Well everybody, it is officially March 12, and the first day (though not the first full day) of Free Agency has concluded. The Vikings, though not exactly active today, have done a fine job of beginning to fill their holes. Here is my summary of how the Vikings have done so far.
Pre-Legal Tampering Period:
The Vikings were entering the Legal Tampering Period with a lot of holes. They were down to Christian Ponder at QB, they had cut Letroy Guion, leaving them with Brian Robison, Sharrif Floyd, Chase Baker, and Kheeston Randall (whose name sounds like a sneeze, am I right?) on the defensive life, had cut Greg Childs, and were (shudder) possibly looking at bringing in Michael Vick as their veteran quarterback.
During the offseason, reports had been put out about players the Vikings were likely to be interested in. The obvious targets, Michael Johnson and Alterraun Verner, were mentioned early on as having received interest from the Vikings. Interest was also shown in Nolan Carroll. The Vikings were also working hard to try and keep Matt Cassel from fleeing to Houston.
The first domino that fell was the little guy, Marcus Sherels, who, let's be honest, is the Nick Punto of the Minnesota Vikings. In signing Sherels, the Vikings returned one of their better CB's from the 2013 campaign and a Top-3 punt returner. I was a huge fan of this signing, and I know nearly everyone here was as well. Sherels is that homegrown guy that everyone likes to cheer for, having attended the U of M before entering the NFL Draft (and his brother was just promoted into the LB position there) and fought for every chance he has received from the Vikings. He signed a two-year deal on the day before the tampering period began.
The second one was a big one. Word came out about six hours after Sherels had resigned that Matt Cassel had also resigned with the Vikings before the start of the tampering period. Having been the QB involved in every single win the Vikings achieved last season, bringing Cassel back after he had voided his contract was a good decision by Rick Speilman, as it gives him a mentor for the rookie QB that everyone knows we will be drafting. It will be very interesting to see how Cassel works within Norv!'s offensive style, the Air Coryell. It will also be very interesting to see how soon the drafted QB will assume the starting role from Cassel, but that's what the rest of the offseason and the preseason is for!
At this point, the Vikings punt returner/nickel CB slot had been filled again, and their likely starting QB hole had also been filled.
Needs for tampering period/FA: LB, CB, DE, NT
Things then quieted down for about a day and a half as the legal "tampering period" began. There were several more reports that came out about who the Vikings might be targeting, including Paul Soliai, Jameel McClain, Jon Asamoah, and Arthur Jones. Then, on the second day of the tampering period, the Vikings announced that they had resigned impending free agent Everson Griffen. They signed Griffen to a five-year, $42.5 million dollar extension. This signing has received mixed critical response, with the majority believing the Vikings paid just enough, and the minority believing that the Vikings had overpayed for a player who had made only one start in his NFL career (though he did rack up a pick-6 in that start-Suck it Sam Bradford and Chris Cook!). As the signing became official, it became clear that the Vikings were no longer in on Michael Johnson and had chosen Griffen instead (I agree with the choice). This signing also announced (almost certainly) the end of Jared Allen's stay with the Vikings
About a half hour after the Griffen signing was put out, the Vikings made a somewhat confusing move in signing Jasper Brinkley, who they had cut after his dismal 2012 season. As far as I can tell, his one-year deal is along the line of the deals they made with Brandon Carr and others before cutting them. He is likely to compete for the Mike spot, but if I would have anything to say about the decision, it would be that Mike Mauti and/or OMGCOLE curb-stomp him off the roster before the preseason starts. Fingers crossed this happens!
The third signing announced by the Vikings was of Larry Dean two days ago. Dean has been a core member of the Vikings special teams unit over the last few years. As he is only 25 years old, I don't really have a problem with this signing, as it never hurts for a team to have a few leaders on special teams. Though people say his contract might be a little high, I doubt that it will affect the plans of the Vikings too much. If they need to cut him, they will.
Finally, a roundup of a few more rumors reported by our own Daily Norseman: Kevin Williams is being told by Speilman he wants him to return, and Jared Allen is likely headed to Denver (though now it is being reported that he is in talks with the Bears and the Seahawks). And just before the Free Agency period started, there was the unsurprising report that the Vikings had expressed interest in Saint's running back Darren Sproles.
Needs in FA: LB, CB, NT
The Free Agency period started off slowly for the Vikings. Around the league, players who had clearly finished negotiating contracts before the tampering period was over quickly signed their contracts. Thankfully, there was not a single report of an Elvis Dumervil-type snafu in the NFL fax system this year, and players quickly began to be snapped up. Paul Soliai and Jon Asamoah, two favorites here on the Daily Norseman to land with the Vikings, were both signed by the Falcons. Arthur Jones, another DT that the Vikings had shown interest in, was signed by the Colts. The Vikings were seemingly not moving quickly enough.
And then, around 4 pm Central time, yours truly noticed that a few tweets were beginning to trickle out that the Vikings had finally made their first signing of the Free Agent market. Then the flood broke, and the word exploded onto the scene: the Vikings had signed nose tackle Linval Joseph, formerly of the New York Giants. He is currently 25 years old, and received a solid five year, $31.5 million dollar contract. The signing of Linval Joseph should, in theory, give the Vikings the Nose Tackle they have long been missing since Phat Pat left and the Williams Wall collapsed. This was the only official move the Vikings made today, but it was the big one we needed to know that Speilman is committed to putting a much better team onto the field in 2014.
The smaller, but still important signing yesterday was the re-signing of backup C/G Joe Berger. Berger has been with the team for the last several years and has been a great swing backup along the line. Though he has only started nine games for the Vikings (two last year and seven in 2011), he is a solid presence to backup our top linemen. I was expecting him to sign back with us, and I am glad he did.
Needs after Free Agency Day 1: CB, LB
Free Agency Day 2 and on:
Well, the Vikings have definitely slimmed down their needs since March 7th. Their biggest need right now is probably CB with LB not far behind. My personal preference would be to draft a linebacker, because the Vikings already have a fair number of linebackers currently on the roster, and it would be nice to have a fresh face to compete. This linebacker should preferably play the Will linebacker, or the weak-side linebacker, as the Vikings would seemingly be set at the Mike, or middle linebacker, with Mike Mauti and Audie OMGCOLE already here, and Chad Greenway and his large contract filling and detracting from the defense at the Sam, or strong-side linebacker. I am not much of a draft guru, so I will use CCNorseman's Consensus Rankings to draft Khalil Mack, who, though thought to be a 3-4 OLB, would be a nice addition to the Vikings.
As for cornerback, don't fear, the Vikings still have plenty of options on the free agent market. Though Brent Grimes, Aqib Talib, Alterraun Verner, Vontae Davis, and Sam Shields are all off the market, there are still plenty of top-flight cornerbacks to target. Here are a few of them: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Walter Thurmond 3, Antonio Cromartie, Tarell Brown, Nolan Carroll, and Captain Munnerlyn. Personally, the two I want the Vikings to sign are Nolan Carroll and Captain Munnerlyn. I want Carroll because he would be a solid, cheap option on the outside to pair with Xavier Rhodes, and I want Captain Munnerlyn because A) He has one of the three best names in the NFL and B) He is one of the best slot corners in the NFL, a position that the Vikings could very much use to solidify their defense. Signing these two would likely burn up most of the rest of the money the Vikings have for Free Agency, so I won't guess at any more moves they might make. Besides, if they do sign these two CB's, I don't think they need to do much more in free agency.
Well, that's my take on the situation over the last few days for those who are looking for a catch-up. Skol Vikings, and talk to y'all later!