The Beloved Purple made many, many splashes over the course of the 2008 off-season. Some of those acquisitions made some pretty big splashes in the regular season for the Vikings as well. It's time to take a look back at the names the Vikings picked up prior to this season and see if their contributions were worth the time, effort, and money that Minnesota spent on them.
This list undoubtedly has to be kicked off with Jared Allen. A lot of folks thought that the Vikings were crazy to give the Chiefs the bounty that they did (the Vikings' first round pick and their two third round picks in the 2008 draft) and to give Allen the contract that they did (making him the league's highest-paid defensive player), particularly when Allen's well-documented off the field problems were taken into consideration. However, a couple of days later at the NFL draft, the Jacksonville Jaguars gave up even more (their first round pick, two third round picks, and a fourth round pick) to trade up to the #8 spot in the draft and take Florida defensive end Derrick Harvey. . .and then gave him $17 million in guaranteed money on top of it.
Harvey had 3.5 sacks in 11 games after an extended holdout. Jared Allen had 14.5 in 16 games. Which team was crazy again?
How good is Jared Allen? In 2007, without a whole lot on the defensive line to help him out, Allen had 15.5 sacks for the Kansas City Chiefs despite missing two games. In 2008, the Chiefs had 10 sacks as a team. Yes, that's ten. That's 1.5 more as a team than Kevin Williams had all by himself. Allen stepped into the Minnesota defense and, despite injury concerns and his self-admitted "problems" getting used to playing with new teammates, he gave the Vikings the best play at defensive end they've seen since Chris Doleman left town. He put constant pressure on quarterbacks, he opened things up for other Vikings' defenders in the pass rush, and he helped to elevate the Vikings' pass defense to a pretty decent level. Oh. . .and he gave us this. It's the gift that keeps on giving.
But you know what the best part is? The fact that Allen turns 27 this April. He averages 11.5 sacks a season. He's tougher than a two-dollar steak. And he's going to be a Viking for a very long time.
It won't be long before we're seeing the Steve Hutchinson effect with Jared Allen throughout the NFL. . .much like Hutchinson, the time is going to come very soon when guys that play the same position as Allen at a lesser level than Allen will start getting paid more than Allen. And when that happens, his contract is going to look like a bargain.
Not just content to make big noise in the trade market, the Vikings went and hit the free agent market as well, signing wide receiver Bernard Berrian, formerly of the Chicago Bears. Berrian was brought in to stretch the field and provide the Vikings' offense with a legitimate deep threat, and it's tough to say that he didn't do what he was advertised to do. He averaged over 20 yards a catch, the most for any NFL receiver with more than 30 catches, and provided us with one of the most exciting plays in Vikings' history.
Yeah, not the highest quality video of it, but it was the best that YouTube had to offer.
While he may have gotten off to a slow start and had a couple of games where he disappeared entirely, it's still tough to say that Berrian wasn't worth the money. He might not be a #1 receiver, but he's been very effective in the Minnesota offense to this point.
The Vikings also needed a quarterback and a mentor for Tarvaris Jackson for this season, so they talked Gus Frerotte out of retirement to be the backup. Frerotte took over the starting role in Week 3 and led the Vikings to an 8-3 mark in the games that he started. . .and I use the word "led" quite loosely, because the Vikings won as many games despite the presence of Frerotte as they did because of it. While Gus probably won't be back in 2009 because of the comments he made after the playoff loss to the Eagles, he played his role well in 2008, despite all of the ups and downs.
I was puzzled by the signing of Maurice Hicks when it happened. I was puzzled by it when the season started. I was more puzzled when I saw him actually return kicks. For a guy that was brought in almost exclusively to be a kick returner, the guy had an amazing propensity for taking the kickoff, going straight ahead, and running into a wall of defenders. No real moves, no great returns. . .and, to be honest, no reason to think that he'll be a Minnesota Viking next season. Darius Reynaud looked much better as a return guy than Hicks did, and could probably serve a dual role as punt returner as well.
Benny Sapp played adequately in most of the situations he was in last year. He started the season as Minnesota's #4 CB, and was elevated to the nickel role when Charles Gordon got his ankle turned to mush against Green Bay. He's probably best remembered by Vikings fans for getting a stupid penalty that negated a third down stop against Chicago just before the goal line stand/99-yard TD sequence. But he's at least earned the chance to come back in 2009 and compete for a roster spot.
Linebacker Derrick Pope got cut by the Vikings before the season even began. And that's the end of that chapter.
I'll say one thing about the Thomas Tapeh fiasco. It helped me to realize the value of Naufahu Tahi, particularly his value as a lead blocker. In fact, Tahi is so valuable as a lead blocker that I firmly believe that all plays that put him in a position to potentially catch the football should be removed from the playbook immediately.
(Seriously. . .dude averaged 2.3 yards a catch this year. He's over 6' tall, so if he catches the ball and falls down, you'd have to figure that's good for 2 yards, isn't it?)
Overall, there are more good things to be said about Minnesota's 2008 off-season acquisitions than there are bad things, in my opinion. Hopefully the Vikings can have the same level of success this off-season as well.