With free agency just around the corner, the NFL deadline for applying the franchise tag to players is at 12:00 EST today. There are several intriguing players that will hit the open market, and if the Vikings are smart they'll have these guys on speed dial once they're allowed to contact them.
Now, this is just Ted's wish list. I have no idea if the Vikings are interested in these players, if the players are interested in playing for the Vikes, or if there is mutual interest whether or not the Vikings can afford these guys. I'm looking at these guys that can fill immediate needs, can expect to play prime years as a Viking, and weren't given the franchise tag. As of this writing, these players are unrestricted free agents, and indications are that they will not be given the franchise tag by their team, making them eligible to hit the open market as unrestricted free agents.
Carl Nicks, New Orleans: With the revelation about the Bounty program aside, Nicks would be a fantastic addition to an offensive line that needs serious upgrades. Nicks wants to be the highest paid guard in the NFL, and owner Zygi Wilf hasn't been shy about breaking out the checkbook to get top talent. At 26, he's just entering the prime of his career, and his last two years he has established himself as the best yong guard in the NFL. Adding Nicks would almost assuredly mean that Steve Hutchinson would be cut, though. They both play LG, and I would think that asking to re-structure and move over to the right side might be a lot to ask of a proud guy that's been a helluva player for the purple and gold. But, let's do this. Let's look at two possible line combinations, one with Hutch moving to the right side, one without. Bioth are assuming the Vikings draft Matt Kalil with the third overall pick.
With Hutch (L to R): Kalil, Nicks, Sullivan, Hutchinson, Loadholt
Without (L to R): Kalil, Nicks, Sullivan, Charlie Johnson, Loadholt
Either one is the makings of a great line.
Cortland Finnegan, CB, Tennessee: I would call Finnegan on the back end of his prime years, but he's still light years ahead of what anything the Vikings have to offer in terms of cornerback. I mean, the most accurate desription of the Vikings secondary came from Josh_D over at Mocking The Draft, when he said in histeam needs post from last week:
How bad is the Vikings corner situation? Their best CB is 35 and coming off back to back seasons that ended in injury. Their 2nd option also came back from multiple injuries, didn't perform, and became a malcontent that began running his own plays. Their best option to replace one of those two may spend the upcoming season in a jail cell. Combined with how awful the secondary performed in 2011, it may be the worst unit in the league.
Finnegan's best two seasons were in 2008 and '09, but you could make the argument that his interception numbers went down because teams quit throwing to his side of the field. If the Vikings could get Finnegan, and Winfield comes back healthy, and Chris Cook doesn't end up in jail...well, maybe there's something there we can work with.
Vincent Jackson, WR, San Diego: Like Finnegan, Jackson is in the back end of his prime years, and I would expect maybe three or four years of production out of him. My preference would be Dwayne Bowe, but there's a fair amount of chatter that makes me believe the Chiefs will franchise him. Jackson is the next best option, as the Vikings need a guy that will two things:
1) Stretch the field and provide the offense a legitimate deep threat. Jackson does that, as he has averaged 17 yards per catch every year he has been in the league except one, and it was rumored that the Vikings were interested in trading for him before they acquired Randy Moss in 2010.
2) Allow Percy Harvin to work almost exclusively in the slot and wreak havoc. One of the few bright spots from the Vikings offense last year was the varied ways they were able to get Harvin the ball, and if they can maximize him working from the slot, he'll be more dangerous than ever.
I know we've been talking about a lot of free agents, but these are my three high impact guys that would make the most immediate difference for the Vikes.
Who are yours?