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Vikings Sliding Doors

I wanted to attempt to do a story about the difficulties involved in building a successful NFL team. I think the Vikings have tried their best to bring that elusive Super Bowl Trophy to Minnesota and their fans. Looking back at past drafts and free agency moves tell an interesting story about the way the people in charge attempted this task.

Hannah Foslien

I am going to focus on the 2008 off season and what the team decided to do at that point in time. What I want to try and accomplish with this story is to show a different scenario and then what the team could have done from that point forward. This is not an attempt at stating the Vikings would have won a Super Bowl if they tried this different approach. No one knows what would have happened. It is just a look at a different way to build that Championship caliber roster.

After the 2007 season the Vikings roster looked like this …

QB - Tarvaris Jackson, Kelly Holcomb, Brooks Bollinger
RB - Adrian Peterson, Chester Taylor , Mewelde Moore
FB - Tony Richardson, Naufahu Tahi
WR - Bobby Wade, Robert Ferguson, Troy Williamson, Sidney Rice, Aundrae Allison
TE - Jim Kleinsasser, Visanthe Shiancoe, Jeff Dugan, Garrett Mills
OT - Bryant McKinnie, Ryan Cook, Marcus Johnson
OG - Steve Hutchinson, Anthony Herrera, Artis Hicks
OC - Matt Birk
DT - Pat Williams, Kevin Williams, Conrad Bolston, Fred Evans, Spencer Johnson, Darrion Scott
DE - Kenechi Udeze, Ray Edwards, Brian Robison, Erasmus James, Otis Grigsby, Jayme Mitchell
LB - Chad Greenway, E.J. Henderson, Ben Leber, Vinny Ciurciu, Heath Farwell, David Herron, Dontarrious Thomas
CB - Antoine Winfield, Cedric Griffin, Marcus McCauley, Charles Gordon, Ronyell Whitaker
S - Darren Sharper, Dwight Smith, Tank Williams, Eric Frampton, Mike Doss
K - Ryan Longwell
P - Chris Kluwe
LS - Cullen Loeffler

The Vikings free agent signings were …

WR Bernard Berrian signed on March 1, 2008 to a 6 year 42 mil deal
FB Thomas Tapeh signed on March 1, 2008 to a 5 year 6 mil deal
RB Maurice Hicks signed on March 4, 2008 to a 3 year deal
DT Ellis Wyms signed on March 17, 2008 to a 1 year deal
DT Kenderick Allen signed on March 20, 2008 to a 1 year deal
LB Derrick Pope signed on March 15, 2008 to a 1 year deal
LB Dallas Sartz signed on March 17, 2008 to a 1 year deal
CB Benny Sapp signed on March 25, 2008 to a 1 year deal
S Michael Boulware signed on March 20, 2008 to a 1 year deal
S Madieu Williams signed on February 29, 2008 to a 6 year 33 mil deal
QB Gus Frerotte signed on April 1, 2008 to a 2 year deal 3.75 mil deal.

The Vikings trades were …
The Vikings traded Troy Williamson to the Jaguars on February 28, 2008 for their 6th round pick in the 2008 draft.
The Vikings traded their 1st round pick, two 3rd picks, and swapped 6th round picks to the Chiefs for Jared Allen.
The Vikings had traded their 7th round pick to the Jets for Brooks Bollinger.
The Vikings had received the Broncos 3rd round pick for the Vikings 4th round pick in the 2007 draft.
The Vikings traded Adam Goldberg to the Rams for their 7th round pick.
The Vikings had traded their 6th round pick in 2009 to the Eagles for Kelly Holcomb.
The Vikings traded Erasmus James to the Redskins on May 23, 2008 for a 2009 conditional 7th round pick.

Also, Kenechi Udeze was diagnosed with a form of leukemia on February 1st, 2008.
He eventually was placed on IR in July of 2008.

We all know what happened in the drafts thereafter so there is no reason to review.
But here is a link just in case …

So now that we know what they did do let’s talk about what they could have done had they had the mindset that Spielman appears to have now. That is to build the team through the draft and be very judicious in free agency.

So what could they have done?

I think that it is pretty obvious that the team should have been trying their best to get a QB. TJack was no sure thing and while he did not get the same opportunity as Ponder, he also was not a number 12 overall pick in the draft. So to me, it is pretty clear that the team should have been looking at the draft to find another QB. They had already traded away late round picks for two QBs that were marginal at best in Holcomb and Bollinger.

I think the Vikings should NOT have traded for Jared Allen solely because they needed to find a QB more than anything else.
I understand why they did it since Udeze’s illness and James injury concerns.
I just think that they if they could have gotten Justin Smith that would have been good too.
But he cancelled his visit here after visiting the 49ers first.

