This is a pre-free agency post combine off season plan.
First it looks like all of the remaining free agents may hit the open market. It would be kind of foolish for a player like Erin H to not go out there and see what he can get. He is 10 days away. Why not wait and see what other teams think about you? That is what I would do.
Then we have some players that are probably going to be released or asked to take a pay cut. I think Herrera and Griffin are gone. They may ask Hutch to restructure but even that bothers me. Why not let him go and see if he can catch on with a playoff team to try and win a ring before he hangs them up?
I think that the Vikings are going to be hard pressed to attract any top free agents. For example, I like Brandon Carr a lot and would hope that the Vikings have a chance at signing him to a contract. But it is rumored that Dallas is after him and probably more teams too. The only way the Vikings could even get into the discussion is to overpay him. Also, Texas does not have any state tax while Minnesota has a tax rate of 7.85% (correct me if I am wrong). If Dallas offers him 8 mil per year the Vikings would have to offer 9 mil to beat that by just 293.5K. Considering the fact that the Vikings are definitely rebuilding and the Cowboys could be in the playoff hunt next year and it is doubtful he would come to Minnesota.
The Vikings could offer him 10 or 11 mil but that is just too much. Brandon Flowers signed a 6 year 50.6 mil deal on 9/16/11. They have similar stats but Flowers is just a little bit better. The question becomes is he worth overpaying? I have to say no.
I think the Vikings need to set their sights lower. If they try for the big free agents, strike out, and then go after some other free agents that could ruffle the feathers of the other free agents. Plus, Spielman wants to get younger and is rumored to be looking at young players coming off their first contracts. I do not think that is in concrete but it is probably a preference.
Thus, I am targeting some second tier or lower free agents to add to the team. Some may start and some may rotate but all should play a role.
I think that the safety position is going to be one that is fought over by teams immediately once free agency starts. This draft class is very weak for safeties. Tyvon Branch is going to get the franchise tag removing him from the market. DaShon Goldson got tagged. I think that we could see Tennessee tag Michael Griffin as well. They need him and the franchise tag number is only going to be about 6.2 mil this year.
Next you have Laron Landry who passed on achilles tendon surgery to let it heal naturally (sound familiar) and may be getting to "swole up" to even play. After Landry there is Reggie Nelson who had a rebirth in Cincinnati and could also be a candidate for the franchise tag (doubtful). But they could offer him a good enough deal for him to accept. That does not leave much and is one of the reasons why it was said that the Vikings were looking at "tweeners" during the Senior Bowl and probably at the combine.
But I have one candidate that I would go after right off the bat.
Thomas DeCoud FS 6'1.3" 207 4.50 forty 6.85 3 cone
He signed a 4 year 2.285 mil deal as a rookie picked #98 in 2008.
Obviously the next position is corner back. I like Tim Jennings and Richard Marshall as potential targets. I would go for Richard Marshall first. He is bigger than Jennings and can play the outside.
Richard Marshall CB 5'11.1" 189 4.42 forty 6.65 3 cone
He signed a 1 year deal last year with Arizona for 3.5 mil.
He played some safety last year when Kerry Rhodes was hurt. NMVike also likes him and has him in his off season plan too. But he wants him to play safety. It could be that can happen if the Vikings cannot get DeCoud.
The next position needing immediate attention is linebacker. With both Henderson's set to become free agents the Vikings will definitely be shopping for a linebacker. I kind of like David Hawthorne but I am targeting Dan Connor. I think Connor is bigger and could be ready to break out. He got hurt before but I think he will be cheaper than Hawthorne. I am not sure about Brinkley and this could be his last year with the team.
Dan Connor LB 6'2.3" 231 4.67 forty 6.78 3 cone 4.25 short shuttle
He signed a 4 year 2.494 mil deal as a rookie picked #74 in 2008.
