First we need some cap-space. We have slightly more than the league average with ~$14M to work with. We need more. We have 14 FAs to either sign or replace. And we have some up-and-coming players that will be looking for some walking-around-money in their pockets in the very near future.
So let's look at our FAs:
Step 1: Our Free Agents:
Unrestricted Free Agents:
FB Jerome Felton - 3 years, $7.25M
(Some have suggested that this is too much for a FB that "only blocks". But those blocks are a huge part of what we do. And like Bruce Lee said, "I don't fear the man who has practiced 1000 kicks once, I fear the man who has practiced 1 kick 1000 times". In my books, being a specialist isn't always a bad thing.)
OT Phil Loadholt - 4 years, $18.25M
S Jamarca Sanford - Gone
WR Devin Aromashodu - Gone
WR Jerome Simpson - 1 year, $1.25
OL Joe Berger - 2 years, $1.8M
OG Geoff Schwartz - 3 years, $9.3M. I think Schwartz was one of the most under-rated players last year because of his limited playing time. If he's healthy I like his play and his versatility to take snaps at almost any spot on the line.
LB Jasper Brinkley - Gone
LB Erin Henderson - Caveat: I'm not a big EH fan but I can't let both he and Brinkley go - can I? 2 years, $4M ($2M guaranteed: he can shape up or I'm shipping him out)
LB Marvin Mitchell - Gone
Restricted Free Agents:
OL Troy Kropog - Resigned for minimum
CB AJ Jefferson - Resigned for minimum
Exclusive Rights Free Agents:
CB Marcus Sherels -Gone
S Andrew Sendejo - Resigned for minimum
Ok, so that's done. So holes to fill but all-in-all not that bad. So let's fill some of those holes (that's what she said):looking first to Free Agency. I looked both at the list of who is a FA as of today and have speculated a little about who might be a Cap casualty.
So first I need a veteran back-up QB. You'll see a little later that I'm letting some folks go. Not to ruin the surprise but one of them has a name that rhymes with Sclho Mebb.
I want a veteran back-up that won't cost me a ton of money, has starting experience, something to prove but isn't quite looking to push out the starter (yet). The safe play is to look for Tyler Thigpen or even bring Sage back in if he was willing to ever grace Winter Park again. But I have a crazier idea that will cost even less than that.
JaMarcuss Russell;That's right. You heard me correctly. Mr. Purpledrank Draft-Bust himseff. And I want to sign him. I am willing to give the benefit of the doubt and think that his road in and out of the NFL has taught him valuable lessons. I'm willing to spend league veteran minimum on a guy with #1-overall talent: A HUGE cannon of an arm and a chip on his shoulder for something to prove.
Before claiming that I am completely nuts and don't know squat about football I will say that I think some players are worth a second chance. Watching and reading interviews with JaMarcuss now he seems to have his head in the right space and wants to succeed. The talent-spoiled man-child has been humbled and he knows what it has cost him. He actually reminds me a LOT of Chris Carter when he talks now and that reclamation project worked out pretty well for the Vikings. Humbled + gifted athlete + minimum $ = worth a chance. And if he doesn't look like he's working out by the end of camp, ship him out and grab another veteran place-holder for the year.
The other area I want some help is WR. I will now read an alphabetical listing of 2013 Minnesota Vikings WRs that will for sure be playing with us in 2013: Wright, Jarius. That is all. Harvin. I hope so. Jenkins - only under a new deal. Simpson didn't really live up to the hype but if he stays healthy and has more time to practice do we see more flips than flops? Childs - 2 knees blown is a hard road to travel. Aromashadu, Burton and others;ummm, no - just plain no. So we need some bodies in there. I'll buy us a nice one in Free Agency without breaking the bank. I'll be drafting some help as well but I think we need to replace some aging depth spots and can't go ALL-youth if we want to remain competitive. So I'm signing Hartline as a free agent at the $6M/year he's looking for - 4 years @ $24M . Why not a Wallace or a Jennings if I'm signing a FA WR? Well, they will cost a lot. Hartline will cost less. But I think he will be an improvement over what we had last year in Jenkins or Aromashadu. Also I think he blocks as well as Burton. So he can help balance the offense but also doesn't need to come out on running plays. I like that. And then we can draft the next Bowe in 2014 and pay him a lot less and in 2-3 years when he's learned the game we're even deeper in offensive talent and Hartline assumes a #3 WR role which he is greatly suited to. In the meantime we continue to rely on the running game and WRs that can ctahc enough to move the chains and block enough to give AD some room around the corner.
