We made huge improvements going from 2011 with three wins to 10 in 2012. Many will say that Christian Ponder doesn't have what it takes to run this team, I'm not completely sold on him but i believe with a good off season by the Vikings and picking up Defensive and Offensive players to contribute that Ponder will end up being at least close to this "Franchise" quarterback that everyone talks about. With all that said here is my idea of a decent and what i believe is pretty realistic to something Rick Speilman would actually do.
WR- Percy Harvin. I've read many People say we should trade him and many people that say we shouldn't. I have taken thought about what we could get for him trade wise but realized it would be best if we can just keep this guy happy and sign him to a new contract already. I know Percy and his agent will be looking for top 15/top 10 receiver money and Harvin is worth it. I figure them to reach a contract around 5 years/ $40 million.
WR- Simpson. When we signed Simpson this last free agency i was thinking sweet, maybe well finally have a deep threat wide receiver to take pressure off of Harvin. Well Simpson didn't pan out the greatest as he had that 4 game suspension and then dealt with injuries, but i saw some decent things from him. I would say re-sign him to another 1 year/ $2 million deal. With a full off season with the Vikings and no 4 game suspension i believe he could at least double his production in 2013 and be a good 2nd/3rd receiver.
WR- Domenix Hixon- He isn't the flashiest name out there but he fits Rick Speilman's mold. At 28 years old he could be a 3rd/4th receiver for us and be an upgrade over Devin Aromashodu and Michael Jenkins. He had 39 catches for 567 yard and 2 TDS. He would have been the 2nd best receiver on the 2012 roster behind Percy Harvin. At 6'2 he has the height to jump over the taller corner backs and could be another red zone threat but could also be one to stretch the field. I would sign him to a 2 year/$4 million deal. He also could take some kickoffs away from Harvin keeping Harvin healthier, as Hixon returned 57 kickoffs for 1,291 yards for the New York Giants back in 2009.
OT- loadholt- I have to agree that he isn't the best right tackle but he is definitely serviceable. He is better in run support as being 6"8 its harder to contain edge rushers with that kind of size. I wouldn't give him a huge contract but i would offer him an average 2-3 year deal and if he doesn't pan out then we can always look for an upgrade next year in the draft. A deal around 3 years/$9.50 million would be a decent price to retain Loadholt especially knowing i have read that he has no intentions on wanting to leave Minnesota.
FB: Felton- What an upgrade this guy has really been. Peterson might have not have been able to reach 2,000 yards with out him. When i look back on tape most of Peterson's long gains and long touchdowns came with Felton leading the way. It might take the higher end of Fullback money to sign him but i think we would get a great deal with signing him to somewhere around 3 year/ $8 million.
LB: Brinkley- This guy has been average at best. Not great in coverage but decent in run support. Misses some important tackles. I would resign him but to a prove yourself contract like we did with Henderson and make him earn his spot. I could definitely see us drafting a linebacker this year to push him to do better, and replace him. 2 year/$4 million for Brinkley, if he doesn't choose to try and sign elsewhere.
Free Agency Notes: I realize that we will have some more lower named free agents sign with us but its really hard predicting who might be in purple and gold next year so these are just some that i think we could go after and could produce being with the Vikings. Speilman doesn't like to make splashes in free agency as we could see from last year that's why i left my favorite choice of Offensive Guard Andy Levitre out. It's not impossible but not very likely that we would go after Levitre.
2013 NFL DRAFT (Obviously the hardest thing in the off season to predict but all i can do is say who i think would be great pickups and hope that some of the people listed below could be on the Vikings board come April. Only prediction rounds 1-5
RD 1. 23- Trade down with Buffalo for 2nd and 5th round pick. This might not be a very popular pick but i can see some decent 1st round talent slipping and Speilman is known for trying to accumulate more draft picks.
RD 2. 41 (Buffalo)- Sylvester Williams- DT Since Pat Williams left the Vikings our rush defense has struggled from being ranked to top 5, all the way down to 11th in 2012. Sylvester Williams is a 1-tech defensive tackle and at 6"3 325 lbs he could help fill the void that was left when Big Phat Pat left.
RD 2. 52- Da'Rick Rogers- WR There is going to be some different wide receivers to consider here but Rogers would be a huge upgrade in Minnesota. Standing at 6"3 Rogers would be a great outside receiver that we need, who has great speed to create separation and be that deep threat that we need and would take pressure off of Harvin and Simpson. Other receivers i might consider here is Deandre Hopkins, and Quinton Patton.
RD 3. 82-Alvin Bailey- OG Bailey is projected to go anywhere from last 2nd round to mid third round in the draft. If Minnesota were to obtain Bailey he would be a day 1 starter over struggling Charlie Johnson and give us one of the best if not the best left side offensive line in the NFL.
RD 4. 99- (Detroit) - Kevin Riddick- ILB Here is someone to bring in to challenge Brinkley for his starting spot (if we choose to retain him). He has good size for a linebacker (6"3, 246 lbs). He had 85 tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles for the NC Tar heels in 2012. I don't know how well he does in coverage but he couldn't be much worse then our linebackers already and he seems to be great in stopping the run
RD 4. 117- Zach Dysert - QB For all those who are not sold on Christian Ponder, there is an option for a quarterback to groom. With 2 4th round selections and 2 possible 5th round selections we couldn't go wrong with selecting a quarterback here. Dysert threw for 3,483 yards 25 TDS and 12 interceptions as a senior.
RD 5. 136 (Buffalo) Marquess Wilson- WR
RD 5. 148 Robert Alford- CB