So the first few days of free agency has been fun to watch for us Vikings fans, and I feel it is time for me to look at the roster, analyze it, and also give some of my ideas about where the Vikings might be going when the Draft finally rolls around in May. Yes, this may be an Arif-length article, but I hope you enjoy it. I'll start with the offense. (TL;DR at end)
At the moment, our offensive unit is looking fairly solid. At the moment, the Vikings have resigned Joe Berger, Jerome Simpson, and Matt Cassel from free agency. The Vikings have tons of weapons, with Greg Jennings, Cordarrelle Patterson, Simpson, Jarius Wright, Kyle Rudolph, Rhett Ellison, and Adrian Peterson. At the moment, the Vikings have two potential holes on offense: left guard and quarterback (rookie QB, obviously, will talk more about this in the draft section). And even left guard might not be the depressing, unfilled hole everyone seems to think it is.
Let's get a few things straight about the guard situation:
1. We are NOT going to EVER move Phil Loadholt to a guard spot. I fully believe that people who support this idea are morons. Have you (because I know everyone on this site are former quarterbacks, am I right?) ever tried to throw over a f**#$#g 6'8" GUARD? I didn't f*&^#*g think so.
2. Phil Loadholt, as much as people have been down on him in the past, was a Top 10 tackle last season. You don't move a top 10 player away from his natural position. The equivalent would be transferring Adrian Peterson from running back to fullback. That would just be dumb.
3. The Vikings already have a few options to play guard on the roster. Both Jeff Baca and Joe Berger are capable (or theoretically capable) of starting at guard. If the Vikings don't sign someone in FA to fill this spot (which feels unlikely), they can always draft someone else as well. Moving on.
I don't really have much to say about the offense, because it's a unit that does not (in my mind) have many holes in it.
Now, on to the defense. This, as everyone knows, is where the Vikings have been splurging this offseason. They have signed/resigned Everson Griffen, Jasper Brinkley, Fred Evans, Larry Dean (though he technically counts more as a special teams player than a defensive one), Oh Captain My Captain Munnerlyn, Linval Joseph, Derek Cox, and Marcus Sherels. They have also showed continued interest in Henry Melton and in possibly bringing back Kevin Williams for one last hurrah.
At the moment, our starting defensive line is: Everson Griffen, Linval Joseph, Sharrif Floyd, and Brian Robison. This is seemingly the most settled part of our defense at the moment, except for maybe safety. The current backups would be Chase Baker, Fred Evans, Spencer Nealy, Kheeston Randall, and Justin Trattau. So our top-line front four is seemingly spectacular, while our second-line front four is not so much. Having capable backups is important, which is why i don't necessarily mind the fact that the Vikings are interested in Henry Melton and Kevin Williams (K-Will appears to be a Plan B to Melton right now, so I would not be surprised if the Vikings resigned Williams if Melton goes elsewhere). Either signing Melton or resigning Williams would bolster a line that, in my opinion, has the potential to be a Top-10 D-Line this upcoming season. I don't have much else to say about the D-Line, so I am going to push forward.
So. The linebacking corps. Well, the current personnel include: Chad Greenway, Jasper Brinkley, #OMGCOLE, Michael Mauti, Gerald Hodges, Larry Dean (really only a special teams guy), Simoni Lawrence, and Marvin Mitchell. Despite having eight linebackers on the roster, the only position at linebacker is currently filled is the (in the Frazier defense) Sam linebacker position with Chad Greenway. At the moment, the Vikings have three potential middle linebackers on their roster: Brinkley, Cole, and Mauti, whom are all considered Mike backers in a 4-3 scheme. I believe Marvin Mitchell, Lawrence and Hodges are the players with experience at the Will in a 4-3. All in all, the Vikings have numerical depth, but not necessarily talent depth, at the linebacker position.
Okay, a few things about our linebackers:
1. Greenway is not getting restructured. It mostly has to deal with the fact that restructuring is not too practical with only two years left on his deal and with him playing as bad as he has been. Here is Filbert33's explanation of why this is so:
"Basically people hear restructure and they think pay cut. A typical restructure is what teams like Detroit/Dallas do to manipulate the numbers to get under the cap. All it does is pushes the cap hit back. (see Tony Romo’s contract).
With a guy like Greenway, who is in decline, you don’t want to push the cap hit back, you want to keep it as is, so you can "pay as you go" (see Everson Griffen's contract) and cut bait without a big cap hit. Right now if we cut Greenway we will lose 3.4 million. If we cut him after 2014 season we will lose 1.7 million. Good teams keep their cash and cap spending very close."
2. The Vikings do have options, so linebacker is not necessarily the biggest need, but replacements for both Greenway and a better starting Will linebacker than Marvin Mitchell would be nice to have.
3. Signing Brinkley is not a bad move for the Vikings. He is on the roster on a prove-it deal. He is an above-average run stopper and a below average cover backer. In other words, he would work very well in a platoon if he makes the roster.
