With the NFL Scouting Combine wrapping up and Free Agency set to begin, I though I would share my thoughts on how I would go about righting the ship for 2012 and beyond. I will begin by offering some suggestions for players that I would consider in Free Agency, as well as provide explanations why I wouldn't pursue others (hint: Brandon Carr is not in my plan). Finally I provide my latest mock draft, Combine/Senior Bowl style.
Join me after the jump for my offseason plan to revamp the Vikings roster.
I will start by exploring the possibilities in free agency. I do not pretend to be a capologist. I do not know how much cap space that Rick Spielman will be operating with, but to keep things relatively realistic I am going forward with a conservative approach.
First order of business will be to address the current roster and our own pending free agents. I have stated several times that I would attempt to keep Visanthe Shiancoe and I stand by that opinion. I think retaining his services will be wise for several reasons. First of all it allows Ponder to continue to develop with a familiar weapon. Secondly, it allows me to use draft picks and free agency dollars in other areas that I think are higher up on the priority list. I would also try to resign Erin Henderson. The linebacker depth is probably the shallowest pool on the Vikings roster. Re-Signing Erin Henderson is a priority.
Second thing to do is restructure some of the exisiting contracts that are counting against this season's cap. I would start with Steve Hutchinson and Antione Winfield. I want both these guys to retire as Vikings, and not simply for sentimental value. I think they both can contribute on the field and provide leadership off it. I would let them know that I want them back but I need them to help out the organziation by restructuring their contracts in hopes of freeing up some cap space.
Now with those moves out of the way, I would pursue the following free agents:
David Hawthorne, middle linebacker from the Seattle Seahawks. I am hoping that Seattle is forced to place the franchise tag on Marhshawn Lynch. This will be the only way that Hawthorne hits the open market. As stated earlier, the LB depth on the Vikings roster is pathetic. I know we have needs at CB and WR, but this is where I would spend the big bucks. If the Vikings are to continue playing a version of the Tampa 2, the middle linebacker position is extremely important. And while EJ Henderson was a great player, he simply is not the same as he was before that brutal leg injury.
Jason Allen, cornerback from the Houston Texans. This is not a sexy signing. He is not Brandon Carr or Cortland Finegan. Realistically we do not have the ammo to compete for their services. Jerry Jones has already stated that he will fight for Carr. Finegan is likely to land in St. Louis with his former coach. Jason Allen played a key role in the Texans turnaround this season. When youngster Kareen Jackson struggled, Allen stepped in and played very well. He is 29 years old so this is not a long term fix so you can count on me addressing this position in the draft as well. I am also counting on Chris Cook being back in Minnesota in 2012.
Richard Marshall, cornerback/free safety from the Arizona Cardinals. Marshall is another one of those players that MarkSP18 has pointed out that the Vikings had an opportunity to draft but missed out. Now the Vikings come calling and he answers. There will be a lot of money thrown around at Carr, Finegan, Grimes, Rogers, Branch and Michael Griffin so Marshall has a good chance of falling in our laps. I would sign Marshall and make him our starting Free Safety in 2012.
Pierre Garcon, wide receiver from the Indianapolis Colts. Again, this is not a very sexy signing. But with Dwayne Bowe likely getting the franchise tag to stay in KC, and Stevie Johnson likely signing a long term deal in Buffalo, Pierre Garcon is my next choice. He has already turned down an offer to stay in Indy. I am hoping this was not because he wants a big contract. I hope he simply wants to take his talents to
South Beach the Twin Cities where he can reunite with Frazier and Alan Williams.
Now if I am unable to resign Erin Henderson, I will pursue free agent outside linebacker Wesley Woodyard from the Denver Broncos. The only reason why he is not starting is because of Von Miller. And those of you who watched the Broncos/Vikings game on Dec. 4 probably remember Woodyard. The dude stood out. I think he would make a great Will linebacker in Minnesota if it doesnt work out with Henderson.
