Grüß Gott aus Deutschland! How's things kids? I'm sitting here in my daughter's apartment in downtown Stuttgart, watching the sun rise as my grandchildren sleep, and I'm thinking about free agency. Yeah, I know. Weird, isn't it?
Anyway, with the Annual Dan Snyder Spendathon set to kick off in a little over 12 hours, the news of the Vikings signing both Matt Cassel and Everson Griffen WITH AN E AMIRITE ERIC means the Vikings may not have won free agency, but they sure got things started off on the right foot.
Let's not kid ourselves--Matt Cassel is not going to win any MVP awards, but last season he showed competency and consistency at the quarterback position, which is something the Vikings have lacked, for the most part, since 2009. When you looked at the post apocalyptic wasteland that was quarterback free agency in 2014, there weren't any names that stuck out, and Cassel was, in my opinion, the best option.
Cassel brings stability and veteran leadership to the quarterback position, and by getting him back in the fold the Vikings have given themselves some breathing room and realistic options heading into the draft. All indications are that the Vikings are going to address the quarterback situation then, but with Cassel returning as a soild insurance policy, Minnesota isn't going to be forced to make a play to probably move up for one of the big name guys on the board.
This gives GM Rick Spielman maximum leverage heading into the draft, and now Minnesota, a team with a lot of needs on both sides of the ball, is sitting in the proverbial catbird seat. Once the Texans are on the clock, Spielman can now do a few things:
1) Sit tight and take the best player available. Depending on what draft scenario plays out, LB Khalil Mack could very well be on the board. The linebacker from Buffalo would fill a huge void on defense, and I would be thrilled if he landed in Minnesota.
2) If their guy isn't there, trade down. Could a guy like WR Sammy Watkins be on the board when the Vikings pick? If so, the amount of trade offers flying in will probably boggle the mind, and at this point I'm kind of hoping this is the scenario that plays out. If done correctly, the Vikings could net a bevy of picks, and go a long way to bring in some much needed talent.
3) Still move up and get a quarterback. Of course, this option is still on the table as well, but now, it's not what I thought would be the mandatory move I thought it when Cassel exercised his option and was rumored to be heading to Houston.
As for Griffen, I thought this was the most important personnel issue facing the Vikings heading into the off-season. With Jared Allen not coming back, having a solid DE combo was a must, and Griffen is a guy that is just coming into his prime. He's going to be a key rebuilding piece to the defense, and I'm excited to see what Mike Zimmer will have him do in the new scheme. As much as I hate to see Jared Allen leave...it's time. Allen has become a one trick pony, albeit an extremely talented one. But at this point in his career, Allen is always focusing on the sack. His upfield rush is as predictable as it is inconsistent, leaving the right side of the defense exposed and eminently exploitable.
It was something the Vikings could afford to let Allen do early in his career here, as the defense had personnel that could quickly close that gap, and keep gains to a minimum. And with Allen putting fierce pressure on from the outside, it was a gamble worth taking. But in the last couple years, Allen's consistency has dropped off, the quality of the linebacking play has dropped, and what was a team strength turned into a constant Achilles Heel.
Be that as it may, I'm still sad to see Allen leave. He will always be one of my favorite players to ever don the purple and gold, and his Jared Allen's Homes For Wounded Warriors Foundation is doing great things for some great Americans, and one that strikes a personal chord for me.
As to the size of Griffen's contract (5 years, $42.5 million, $27 million in the first three years)--I really don't care. People can gripe about the money, but the Vikings have always been one of the better teams in the NFL that can manage the salary cap. There's still going to be plenty of money for other free agents, the draft picks, and anything else the Vikes might want to do personnel wise.
And at $8 million for 2014, that's still $9 million less than Jared Allen made in 2013. Just a little perspective, folks.
The Vikings still need a lot of help, particularly in the secondary. Hopefully, they'll add some more guys through free agency in the coming hours and days. But so far, these have been to very good moves.
Okay, enough for now. I'll see you guys in about a week or so. Grandkids are awake and it's time to practice our fumble drill. Totally serious.