4. While working on this article, I had an interesting comment-sation with Arif in the podcast comment section. He stated that both Audie Cole and Michael Mauti have the translatable skills to the Sam backer position, though he believes Cole is the better fit there (only as a backup, in his opinion). It would be interesting to see Cole in the Sam backer spot, as it would allow both him and Mauti to be on the field at the same time (Mauti at the Mike, obviously). Keep an eye on Audie and Mauti and see what happens there.
OK, moving on to cornerback. The Vikings currently have these players on the roster at cornerback: Xavier Rhodes, Derek Cox, Josh Robinson, Marcus Sherels, Das Capitan Munnerlyn, Kip Edwards, Shaun Prater, and Robert Steeples.
The players I see as definite locks to make the roster are: Xavier Rhodes, Marcus Sherels, Everyone's new favorite Captain, and Josh Robinson. Cox is in on a prove-it deal like Brinkley's, Prater is a backup CB (always nice to have those I guess, so I would imagine he has a fair shot), and both Edwards and Steeples are signed to futures contracts. A good summary of a futures contract, if you want to know more, can be found here (yes, it's a Bleacher Report article, but it is one of the good ones, trust me). OK, and now a few things about our corners:
1. For all of the people who think Sherels has a chance of getting cut now that Munnerlyn is here can shut up. I don't care who you are, you don't cut a player who was second in the NFL in return yards the previous season, especially not if said player just signed a two year, two+ million dollar deal with your team. It would show EXTREMELY bad faith, and who doesn't love to root for the Sherels' of the world (yes, Munnerlyn is a 7th round pick, but I am trying to make this point about Sherels, not Munnerlyn). Plus, he is a homegrown talent who played for the Gophers. I love him, and I want us to keep him.
2. Again, the Vikings have numerical depth. Doesn't mean they have talent-depth. Right now, I think the second biggest need behind QB on the Vikings is outside corner because while Munnerlyn and Robinson are feisty and everything, four of the tallest and most experienced WR's make their homes in the NFC North (Johnson, Marshall, Nelson, and Jeffery (all above 6'3")), and Robinson, the tallest of the two, is only 5'10". So the Vikings should be looking for a Xavier Rhodes-type corner early in the draft to help Rhodes shut the big boys down. The only current option on the Vikings roster is Derek Cox, who, despite having more interceptions than Chris Cook, was absolutely abysmal in San Diego this past season.
As for safety, the Vikings currently have Robert Blanton, Harrison Smith, Mistral Raymond, Jamarca Sanford, and Andrew Sendejo on the roster. The biggest thing I have to say about safety is that, despite what people have been saying, safety is not as big of a need spot as people seem to think it is. Harrison Smith is an All-Pro caliber free safety, and Jamarca Sanford, Sendejo, and Raymond are a solid, if unspectacular set of strong safeties. I can't remember which commenter stated this but I love it: "When Jamarca Sanford is the weakest link in our defense, I would be happy to replace him with someone better" (or something along those lines). As is, I would rank safety as one of the deepest spots on our defense, and should need very little tinkering for the upcoming season.
All I have to say about the trio of Cullen Loeffler, Blair Walsh and Jeff Locke is that I believe Loeffler is overpaid, aging, declining in skill, and should be cut and replaced (and to satisfy Mark, not in the draft).
Now, on to the upcoming draft. With the signings the Vikings have made so far, I can imagine only a few things happening during the first round:
1. Speilman trades up to take one of the top QB's. This is the only scenario that involves trading up that I would be okay with. If Speilman is aggressive in getting the QB he wants before someone else does, I am A-OK with that.
2. Speilman stays pat and takes the talent that comes to him. As this is a deep draft, standing pat is not necessarily a bad thing, as at least one of the top players is bound to fall to us. For this selection, Best Player Available is the method I would employ. Honestly, I would say about the only reason I would stay pat would be the top player remaining on your board falls to you and you grab him. Otherwise, proceed to the third and final option:
3. Trading down. As many people (including myself) have stated, this is a deep draft. I have heard that some talent evaluators have at least 40 players with a Round One grade. For those of you playing at home, that is a lot. The biggest problem with this Draft is that picks are likely going to cost less than they usually would for people to trade in and out of. That means the Vikings will have to be careful with whom they trade so that they get the right return for the right giveaway. I would be fully on board with the Vikings trading down, and I personally find this the most likely option. Mostly because I like Derek Carr, and selecting him as more of a mid-first round guy fits more than him as a Top-10 pick. I would also not mind us trading down to select an outside CB, providing that we move back into the first round and select a QB like Garappolo or Carr if either is still available.
As for the rest of the draft, here are the positions (in order of which I think the Vikings need to take earlier on in the draft) I want the Vikings to target:
LG (These four should probably be the positions taken with our first four picks. After this, Best Player Available and trade as necessary).
TL;DR-Just Read the post, you lazy slob! It's worth your time (in my opinion)! :)
Well, this was a damn long blog, and if you read all the way through it, congrats. Nice to have you here. Let me know if I made any fixable mistakes, and I will gladly go through and fix them. And if you want to debate anything I say in here, go right ahead. I am on here all the time, and love talking and learning about football. And if you want to respond to my semi-often insults with curse words and swearing, I will gladly take that feedback as well ;)