It's Super Bowl eve, and looks to be another really good game tomorrow, as they all have been the past several years. Once Monday comes around, it will be difficult to be too excited about football for close to half a year, unless you have Rick Spielman for a general manager, and lucky for us; we do!
It was not too long ago Spielman and company were taking a lot of heat for the Christain Ponder pick, and to some extent are still a little. With a lot of draft picks, they are kind of like voting for a candidate-maybe looks good or bad, but usually takes a few years to see how much damage or good that they have really done. Unfortunately for Minnesota, the jury is still out in some regards to Ponder, but in the end may have turned out to be about the best decision for the Vikings at the time, and could have certainly done worse. See Blaine Gabbert; sorry kid, don't want to pile on, but you're a flop. Would hate to be the guy that leap frogged us to get him now. Dalton looks to have been a great second round pick for Cincinnati, but as time goes by, I think Ponder will be the better quarterback. I think we have seen his ceiling and have yet to see Ponder's; this year will reveal any more questions about who Christian Ponder is as a quarterback.
There were several moves made by Spielman that many thought were questionable to say the least. When Kyle Rudolph was drafted in the second round, critics cited that Visante Shancoe and Jim Kleinsasser were more than adequate and questioned the move with what they saw as so many other pressing needs. In hindsight, it looks pretty good now, but Rick Spielman was seeing then what so many couldn't and the pick acquiring Rudolph was absolutely vital to what the Vikings are now and who they'll be moving forward, as he looks leap frog himself to the front of the league with the other elite tight ends of the game next year.
The mid-round picks just over the past three years is very impressive and is where Spielman has been earning a lot of his respect. Look at Everson Griffen, he was acquired in the fourth round and looks just like a first round pick to me. Jamarca Sanford was a seventh rounder, and it has taken a couple years for him to come into his own, but playing in a tandem with Harrison Smith is impressive, as he is great in run stopping and where he is lacking in pass defense; he has improved drastically from 2011 to 2012. You throw in his excellent special teams play, and I don't know how you could ask for a better seventh round pick. His alternate, that was the original starter of the season, Mistral Raymond, has done better than expected as well. Though, I will admit I don't see him being a career player for Minnesota. He might very well be gone when his rookie contract is fulfilled, as he looks to have already reached his ceiling. Jasper Brinkley is another good mid-round pick; he was selected in the fifth. I know he doesn't have the most amount of fans out there, as a lot responsibility required from the middle linebacker in a 4-3 defense. He is an above average football player and as Minnesota looks to upgrade that position, if they can hold onto Brinkley, they will have one of the best back up linebackers in the league and a solid special teamer.
John Sullivan, Joe Webb, Blair Walsh and a player they are expecting to become a solid addition to the offensive line named DeMarcus Love were all drafted in the sixth round. Brandon Fusco was too, and did get a lot of heat in his first year getting significant playing time. Though, I would remind everyone that he still has a long way to go and did do well for the most part in run blocking. it was also Geoff Swartz first year back, coming off an injury and I honestly look for all three lineman to do much better next season. Though, I would still like to see an solid guard drafted this year. If there is not, I won't be be too worried though and I don't see them letting Loadholt go anywhere, even if they have to put the franchise tag on him.
There are still a few players drafted of late we are waiting to see if they will step up or if they will be shown the door. Players like Brandon Burton, DeAundre Reed and Audie Cole need to pour it on if they are wanting to get anywhere. It could be a golden opportunity for Cole, as the linebacker position needs help. I have heard good things here and there about the other two in practices and that's about it, I understand Reed's situation , with who he plays behind, but Burton needs to step up. Guion and Ballard are also decent picks by Spielman for the DT position, also acquired in the middle rounds of the draft, but there needs to be a much better than average defensive tackle plugged into this 4-3 defense if we are to see improvement.
Spielman has been up and down as far as free agency. The first thing that comes to mind is of course the regretted $25 million contract given to John Carlson. I don't think anyone wasn't scratching there heads when first hearing the amount of money he was going to be paid. What looked like a couple of good moves to shore up the secondary in the signing of Zack Bowman and Chris Carr, turned out to not accomplish anything, unless you want to count maybe pushing other DBs to perform better. Minnesota, getting Winfield and Cook back, while draftng Robinson and Smith made it look like an entirely new secondary though.
I wasn't thrilled when they picked up Charlie Johnson to replace Bryant McKinnie (I didn't agree with Frazier's firing of him, I would have suspended him first to give him another chance). Cutting lose both offensive guards last year along with some other long time familiar faces and switching Johnson to guard definitely shook things up. He did bring in Geoff Swartz on a one year contract, but it looks like it will be next year before and if he is to regain his previous form. Though, when I did where all of the guys that Spielman cut had went and how they performed, I recognized it was something that had to be done. The Vikings are a better team for it now for the most part, except still having to get better play from both offensive guard positions.
He did try to bring in Ted Gin Jr and ultimately signed Jerome Simpson. Many weren't happy with Simpson's overall production, or lack there of, but I would not doubt if were signed again for one more year and put up better numbers next year. The Child's pick blew up in his face, but did find what looks to be a pretty good receiver in Jarious Wright and who knows; many still have hope in Child's eventual return. He just has to make sure he gets a deal in place with Percy Harvin, I can't see many forgiving him if he were to let Harvin slip away from the Vikings. And if there is not early progress made, it can only become more and more distracting the longer it goes on.
Spielman has some major decisions to make this offseason, and this is a 'what have you done for me lately' league. Not only must he do well in the upcoming draft and put forth a better outing in free agency, he must lock down a couple of our own players to contracts if wants to retain the respected name he has made for himself. I am looking forward to seeing how Spielman acts and reacts to the many obstacles and opportunities the Vikings will face in the coming months, especially now with him having a year under his belt as an actual GM.