The next position is wide receiver. I think the Vikings need at least one and this could be the position where the spend the most money. There are obvious top targets like Vincent Jackson, Marcus Colston, Reggie Wayne, Mike Wallace, Wes Welker, and even Brandon Lloyd. DeSean Jackson already received the franchise tag. DWayne Bowe is going to receive the tag too. I think Stevie Johnson is going to reach an agreement with the Bills. Welker and Wallace are out of the picture. Lloyd & Wayne are too old. VJack and Colston are both 29 and probably will go to teams that have a shot at the playoffs. So I would target Laurent Robinson, Pierre Garcon, and Robert Meachem. I would like to sign Pierre Garcon but it is reported he turned down a 5 year 35 mil deal. http://www.rotoworld.com/player/nfl/4945/pierre-garcon
That leaves Robinson and Meachem. I think many teams will be after them so the Vikings will have to pay up to get either. But are they worth it? We were already burned by Berrian. I say go for it though. I would go for Robinson.
Laurent Robinson WR 6'2" 199 4.38 forty 6.83 3 cone
He signed a 4 year 2.430 mil deal as a rookie picked #75 in 2007.
He is interesting because he did not do well with the Rams but shined in Dallas. Maybe he needs another WR opposite him to take the pressure off? Regardless, he is super fast and can get deep which is what the Vikings will want him to do to keep the safeties honest. Whether or not Ponder can get him the ball on a consistent basis remains to be seen. But that is a whole nother story.
I think the next spot is defensive tackle. I like Brodrick Bunkley and Amobi Okoye.
Broderick Bunkley 6'2.5" 307 4.95 forty
He is a little older but is very good against the run which is what the Vikings need. He could cost 3 to 5 mil per year too so they may go for Okoye but I will leave him for now.
The last signing would be Kellen Davis. He is a big TE and excellent in line blocker. Just what the Vikings need. And if they can steal him from the Bears it is even better.
Kellen Davis 6'6.5" 262 4.59 forty
So in summary I want to sign Thomas DeCoud FS, Richard Marshall CB, Dan Connor LB, Laurent Robinson WR, Brodrick Bunkley DT, and Kellen Davis TE. I would let all the remaining free agents hit the market. I would release Hutchinson, Herrera, and Griffin.
The last thing I would do before I get to the draft is extend Jared Allen. They need to add a few years to his deal in order to lower the cap hit as much as possible this year. His remaining salary is not guaranteed. If they give him a 5 year deal for 50 mil and guarantee the 26 mil he has remaining on his deal they can spread most of that out over the 5 years. Since his first deal he signed was a 6 year deal, they could only spread out his signing bonus for 5 years according to the CBA. I know that spotrac and even Tom Peliserro are reporting that his 15.5 mil bonus is spread over the 6 years. But this site says differently ...
An expression that was thrown about repeatedly during the various labor meetings is "cash over cap". Well, these signing bonuses are what insiders were talking about, when they brought up that term. One of the things that held up negotiations amongst the owners with the last CBA extension (both back in 2006 and in 2011) was the move to place some kind of cap on the amount of signing bonus money that could be pushed into future years for cap accounting purposes. Although there was no cap on signing bonuses, there was a limit put in place that signing bonuses could only be prorated for up to five (5) years. With the latest CBA, that five-year figure remains unchanged.
Thus I believe that Allen's prorated bonus has one year left at 3.1 mil. That would count immediately against the cap plus the new spread out money which is 5 mil per year. That would make his salary about 8.1 mil. They can add another 2 mil and still save about 4.7 mil against the cap.
Now if he refuses then I would trade him. I actually am in favor of doing that anyway because I think the rebuilding is going to take a couple of years and his salary counts too much against the cap. Add in AP's cap number and these two are going to cost over 30 mil against the cap in 2013. If the cap is at 125 mil that is 24% for two players. I know it is not popular but the timing could not be better right now. He is coming off a monster season and a team will definitely give up their first round pick plus another one. If not then no deal. I am not including a trade at this time but I think they would be smart to do it now. I can let Robison and Griffen rush from the right defensive end spot and let Ballard play the base DE. Then I would draft another base DE. But is is not in this plan. Just an extension.