If Melton is NOT franchised by the Bears then send him a gjalarhorn horn filled with cash. I am willing to spend here. I'll cut K-Will to make the room. It solves a weak spot for out team, fits the Spielman plan of young guys and weakens a divisional rival. Unless Melton gets into Mario Williams contract territory then I do not want to be outbid. It would take a franchise-crippling contract to make me ok with missing out on this if Melton becomes available.
If Melton is franchised or signed by someone else then I'm more than ok with Glen Dorsey, formerly of Kansas City. A #5 over-all he has never lived up to his potential and is coming off injury concerns. BUT he was drafted to play 4-3 and then the Chiefs switched to a 3-4 for the bulk of his tenure in BBQ country. This looks prime for one of Spielman's "show-me" deals. I'd then draft a NT as well to push Dorsey and give depth. I think this means the release of Guion or Evans. I don't think the value of what you'd get in return would equal the time it would take to try and find a trading partner. I'll pick up the phone once or twice and see if i can grab a 6th or 7th next year from a DT depth starved team. otherwise I'll just be happy to cut the contract and move on. And for my money that means Evans is staying and Guion is going.
As I'm trading away a DE I need some depth along the D-Line as well. To provide a little rotational relief I'll pick up a cheap, serviceable player who can fill in for a handfull of snaps per game. Someone like Antwan Applewhite or Lawrence Sidbury. This is just for depth...I don't think we'll need to stock the shelves with Purple Applewhite/Sidbury jerseys.
I'm going to try and add Sean Smith from Miami to the CB group. I think Smith is the type of seasoned presence that will help the younger DBs continue to grow. Blanton can take a bigger role and Smith fits well and for likely less than the $7M that Winfield will cost. It is likely that with all of their cap-room Miami will retain Smith but maybe he wants to trade in warm beaches for a chance at the post-season.
The other move I'm making in the secondary is that I'm elevating Bobby Felder from his practice squad spot last year and he is taking Sherels spot as last in line on the DB list. He's had a year to season and learn the pro game and now I want to give him some real game action to bring him along even more. If he turns out to be the steal we thought he was as an UDFA then he earns more and more playing time. I think the only thing that kept this kid off of our active squad last year was a lack of reps against top-talent. After a year of learning the game at pro speeds it is time to put him to the test and I think he graduates with flying colours. The fact that he has experience returning kicks doesn't hurt either..so really he is just Sherels 2.0: let's hope this version came with a patch for the "can't-cover-anything" glitch that Rodgers picked on so mercilessly last year.
Another name I'd look to was LaRon Landry. The Jets are strapped for cash and have some decisions to make regarding Safety. If Landry hits the open market and is asking for $3-$4M per season, as I've seen reported, then I'd give that a serious consideration.
And then maybe another quick peek North of the border. The Vikings have already signed CB Rod Williams. Now lets take a look at Ejiro Kuale, OLB, from the Toronto Argonauts (240, 29 years, PS stays with Kansas and NO). Solid player to fill at least Special Teams needs bringing most of what Soloman Ellimian was touted for but with bigger size.
Getting Under the Cap - Restructures
New contracts - Allen gets a new deal to lessen that cap hit. Pelissero over at ESPN wrote and interesting piece about how Brady's new deal in New England could serve as a way to restrucrure Jared's deal. I don't think it is as simple as saying "Hey Jared...all the cool players are doing it...common buddy, restructure." But it shows that it is possible and the Vikes are said to have one of the best cap guys out there. So ya, i think there is enough left in Allen's tank to make it worthwhile to keep him and lessen the cap hit. Win-win.
K-Will takes a pay cut. He's said he's willing to restructure so lets do it. I don't have delusions that Dorsey or a rookie next to K-Will will turn back the hands of time and resurrect the Williams Wall. But I do think a stronger talent next to K-Will will make him a little more productive. As he is still about league average (IMO, if you have facts to say otherwise then great and I can adjust). With better talent next to him I think we get a slightly better than average DT for another year or two and it buys us time to develop depth. So yet another veteran talent we can retain while saving money. Win-win.
