In lieu of a proper 'offseason plan', I'm dividing my thoughts into three separate parts -- not necessarily focusing on what I believe will happen, but instead looking at players who we should target.
Part 1 will deal with...
- Free Agency -
I'd like to focus on FA in 3s -- using a fun little system I played with last year, I'll funnel these scenarios through 'stoplights':
Red Light = Vikings who will leave via FA
Yellow Light = Vikings who might have a chance to stay on the roster
Green Light = Vikings who we should absolutely re-sign
As a bonus, I'll throw in three non-Vikings FAs who I think we should target.
On that note, here we go!!
Clearly, there are several obvious examples of Vikings who are unlikely to return (Cook, Freeman, Gerhart, Mitchell) that I won't get into. But there are a few notable FAs that I think will hit the market with the team not attempting to retain their services:
- DE Jared Allen - many factors here that have been covered ad nauseam -- age and price tag are the primary reasons, but also because there are younger and (potentially) cheaper options behind him. JA still might have something in the tank, and he's been a fantastic staple on defense for many years. But a changing of the guard is in order -- it will be sad to see him go, but such is the business.
- OG Charlie Johnson - on the other hand, there are players who I couldn't care less about leaving. Johnson has been the weak link on our OLine for at least a season. Fusco has surprised many in his development, and will likely remain the starter on the right side -- but we'll need a new OG on the left side after Charlie Johnson allowed a whopping 6.5 sacks in 2013.
- WR Jerome Simpson - did he come through in certain clutch 3rd down situations?? Absolutely. Was he still a problem off the field?? Yuuuuup. With the emergence of Patterson, and Wright becoming as reliable as a 3rd receiver can be, Simpson is expendable. Besides, we could possibly offer Simpson a 1-yr deal, at best -- which would be his third consecutive 'prove it' contract. It's time to move on.
Here are a few players who could really go either way -- they won't break the bank to retain, but it won't be the end of the world if we let them walk:
- LB Desmond Bishop - unfortunately for Bishop, he got injured as soon as he was given a decent chance to see the field. We will almost certainly be drafting a Linebacker (entirely likely in an early round) and it all depends on how Zimmer and Company view the likes of Cole and Mauti. Bishop might be a candidate to re-sign on a 1-yr deal, if only for solid depth.
- NT Fred Evans - our depth on the interior DLine is dreadful, and it is likely to get even worse, as I anticipate the ever-underwhelming Guion to be cut with his $4mil salary on the horizon. Evans will provide depth at an incredibly reasonable price -- and all things considered, he wasn't that bad in limited duty.
- WR Joe Webb - an unsung hero with good blocking ability, I could see us keeping Webb on the cheap. He's a special teams contributor, and all-around utility player that will be a good influence in the locker room. At the same time, though, if he gets a better opportunity elsewhere, it'd be hard to hold it against him.
The following Vikings should be priorities in FA:
- DE Everson Griffen - I realize he had an underwhelming season compared to what most of us expected, but Griffen still graded out as PFF's #19 4-3 DE -- considering he isn't a starter, that's not too shabby. We offered him an extension in October that apparently wasn't even in the ballpark. If we can't keep him, there will be other suitors on the market -- but Griffen is a starting-caliber DE entering his prime. Minnesota is as good a landing spot as any.
- NT Kevin Williams - see what I did there?? KWill has been very outspoken in playing anything except the 3-tech, but Floyd can't wait in the wings much longer. Not to mention, KWill performed incredibly well when sliding in at Nose Tackle throughout the season -- it was out of necessity due to injuries, but perhaps he's softened his stance a bit after seeing success. He wants to remain a Viking, and it would be awesome to see him end his career in Purple a couple seasons down the road. Zimmer might be able to convince him to the permanent switch (and it would save us from using an early rd draft pick on a space eater).
- CB/PR Marcus Sherels - the good news with Sherels, he's a Restricted FA -- we'll see how that shakes out as we approach March, but he's developed into a solid player and one of the best Punt Returners in the league. He's an ideal Dimeback, and can cover as the Nickelback in a pinch.
Finally, three final players who we should target via FA. Some fan favorites are notably absent, because I think the best CBs on the market are going to be slapped with the franchise tag from their respective teams:
- RB Donald Brown (IND) - Brown used to be nothing more than mediocre, but he's steadily improved each season through his rookie contract. He shouldn't command a giant contract, and will be a good compliment to AP.
- CB Sam Shields (GB) - what, another Packer...?! As I mentioned above, I think the best CBs on the market are going to be tagged, but Shields is a decent starting corner that we can place opposite Rhodes. And, of course, he'll have a leg-up with a history of covering NFC North WRs.
- CB Michael Carter (UFA) - if Carter goes the entire season without making an NFL roster, I'll move on... until then, I want to see this former Gopher get another chance to prove himself. If you recall, Carter was invited to rookie camp last season, but a foot sprain shot down any chance he had of making the team.
That's all for now, folks -- Part 2 coming soon.
Until then, what free agents would you like to target?? Any 'red lights' you want to avoid at all costs??