The Minnesota Vikings signed linebacker Desmond Bishop to a one-year contract yesterday, and the move is widely being regarded as a good one from most corners of the internet. The folks over at Walter Football appear to be really big fans of the move, giving the move an A, which is fairly rare for a move that happens this late in free agency.
This is a terrific signing by the Vikings. In one fell swoop they:
1. Landed the best available free agent for just $1.5 million.
2. Filled their biggest need at inside linebacker.
3. Stole a key player from their arch rival.
Desmond Bishop missed all of 2012 with a torn hamstring, but he's still one of the top inside linebackers in the NFL. It's unclear if he can transition into the 4-3 - which is the sole reason this grade is not an A+ - but he has the talent to be very effective in Minnesota's scheme.
That last sentence is something that will probably merit a bit of debate leading up to the start of Training Camp in a month. Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com wondered aloud about that yesterday. Bishop has been an inside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme for the most recent part of his NFL career, which would lead one to believe that the easiest transition for him in Minnesota would be to the middle linebacker position in the Vikings' 4-3 set. However, according to Seifert, at least one of the teams that was pursuing Bishop (the Jacksonville Jaguars) viewed him as an outside linebacker in their 4-3 scheme.
Add into that the fact that, at the start of the Vikings' mandatory mini-camp last week, Erin Henderson declared himself to be the starting middle linebacker after starting on the weak side for the Vikings the past two seasons. Indeed, that's where Henderson has been working this off-season so far, but that came at a time when the Vikings didn't appear to have a significantly better fit at the position. Now they do.
As of today, it remains to be seen where Bishop and Henderson will line up on the field in 2013. Personally, I think the optimal route to take would be to plug Bishop into the middle and ask Henderson to slide back to the outside. As Seifert says in his article, leaving Henderson in the middle and asking Bishop to transition to the weak side could, conceivably, leave the Vikings with two of their three best linebackers playing out of position. It would also remain to be seen which of the pair would remain on the field with Chad Greenway in nickel situations.
The Vikings' linebacker situation, which appeared to have the potential to be a bit of a horror show, now appears to have turned into one of the main spots to focus on in Training Camp this year.