So yesterday, we looked at the unrestricted free agents the Vikings have entering the 2010 season. Today, let’s look at the restricted free agents. For me, I try to answer two questions that come to mind when looking at restricted free agents. Is there a demand for that individual based on production at his position? Is it worth losing possible draft picks to acquire this person? Once you answer those questions, I think you have a pretty good understanding on whether or not a particular player might be moving on. So with that, let’s see what the Vikings are going to be dealing with. One thing to keep in mind, some of these guys are considered restricted free agents because of the looming uncapped year. If a new CBA is agreed upon, I know Tarvaris Jackson becomes an unrestricted free agent, as might Cook and Edwards. Well, that's based on the language of the current CBA, which could change. But the CBA is about to expire. And no one likes it. But they agreed to it...whatever.
Ryan Cook, Human Turnstile—I have to admit, I never liked the Ryan Cook pick. Cook, if you recall, was the 2nd round draft pick acquired from Miami in the Daunte Culpepper deal. I wasn’t against the trade, nor the compensation, just the guy they drafted with said compensation. In Cook’s defense, he became a starter in 2007, and was serviceable as a run blocker. However, he is too vulnerable to a speed rusher and I gave him the nickname ‘Todd Steussie’ because of his penchant for a false start penalty at the most inopportune of times. When pressed in to service against Arizona when Phil Loadholt was injured, the dropoff was noticeable. So to answer the two questions, I’m going to say no and no. I can’t imagine being a GM of Team X and throwing a contract out at Cook and losing a draft pick or two. I think Cook is better than any 4th-7th round flyer a team might take in the draft, but the NFL really over-values draft picks, especially in these economic times. I don’t see a market for Cook, but I do see potential for improvement. He did make a lot of strides from 2006-2008, and makes a serviceable backup. I think he’ll be back.
Ray Edwards, DE—Ray Edwards is either a really good player that fell in the draft because of perceived character issues or he is the Gary Larson/Doug Sutherland of the Modern Day Purple People Eaters. Larson and Sutherland were average lineman who benefitted tremendously by playing with three (yes, I know Jim Marshall isn’t, but he damn well should be) Hall of Fame linemen. Edwards benefits tremendously by playing with the Williams Wall and arguably the best defensive end in the game over on the right side, but he is still a very talented player. You can make an argument that Edwards plays the run as good as, if not better than, Jared Allen. According to Football Outsiders, opponents averaged 3.70 yards per carry running against the right defensive end position (Jared Allen), and 3.63 yards per carry against the left defensive end position (Ray Edwards), both good for 8th best in the NFL. His pass rushing skills have improved every season (8.5 sacks in 2009, career high), and he switched from the right side to the left side to accommodate the Allen trade, not always the easiest of transitions. I think he answers yes and yes to the questions. If I am a GM, I make a play for Edwards, because to me, he’s worth losing a third, maybe even a second round pick. He’s young (24), improving, and is a known quantity with a lot of good years left. If I’m the Vikings GM, I lock him up to a multi-year contract before he becomes available.
Fred Evans, DT—Fred Evans is a solid 3rd or 4th defensive tackle. He was a 7th rounder by the Dolphins, and he’s not going to wow you. His job, for the most part, is to spell Kevin or Pat Williams, and don’t give up a big play when he’s in. He’s not going to be an All-Pro, and any ‘big’ play is a bonus. For Evans, I’m going to answer yes and no on the questions. There’s a demand for depth on the defensive line, but I think the typical GM can look at Evans and think they can get equivalent in the draft, although his experience is a plus. For the Vikings, re-signing Evans, along with Jimmy Kennedy, makes a lot of sense, because Pat Williams might retire. The most plausible scenario I see with Evans is no one pursuing him, and then the Vikings tendering him a decent market value contract. If he gets an above market offer, let him walk and replace him in the draft.
Tarvaris Jackson, Enigma—Tarvaris Jackson, the Gordian Knot. We could do a whole article on Tarvaris, and his name evokes strong passions among both supporters and detractors. Brad Childress moved up in the second round of the 2006 draft to get him, anointed him the starter in 2008, benched him after two games for Gus Frerotte, re-inserted him at the end of the season after Frerotte got hurt and started him in the playoffs, traded for Sage Rosenfels to give him some competition in 2009, and then signed Brett Favre. First of all, a tip of the hat to TJ for handling a difficult situation with the utmost professionalism. Second of all, what to make of Mr. Jackson? Is he a starter in the NFL? Can he develop into one? Does he have value as a backup? I think yes, yes, and yes. He has the arm and the mobility, and shown flashes of brilliance…and flashes of not so brilliant. Consistency is his issue, and I think 2009 was beneficial to him in many ways. He’s stated he wants to come back, and I think the Vikings want him back. To answer the two questions, I think they are a yes and yes. Someone will want him as at least a backup, and he’s worth a 5th-7th rounder in compensation lost. There will be a couple of suitors for Jackson, but I think the Vikings retain him, primarily because the QB position is so unsettled right now, and I still believe the Vikings think he is the successor to Favre, either in 2010 or 2011.
Karl Paymah, CB—Under normal circumstances, I think the Vikes let Paymah walk. He essentially signed a one year ‘tryout’ contract, and was nothing special. But like Benny Sapp, Paymah’s value has increased due to injury, and the unique rules of an uncapped year make the Vikings pursuit of unrestricted free agents next to impossible. That said, I still think Paymah answers the questions yes and yes. CB’s are a prized commodity, and so is depth. Paymah provides a warm body and depth, and he will be sought after by a few teams. He warrants losing a 6th or 7th rounder for sure, and with the Vikings CB situation so unsettled right now, I see the Vikings locking up Paymah for one or two more years.
Naufahu Tahi, 12th Man in the Huddle…Auuughh!! He’s an okay blocker, never runs the ball, but if you need two yards on a swing pass, he’s your man. Do the Vikes need a fullback? Yes. Does the rest of the NFL? Debatable. I don’t want to call Tahi a dime a dozen guy, but he essentially is. Is there a market for him? Yeah, maybe. He doesn’t excite anyone, but he’s a complementary player on a team that is on the short list for a championship; a comfort level, if you will. The Vikes have one more real serious run in them if Favre comes back, and I think they’ll want as little roster turnover as possible, which is why I think Tahi comes back.
So that's where we are for the time being. Because of the unique rules an uncapped year puts on free agency and teams that reached the conference championship, I can see the Vikings looking to re-sign almost all of their free agents, both restricted and unrestricted. I can see them letting Chester Taylor walk to get exercise their one for one swap on UFA's, but I can easily see an argument just as strong to keep him. Remember, if there is a new labor agreement, the status of whether or not a guy is a restricted or unrestricted free agent can change, and if it does, we'll re-look at it then.
Bottom line, if there's no new labor agreement, it's going to be a weird free agency period this year, with a lot less movement than originally thought.