Hi kids. Apologies for being scarce...again. I had an opportunity to try and win my own sports talk radio show here in St. Louis with the local ESPN station, so I entered.
And like a true Viking, I got to the championship round, but couldn't bring home the hardware. Ugh. Oh well, it was a fun experience, and I had a good time, even if I didn't win. But the good news is that you'll be seeing more of me around these parts. And yes, THAT IS GOOD NEWS DAMN YOU ALL.
So with free agency kicking off in about 10 days, I'd like to think the Vikings are going to address some needs. The good news is that they need a lot less help this year than in recent years, but they still need help. GM Rick Spielman isn't one to go out and make a big splash in free agency like the Vikings did with guys like Chester Taylor and Steve Hutchinson, but he doesn't need to. His modus operandi is to make secondary moves that shore up depth and provide bodies that can compete for starting jobs.
So using that style, and looking at the biggest positions of need, let's look at some under the radar guys that the Vikings might be looking at.
Phil Loadholt, T, Minnesota Vikings: 'Wait, Loadholt's already a Viking', you think to yourself. Well, he was, but he's an unrestricted free agent, and the Vikings have until Mar 4th to apply the franchise tag, which they probably won't do. And they shouldn't. The tag number for a tackle is close to $10 million, which is way too much for Loadholt, who's gotten better in each season, but is nowhere near the level of an elite tackle. Still, Loadholt is a solid player that makes the line better, and the Vikings would be wise to re-sign him.
Brian Hartline, WR, Miami Dolphins: 'Oh, there goes Ted pimping another Ohio State guy', you think to yourself. And you're so 100% right, natch, but consider--the Vikings need a good outside possession receiver, and a sure handed guy Christian Ponder can trust. Hartline is that guy, probably the best in the free agent pool with that particular set of skills, skills acquired over a very long career. But Hartline might have a price tag that will quite possibly be out of the Vikings range. And if that's the case, might I recommend...
Danny Amendola, WR, St. Louis Rams: Amendola's rap is that he can't stay healthy, and over the last two seasons he's only played in 12 games. That means a lot of teams aren't going to look at him, and the teams that do probably aren't going to be willing to pay top dollar on a guy that's got that kind of risk associated with him. When healthy, Amendola could be a huge get for the Vikings--he's a poor man's Wes Welker that had 85 catches on a terrible 2010 Rams squad, and even in an injury shortened 2011 he caught 63 passes in only 11 games.
Daryl Smith, OLB, Jacksonville Jaguars: If Smith were under the dreaded 30 he might be free agent target number one, but age and injury will probably conspire against him. That said, if healthy Smith might be worth a short term answer on the outside. He's been a solid outside linebacker for the Jags for almost a decade, averaging over 100 tackles a season in the three years leading up until 2012.
Philip Wheeler, LB, Oakland Raiders: Wheeler is a guy I really like on the outside, is under 30 (28), and really came on as a starter with the Raiders last season. He was in a similar situation with the Raiders that both Erin Henderson and Jasper Brinkley were with the Vikes--he got a 1 year 'tryout' contract. Wheeler made the most of it, making over 100 tackles and three sacks.
Dashon Goldson, S, San Francisco 49ers: The last time the Vikings signed a big time safety free agent, it was Madieu Williams. I can't remember how that turned out, as I suffered through too many drinking blackouts during the 2011 season. Harrison Smith is going to be a fixture for years in the secondary, but a free agent pickup might be the way to go fully shore up the secondary. Goldson has had 20 passes defended and 9 picks in the last two seasons, and his veteran experience could be valuable.
So those are a few guys I wouldn't mind seeing in purple next year, and guys I might think help the Vikings out in some positions of need.