of Famer John Randle used to say: REGULATORS...MOUNT UP! AHHHHHHHHBBBBBBBHHHHAAAA!!!