Minnesota Vikings Free Agency Primer and Mock Draft

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Free agency is set to begin on March 11th but teams can start negotiating with free agents on March 8th. Are the Vikings going to be a destination of choice? Are they willing to spend some money or do the powers that be believe it is better to pay your own free agents like Brandon Fusco, Matt Kalil, Kyle Rudolph, & Harrison Smith in the next few years. I want this primer to reflect what a more modest approach would represent.

Ted did a piece already listing some free agent targets that may be of interest to the Vikings ...
http://www.dailynorseman.com/2014/2/27/5453250/minnesota-vikings-free-agency-who-should-they-target

After the release of John Carlson, the Vikings have about  37 mil to use for free agents and the draft picks.
http://overthecap.com/teamcap.php?Team=Vikings&Year=2014

There could be further cuts and.or restructures too.  Letroy Guion and Chad Greenway seem like two prime candidates.  The team simply must ask them to restructure at the least otherwise it is bad management.  You should not overpay players period.

In my last plan I listed some of the top free agents that are going to be available that I would spend BIG to sign.  I don't think the Vikings are planning to do go that route though.  Spielman loves to shop for bargains which has not been very successful but there have been a couple of decent pickups like Geoff Schwartz (but they did not give him a fair shot and then he left), Jerome Simpson (I guess he is OK but certainly not someone that scared defenses), Jerome Felton (which he then promptly overpaid IMO), and that is about it right?  Did I forget someone?  His other bargains have been Chris Carr, Zachary Bowman, Desmond Bishop, & Marvin Mitchell.  Obviously, Greg Jennings, Matt Cassel, and John Carlson were higher priced free agents.

To me, Spielman's track record in free agency is not very good.  Maybe free agency is really not worth the risk and is one of the reasons why Spielman does not like to go buck wild?  I suppose you cannot blame him for that because if it were me, we would pay all these players big bucks and if they do not work out then your hands are tied and I would be flipping burgers.  At the same time you would think they had a better chance for success provided they had the right coaching and expectations.

Here is an article about free agency from Bill Polian ... http://insider.espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/10551175/bill-polian-outlines-top-tips-how-approach-free-agency-nfl

My personal belief is that the Vikings need to target defenders in free agency for obvious reasons.  I think the best, quickest, and smartest way to improve the defense is via free agency too.  I would still want to add plenty of rookies but adding rookies to an already young group of guys is not going to be a quick fix.  It could take a year or two before the youngsters start to play well.  The Vikings definitely need some experienced players on defense.

I would target DE, DT, LB, CB, and possibly safety.  Pretty much every position group.

So which players would be bargains?

At DE I think I like these players ...

Corey Wooten DE 6-6 270
Willie Young DE 6-5 251
Mike Neal DE/DT 6-3 294
Robert Ayers DE 6-2 272


At DT I think I like these players ...

Paul Soliai DT 6'4 340
Ropati Pitoitua DT 6'8 298
Cam Thomas DT 6'4" 330
Vance Walker DT 6'2" 304


At LB I think I like these players ...

Dekoda Watson LB 6'2" 240
Keith Rivers LB 6'2"242


At CB  I think I like these players ...

Brandon Ghee CB 6'0" 193
Nolan Carroll CB 6'1" 205


At safety I like these players ...

Taylor Mays S 6'3" 235
Rafael Bush S 5'11" 200


Now this is a small list for sure and there are plenty of other players that will be available.  Here are some sites with the free agents listed.
http://sports.yahoo.com/news/2014-nfl-free-agents-015900284--nfl.html
http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap2000000316567/article/2014-nfl-unrestricted-free-agents-by-position
http://www.footballsfuture.com/freeagents.html
http://walterfootball.com/freeagents.php
https://www.profootballfocus.com/blog/2014/01/07/2014-pff-free-agency-tracker/

I think that the Vikings are going to have to sign at least one top free agent at some position.  They need to get to 90% of the cap in cash spent. No one else is available for a pay raise besides maybe Brandon Fusco.  I would wait to see how he does this season before offering him something in late November.  So with even 37 mil in cap space, the Vikings are going to need to spend 24 mil to get to the cap floor.  They could sign 8 to10 players at 2 to 3 mil each to get there.  Maybe that is there plan?  Get a bunch of mid level free agents and see what bargains may become available.

I think the team must go hard after a DE.  I think that DE will be Michael Johnson.  I also believe the team should go hard after Alterraun Verner.  Both players will be reunited with their coaches which may be a strong selling point.  I am hoping that it will be.  It does go along with what Polian said.  These two players will be well known by the Zimmer and Gray.  They both are young and both play on 3rd down. 

The Vikings are in prime position to make a big splash in free agency.  They have cap space that they need to use and they have a new coach so every player will have to learn the new system.  This is the perfect time to bring in some big time free agents.

I think this plan is less ambitious.  Here is what I would want ...

Michael Johnson DE
Alterraun Verner CB
Ropati Pitoitua DT
Keith Rivers LB
Brandon Ghee CB
Taylor Mays S
Cam Thomas DT


I also would trade a 2015 conditional 6th round pick to the Dolphins for Johnathan Martin. I think he can play left guard.  Worse case is he can be a backup tackle.

The Vikings have the #4, 35, 40, 72, 96, 104, 136, 168, and 200 picks right now.

I am going to use Matt Miller's latest mock as a guide ... http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1970832-2014-nfl-mock-draft-post-combine-update

Trade.  The Vikings trade the #8 pick to the Giants for the #12, #109, and a 2015 4th round pick.  I think the Giants will want to get Khalil Mack.

12. Derek Carr  QB  Fresno State  rSr  6-2  214
40. Ryan Shazier  OLB  Ohio State  Jr  6-1  237
72. Ego Ferguson  DT  LSU  rJr  6-3  315
96. Keith McGill  CB  Utah  rSr  6-3  211
104. *Donte Moncrief  WR  Ole Miss  Jr  6-2  221
109. Will Clarke  DE  West Virginia  rSr  6-6  271
136. Christian Jones  ILB  Florida State  Sr  6-3  240
168. Jerick McKinnon  RB  Georgia Southern  Sr  5-9  209
200. Taylor Hart  DE  Oregon  rSr  6-6  281
Trade.   The Vikings trade a 2015 6th round pick to the 49ers for pick #218.
218. Spencer Long  OG  Nebraska  rSr  6-5  320

UDFA
Lorenzo Taliaferro  RB  Coastal Carolina  Sr  6-1  231
Glenn Carson  ILB  Penn State  rSr  6-3  244
Jake Murphy  TE  Utah  Jr  6-4  252
Ben Gardner   DE  Stanford  rSr  6-4  277
Quincy Enunwa  WR  Nebraska  Sr  6-2  227
Keith Wenning  QB  Ball State  Sr  6-3  219
Eric Ward  WR  Texas Tech  rSr  5-11  205
Marcus Heit  LS  Kansas State  Sr  6-3  252
Nickoe Whitley *  FS  Mississippi State  rSr  6-0  205
Dezmen Southward  SS  Wisconsin  rSr  6-0  206
George Atkinson III  RB  Notre Dame  Jr  6-1  218
Beau Allen  DT  Wisconsin  Sr  6-3  333


How ironic is it that I am apparently reaching for a QB at pick #12 AGAIN!!!  :)

I think the focus has to be on the defensive line and they should continue to add offensive linemen too.

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