Simpson gets another 1-year deal. Not guaranteed. Jenkins gets cut but can come back on a 1-year non-guaranteed deal. And Childs has his rookie deal to play under. They all show up to camp and likely only 1 has a job in September. MAYBE I keep Simpson/Jenkins and put Childs on the Practice Squad if he seems healthy but just needs time to get up to NFL speed. But if he limps once I’m shipping him out faster than a gold-digger sends her step-kids to boarding school. And there is always the Dark Horse of Chris Summers who spent last year on the practice squad. Nice height but undersized as of last year and lacking in top-end speed. But reports are that he has great hands and could be a solid red-zone threat. If he’s bulked up a little so he can take the pounding of the NFL game then he might be a Jenkins-style player. This might be a name that surprises going through camp.
Antoine Winfield...what do we do here? $7M+ for an aging corner is a lot of money. But when he is on the field he is the best tackling corner in the league. He plays like he is 5 years younger, a foot taller and tackles like his immortal soul depends on it.But the NFL is a young man's game and Antoine is set to have either a major let-down or a major injury soon and we saw what happens when we try to replace him on the fly - Sherels gets shredded. And the talk now is that 'Toine will be taking less snaps...so i think that comes with less cash. If he wants to stick he has to take a pay cut. If he wants his full payday then I think the check has to be cut by someone else's accountant.that gives us the draft and Free Agency to find a replacement (like Sean Smith) and then all of OTAs and Camp to get them acquianted with our system. Again, in the Tampa 2 I don't need Revis, I just need quality. I'd rather roll with Cook, Jefferson, Blanton and Sean Smith than pay Antoine that much.
Getting Under the Cap - Cuts
Fusco - $555K in savings as we let him go. Schwartz is better. Or he can stick around to be depth. That isn't a lot of cap-room for an OK back-up.
Johnson is too expensive to keep around as depth however. I think he performed better at Guard than he did at Tackle BUT his price tag sends him packing. I can don't think it will be hard to draft a replacement that has more upside and fewer $$$.
Guion - I didn't see enough to make me think he is starter material. And if I'm bringing in Dorsey and drafting someone...well, sorry kid but I need your Official Winter Park cafeteria tray as I have new mouths to feed.
Getting Under the Cap - Trades
I'm working under the assumption that whatever differences we have with Percy they are not irreconcilable. I'd rather have him on my team than trade him. So there will be no "what we got for Percy" in this plan.
Toby Gerhardt – We can debate as much as we need whether or not Toby could start for 4, or 8, or 20 teams in the NFL. The point is that he has starter talent/potential and like has been pointed out he will likely be unwilling to ride the pine in Minny once his contract is over and will leave us for a team that will give him more snaps. And when that time comes I wish him all the best. But rather than have him walk away let’s ship him out and get something in return. Miami is likely losing Bush and while they have other RBs on the roster, RB by committee is a likely scenario and Toby won’t cost much. If he works out you extend him and carry on…if he doesn’t then you lost a 5th round pick for 1 year of productive back.
Joe Webb To anyone that will take him for a 7th Rd pick…this isn’t hate for Webb, I just think it is realistic. I think he is done in Minny and Spielman will bring in a vet QB and I think he deserves better than to be pushed to #3 on the depth chart. So find a team that runs the read-option and is in need of a back-up QB. A fresh start in a system that can take advantage of his talents I think is a win-win. Right now I’d be looking at Tampa.
Brian Robison - to the NYG and swap 1st round picks + we get a 4th rd pick next year; the G-Men get a proven pass-rusher to replace the departing Uminoyora. He can line up with JPP and they can cause havoc in their division chasing down Romo and RGIII and whoever Philly tricks into playing QB there after Vick crumbles. I THINK the NYG run a 3-4 D so it will mean an adjustment for B-Rob BUT I think he is athletic enough to pull the switch.
I LOVE this year's draft class. With fewer A+ players in the skill positions but a ton of B+ talent in the middle picks I think there is a lot of value to be had here. Nobody is saying that the next Megatron is in this class but there are a lot of super lunch-pail blue-collar get 'er done kinda guys. And I think that is a great way to build a sustainable contender. So I'm looking to maximize our time in the middle rounds.