So finally I can get to the draft. I am still assuming that the Vikings will get a 3rd round compensatory pick for Rice and I now believe they may get a 5th round compensatory pick for either Edwards or TJack. I do not think that the rumored two fourths is fair. In 2010 Cincinnati lost Stacy Andrews, Ryan Fitzpatrick, & TJ Houshmanzadeh while signing only JT O'Sullivan. Andrews signed a deal for 6 years 39 mil. Fitzpatrick signed a deal for 3 years 7 mil. Housh signed a 5 year 40 mil deal. They received a 3rd and 4th round pick.
In 2009 Chicago lost Bernard Berrian who signed a 6 year 43.4 mil deal and they got a 3rd round pick. Also, Cincy lost Madieu Williams who signed a 6 year 33.75 mil deal and Justin Smith who signed a 6 year 45 mil deal. Cincy got one 3rd round pick.
The only possible way they can downgrade Rice to a 4th is because of his production. But Berrian had 48 catches for 7 TDs while playing in all 16 games while Rice had 32 catches and 2 TDs while playing in 9 games. Cincy still got a 3rd round pick for Stacy Andrews even though he only played in 10 games. So I do not see Rice being injured as a reason to downgrade the compensatory pick. Rice signed for more than what Berrian signed.
I could be wrong but they better have a pretty dang good reason for NOT giving the Vikings a 3rd round pick for Rice.
Thus I am going with a 3rd and a 5th in this mock instead of the two fourths.
Let me first blather on some more, er, I mean explain why I would not take certain players at #3.
Morris Claiborne measured in at 5'11.1" 188 and ran a 4.47 or 4.50 forty. His 3 cone time was a horrendous 7.01. His short shuttle was 4.12 but that 3 cone is a huge red flag for me. Look at Darelle Revis. He measured in at 5'11.4" 204 and ran a 4.38 forty. His 3 cone was a fabulous 6.56. His short shuttle was 4.08. He was bigger, faster, and quicker.
Besides the numbers though, I did not see any top offense with a NFL caliber QB and WRs that he faced. Arkansas was the closest last year. Plus he had some pretty good players on that defense too. Casey Hayward had more tackles, picks, and passes defended the last two years and he did not have as much help as Claiborne.
I just could not pick Claiborne at #3 at all. Maybe in the teens but not that high.
Justin Blackmon measured in at 6'0.7" 207. He did not run because of his hamstring but managed to do some other running. Go figure. He dropped about 10 pounds or so to come to the combine and then did not run (like Alshon Jeffery). That is a serious yellow flag for me. He is trying to wait to see if he can get faster I guess. Even if he runs a forty in the low 4.4s at his pro day I would not take him at #3 at all. He just is not in the same class as a Calvin Johnson, Julio Jones, AJ Green, or Larry Fitzgerald. He is too small for my tastes. He had fabulous production in that hurry up offense that is for sure. But I like Michael Floyd's production just as much coming from that Notre Dame offense. Plus Floyd does have legitimate size and speed too.
That leaves Luck, RG3, Kalil, Richardson, DeCastro, and maybe Coples.
I think Indy will take Luck for sure. It is assumed that the Rams will trade out of the #2 spot and some team will take RG3.
Thus the Vikings are set to take the first Combine Riser (as if he could rise more).
1.3 Matt Kalil OT USC 6'6.5" 306 4.96 1.70 30 reps 4.56 short shuttle
I think all doubt should be removed about this pick right? Even I cannot come up with trade scenarios that would make any sense. I could come up with some but they do not make sense (as if they ever do). I will throw this one trade that they may be able to do.
Tampa needs corners bad but also could use a big time running back. And there is only one big time running back in this draft. There past experience could lead them to believe they could get another Blount type back later in the draft. But that is rolling the dice and most of the time you come up snake eyes. But they really need that corner and Cleveland could use another corner as well. So maybe Tampa offers their first and second to move up two spots to get Morris Claiborne? Is that worth it? Most would say yes. Even I would lean that way too. But not today.