And now for the moment you have all been waiting for, my latest mock. As I mentioned in the intro, this mock reflects what I saw at the Senior Bowl last month and what has transpired at the Combine this weekend. Keep something in mind, last year the Vikings selected 5 players who participated in the Senior Bowl. After coaching the North Squad this year, I fully expect the Vikings to match if not surpass that number of players drafted this April.
"With the number 3 pick in the 2012 draft the Minnesota Vikings select:"
Matt Kalil, offensive tackle, USC. This is a no brainer. I know that Spielman has been dropping the smoke screen as of late, but he has to make this pick. Matt Kalil was not at the Senior Bowl (he's a junior) but he was very impressive the last 2 seasons at USC, and he solidified himself as the #1 OT in the draft with his Combine performance. Seriously, Luck and RG3 are going 1 and 2, if I were Rick Spielman, I would already have my draft card filled in.
2nd round, Mark Barron, SS, Alabama. There's a good chance that Mark Barron is gets drafted in the first round. But with his hernia surgeries and the sudden rise of players like Fletcher Cox and Dontari Poe, I am hoping that Barron falls to the Vikings in the 2nd round. He's a prototypical in the box strong safety, which should allow Alan Williams to deviate from the Tampa 2 scheme. But he's also solid in pass coverage so he stands to be an instant upgrade over Tyrell/Jamarca.
alternate pick: Brandon Thompson, DT Clemson.
3rd round, Kendall Reyes, DT, Conneticut. I have had my eyes on this kid all season. He is currently shooting up most draft boards so we will be running up to the stage if he his still available in the 3rd. He is the main reason why I didn't break the bank in free agency pursuing a DT. He's not exactly a space eating run stuffer, but he is a very talented prospect.
alternate pick: Markelle Martin, FS, Oklahoma St.
4th round, Casey Hayward, CB Vanderbilt. I have been high on this kid for a while now. In fact I mocked him to the Vikings in the 2nd round in my first mock this offseason. He didn't fall to the 4th round because his play declined, but more so because other prospects have risen at the Combine. Hayward can still very well go in the 3rd round, but I am hoping this ball hawking corner who had better stats than both Dre Kirkpatrick and Morris Claiborne, will last until the 4th round.
alternate pick: Nigel Bradham, Florida St.
comp. 4th round, Marvin Jones, WR, California. I have said all along that I would not address WR in the first 3 rounds so I have held true to that stance. I will address the position by signing FA Pierre Garcon and by drafting Marvin Jones. Jones caught a TD in the Senior Bowl (even though he pushed off on the play) and has had a strong Combine. He as good size, 6'1" 200 lbs, and could be groomed behind Garcon for a year.
alternate pick: Leonard Johnson, CB, Iowa St.
5th round, Derek Wolfe, DT Cincinnati. Here's another player that I have had my eye on. He also played on the North Squad at the Senior Bowl. Derek Wolfe was a productive player for the Bearcats. He is versitle and can play up and down the defensive line. I see him having value at 3 tech or even as a base DE. He would be very good value in the 5th round. And with Guion and Fred Evans due to hit free agency, the Vikings will need to add depth to the defensive line rotation.
alternate pick: Gerell Robinson, WR, Arizona St.
6th round, Demario Davis, linebacker, Arkansas St. Davis was a standout at the East West Shrine game and was a late addition to the Senior Bowl. He had an amazing day yesterday at the Combine. He is raw, but in the 6th round he could provide a spark on special teams while he develops.
alternate pick: Lonnie Edwards, guard, Texas Tech
7th round, Lennon Creer, RB Louisiana Tech. Insurance policy.
7th round (from Moss trade with NE), Nicolas Jean-Baptiste, NT, Baylor. Defensive line depth, run stuffer.
comp. 7th round, Winston Guy Jr., Kentucky Special teams player who can provide depth if the team doesn't bring back Abdullah.
Undrafted Free Agent signings:
Joe Long, OT Wayne St.
Carmen Messina, linebacker, New Mexico
Tahir Whitehead, linebacker, Temple
Neiko Thorpe, safety, Auburn
Austin Davis, QB, Southern Miss
Desmond Marrow, DB, Toledo
There you have it. Let's hear your thoughts!