We trade our 1st round pick (#19 from the NYG) to Arizona for their 2nd and 3rd rd picks this year and a 3rd and 6th in 2014. This gives Arizona an additional 1st rounder so they can pick up the safe pick with their #7 selection, something like Eric Fisher or Chance Womack, and then select a QB with their luxury pick or vice-versa depending on how their board looks and who is falling.
Trade the 5th we got for Gerhardt, the 7th we got for Webb and our latest 3rd round pick next year (we got the extra from the Arizona trade) to Houston for their 3rd this year #87 and a 5th next year.
Round 1 - #19 Acquired from NYG in Robison trade. Traded to Arizona Cardinals for their 2nd and 3rd Rd picks 2013 and 3rd and 6th in 2013
Round 2 - #38 from Arz, Arthur Brown, OLB, Kansas State
Round 2 - #52 Brandon Williams, DT, Missouri Southern State
Round 3 - #69 from Arz, Blidi Wreh-Wilson, CB, Conneticut
Round 3 - #83 A.J. Klein, ILB, Iowa State
Round 3 - #87 from Houston, Justin Pugh, G, Syracuse
Round 4 - #99 Reid Fragel, OT, Ohio State
Round 4 - #118 Robert Lester, SS, Alabama
Round 5 - #149 Aaron Dobson, WR, Marshall
Round 5- #139 acquired from Miami for Gerhardt and traded to Houston
Round 6 - #180 Theo Riddick, RB, Notre Dame
Round 7 - #210 acquired from Tampa in Joe Webb trade and traded to Houston
Round 7 - #211 Chris Harper, WR, Kansas State
UDFA - Marquees Wilson, WR, Washington State, 6'3", 185
At one point scouts were saying all Wilson had to do was apply himself a little more and he could possibly be a Top-32 pick. So how did he respond? he quit his team and wrote a letter accusing coaches of abuse.Good size and skill set but Wilson is going to have to dazzle in interviews to have coaches overlook that transgression. Wilson is a B- player in a draft filled with B- WRs. The funny thing is I believe had his mistake been getting busted with pot or a DUI there would be someone who would take a chance on him. But a quitter...that might seem unforgiveable to a lot of Front Offices and certainly you can find equal talent with a proven dedication in the drafted rounds. Bring him in as an UDFA but make sure he knows how short the leash is.
UDFA - Tyrone Goard, WR, Eastern Kentucky, - 6'7" 205
Big man. BIG man. I mean BIIIIIIIIG man. But questions about his concentration and tiny hands will cause him to go undrafted. But be sure this guy is a very interesting development project. If he can master his concentratiuon isues he could make a mighty fine living as a Red Zone terror.
UDFA - John Lotulelei, OLB, UNLV, 5'11" 233lbs , concerns about his size will cause Lil Lotulelei (no relation to the Bigger Utah product) to go undrafted: but his physical skills and his motor should be a reason to bring him to camp for a look-see and would likely earn him a Special Teams roster spot and he could eventually earn his way into the regular OLB rotation. Watching this guy I see Heath Farwell 2.0. I’d even go so far as to say he could be worth as high as a 6th round pick at the #180 spot.
So going into 2013 we'd look like this:
The Offense is. . .
QB: Ponder, Russel, MBT
RB: Peterson, Riddick, Asiata
WR: Harvin, Wright, Dobson
WR: Hartline, Simpson/Jenkins, Harper/Childs/Summers/UDFA
FB: Felton, Ellison
TE: Rudolph, Carlson, Reisner
RG: Schwartz, Kropog
C: Sullivan, Berger
LG: Pugh, Fragel
LT: Kalil, Love
And the Defense would look like this. . .
DE: Allen, Reed
DE: Griffen, Applewhite/Sidbury
DT: K.Williams, Ballard
DT: Dorsey, B.Williams, Evans
OLB: Henderson, Brown, Lotulelei
ILB: Klein, Dean
OLB: Greenway, Cole, Kuale
CB: S.Smith (and/or Winfield depending on contracts), Robinson, Williams, Felder
CB: Cook, Wrey Wilson, Jefferson, Taylor
FS: R.Smith, Raymond, Sendejo
SS: Landry, Blanton, Lester
And Special Teams...
Obviously that is too many players but let Camp sort out who stays and who goes. So there it is: from Purple-Drank QBs to a blue-collar receiving core and finishing with a "have you ever even watched college football" draft. Now is the part where you rip this to shreds. Have fun!