Well, I have to tell you--this is a brutal time to be a blogger for a pro football team. There's really nothing going on until training camp, so unless there's some off the field distraction that sucks all the oxygen out of
Mississippi the room, there's nothing really to talk about. Usually, there's some starting jobs that are up for debate, there are injuries that need to be talked about, or there's a coaching change. Well, there are no starting jobs up for grabs, Cedric Griffin is the only seriously injured Viking of consequence, and Chilly just got an extension. Hey! We could talk about Brett Favre!! Huh? He's coming back? Are you sure about that? Really? Oh, okay. Crap.
Well, let's review the off-season, then. And give them arbitrary, random grades, just for the hell of it.
Free Agency: B. Let's remember a few things about free agency, at least where it concerned the Vikings this past off-season. The Vikings, being a conference semi-finalist, could only sign an unrestricted free agent when they lost one, plus some weird salary rules. No starters were scheduled to become unrestricted free agents, and the Vikings have no serious weaknesses in comparison to other teams. And quite frankly, the free agency class wasn't all that deep in positions of need that the Vikings did have. The two most important UFA's were RB Chester Taylor and reserve lineman Artis Hicks. They both left for an opportunity to start elsewhere. To replace Taylor, the Vikings initially made a serious run at LaDainian Tomlinson, the best running back in football...four years ago. It's been speculated that Tomlinson is on his last legs, and doesn't have much left, and the Vikes addessed the RB situation in a couple of ways, one of which was signing Ryan Moats, and also moving WR Darius Reynaud to the RB position. They also had DB and DL depth issues, but addressed those by re-signing a rejuvenated Jimmy Kennedy to back up the Williams Wall, and vet DB's Lito Sheppard (UFA) and Benny Sapp. They also added kickoff specialist Rhys Lloyd, to improve touchbacks on kickoffs. All restricted free agents, to include Ray Edwards and Tarvaris Jackson, are back in the fold.
No, there were no 'splash' signings, but no splash signings were needed, unlike in years past.
Draft: Incomplete. You can't evaluate a draft class for awhile, but needs were addressed with early picks. I didn't agree with the trade to Detroit out of the first round, but they ended up with DB Chris Cook, who seems like he will be a good fit for the cover-2, and I think it's fair to say he will be fighting for playing time at either the nickel or dime positions, and even towards a starting job, based on Cedric Griffin's status. Toby Gerhart has to be one of the favorites to win the third down back job, but as the draft goes farther and farther into the rearview mirror, I think DE Everson Griffen could very well be the star of this calss in four or five years...as long as he keeps the positive attitude that he has shown in OTA's. They also drafted Hicks' replacement in the 5th round by selecting OL Chris DeGeare.
Starcaps: Heh heh heh. Kind of a good news,
bad better news. Just yesterday, a state appeals court refused to allow an expedited hearing request by the NFL, meaning that there's little chance either Kevin or Pat WIlliams will miss any playing time. Every time it looks like the NFL might be getting the upper hand on this, they get slapped smack in the face by the court system, and however this pans out, the NFL looks like a bunch of amateurs. I think our erstwhile defensive linemen have a very good chance of winning this case and sending a ripple through all labor relations drug testing agreements.
Overall: B+. This is a stable, veteran team with Super Bowl talent and aspirations, assuming Favre comes back. And he is. When your biggest loss is a backup running back and offensive lineman, you're in good shape. Steve Hutchinson needs to rebound from his shoulder injury, as does Cedric Griffin from his knee, but that's it. They have exciting prospects coming in with the talent to push the vets for playing time, and the core of the defensive line will be available for all of 2010.
It's a good time to be a Vikings fan. Let's look forward to training camp and enjoy the ride!