Plus, Cleveland could take Kalil themselves and put him on the right side. They need a right tackle themselves. Or Cleveland may get an offer from another team who wants to move up to get Kalil.
There is no trading of this pick. Take the USC stud and plug him in at left tackle and hope he is not a bust.
2.35 Zach Brown LB North Carolina 6'1.5" 4.44 1.59 27 reps
This is one heck of a LB and if he fell to the second round it would be awesome. I was thinking about Stephon Gilmore here but after he ran a 4.44 forty and a 6.61 3 cone he is likely to be gone towards the end of the first round. In fact, Brown could also be gone. But not in this mock. He falls to the Vikings.
3.67 Mike Martin DT Michigan 6'1.3" 306 4.84 1.69 36 reps 4.25 short shuttle
I wanted to get Josh Robinson or Harrison Smith here but with Robinson running a 4.29 forty and Smith the only decent SS after Barron I think they both will go in the second round. I also would take Jerel Worthy here but he probably will be gone. There really is not much difference between Martin and Worthy size wise.
comp Jamell Fleming CB Oklahoma 5'10.5" 206 4.43 1.57 23 reps 6.71 3 cone
I think that Fleming is a risky pick in that he had some academic troubles at Oklahoma. But he overcame those and since the Vikings like to take chances on these kinds of players (Chris Cook and Chris DeGeare) I say why not? He has a really good forty and 3 cone time.
4.98 Marvin McNutt WR Iowa 6'2.6" 199 4.42 no bench
I think this is a good spot for McNutt. He could go higher though. I debated between Brian Quick and Marvin Jones too but chose McNutt because of his production. Running that 4.42 helped out McNutt a lot. If he can duplicate that at his pro day and manage to do over 15 bench presses then he definitely will go before this pick. But he goes here for now!
5.130 A.J. Jenkins WR Illinois 6'0.2" 190 4.37 12 reps
Speed. The Vikings can use more speed. I already took McNutt and added Robinson in free agency. Now they have Harvin, Robinson, Jenkins, McNutt, Jenkins, Burton, & Arceneaux. Not too bad a set of WRs. Burton and Arceneaux are on the bubble.
comp. Tom Compton OT 6'4.7" 315 5.03 1.67 20 reps
I think that he is going to play guard but it is nice that he has tackle experience. At this point getting a First Team FCS All American is not bad.
6.164 Tank Carder LB TCU 6'2.3" 236 4.56 1.56 19 reps 4.18 short shuttle
I like Carder and his instincts. I think he will end up being the steal of this mock draft. I like him to back up Dan Connor too. Brinkley is going to really have to step it up.
This pick is from the Browns for the Jayme Mitchell trade.
7.193 Donnie Fletcher FS/CB 6'0" 201 4.53
I think Fletcher could be moved to free safety. The Vikings would then have some decent young prospects in Fletcher & Raymond to try at safety.
7.206 Jaye Howard DT Florida 6'3" 301 4.75 24 bench
This pick is from the Patriots via the Eagles for the Moss trade.
I compare Howard to Guion a bit. He is worth a shot this late and should be able to provide a little bit of depth. I do think this is too low though.
7.222 Coty Sensabaugh CB 5'11.2" 189 4.37 15 reps 6.60 3 cone
I think that anyone that can run that fast is worth a pick.
This is the pick from the Giants from the Rosenfels & Reynauld trade (hopefully)
Here is a recap of the draft ...
1.3 Matt Kalil OT
2.35 Zach Brown LB
3.67 Mike Martin DT
comp Jamell Fleming CB
4.98 Marvin McNutt WR
5.130 A.J. Jenkins WR
comp Tom Compton OT
6.164 Tank Carder LB
7.193 Donnie Fletcher FS/CB
7.206 Jaye Howard DT
7.222 Coty Sensabaugh CB
I am sure this will change as players get tagged and once free agency begins.
I wish I could come up with more trades but the Vikings do not have any players that other teams want besides their best players.