It looks like all the signs were pointing to going after Allen.
You got a DE who has an illness, another who unfortunately cannot stay healthy, and then some youngsters.
But sometimes being patient can pay off.
Jason Babin was released by the Seahawks on September 17, 2008.
He did not get picked up on waivers and ultimately signed with the Chiefs on November 12, 2008.
I think he would have been a nice addition to a rotating DE group.

I also do not think they should have signed Bernard Berrian to that contract.
I would not have signed Frerotte either especially before the draft.
Trading away Williamson was smart and I give them credit because something he had talent but he just did not get the job done at the end of the day.

I think the Madieu Williams signing was OK considering his past performance and the lack of safeties in the 2008 draft.

I am not going to fuss too much about the other signings as they were all minimal deals.

I think the Vikings should have taken Joe Flacco with the first pick in the 2008 draft.

Check Flacco’s 40 time and other test results compared to Matt Ryan.

"Some people think Flacco could be the best of all of them in five years," Mayock says.

No quarterback used the pre-draft process to advance his stock more than Flacco. He has the size (6-7, 236 pounds) and laser arm strength to make it and make it big. He lit up the ESPN All-Star Challenge with a long-distance throw of 74 yards.

Delaware coach K.C. Keeler describes a pregame drill in which Flacco starts throwing 10 yards away from his receiver and retreats 10 yards at a time after that. He does not stop until he heaves the ball 80 yards in the air.

"The guys who have come through have been wowed by the tape and his physical abilities. He's a phenomenal athlete," Keeler says. "The kid is a special talent with a special arm. … The arm strength is ridiculous."

Keeler feels just as sure that Flacco possesses the ever-popular intangibles. "He's one of those guys who wants the ball on fourth down. He wants to make a play," the coach says, adding, "Nothing rattles him. Nothing bothers him. To me, he has the perfect mentality to be an NFL quarterback."

Some evaluators, though, might be concerned that Flacco was forced to sit out a year in 2005 after failing to wrest the position away from Tyler Palko at Pittsburgh and decided to drop down to the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) to play for Delaware.

"I definitely wanted to go out there and prove I could play football," Flacco says of the unusual move. "I had to drop down a level, which was tough for me at first, but I tried to put the Pittsburgh thing behind me."

He made the most of his situation by hitting 331 of 521 passes (63.5%) last season for 4,263 yards with 23 touchdowns and five interceptions. At the same time, the leap to the NFL will be greater for him than most, and the win-now desperation that pervades the pro level makes it extremely difficult for embattled coaches and general managers to stay patient.

Keeler has a ready rejoinder for those who doubt Flacco because of his small-school roots. "We have a slogan around here that, 'Bigger is not better. Better is better,' " he says.

Flacco surely helped himself with his willingness to throw at the combine. Ryan elected not to do that, citing lack of familiarity with receivers.

"You're a quarterback. You're supposed to throw," Flacco says. "I don't have anything to hide. Why not let everyone see how well I do throw the football?"

It is really too bad that the Vikings were in love with TJack. I think that Ozzie Newsome knew what he was doing obviously. Even though the Vikings had spent two 3rd round picks to move up to select TJack in the 2006 draft, by 2008 it was clear that he had a longer road than previously imagined. I do not think there is anything wrong with continuing to use draft picks on the most important position on the field.

In this sliding door scenario that is exactly what happens.
Here is how the 2008 off season could have played out if they were going to build through the draft.

I would leave the one free agent signing of Madieu Williams.
The other smaller one year deals I would leave too.

I would not have traded for Allen or signed Berrian.

In the draft they could have done this …

15. Joe Flacco QB

Now some will argue that Baltimore could have moved up ahead of Minnesota to get Flacco.
The Ravens had already traded down from #8 to #26 with Jacksonville.
They then traded up from #26 to #18 with Houston to select Flacco.
They maybe could have traded up above Minnesota.

But QB was not a "need" for the Vikings according to a lot of folks.

49. DeSean Jackson WR

Obviously without signing Berrian DJack would have been a pretty good consolation prize and he was rated #21 overall by

73. Cliff Avril DE

Considering the Vikings needed help at DE and they traded for Allen, this position was a need. Getting a guy like Avril would have been a very cheap alternative but not nearly as productive obviously. Still, if the goal is to build through the draft the Vikings would not have been too bad off getting Avril to add to Edwards and Robison and the rest of the ends.

82. Tyvon Branch CB/S or Thomas DeCoud S or Charles Godfrey CB or DeJuan Morgan S

Now this could be considered cherry picking but since the Vikings wanted another safety to add to Sharper and Madieu, one of these guys would have been OK. Why they would not have just went with Sharper and Madieu is a mystery. I mean they did but then after the 2008 season they did not extend Sharper. He had another year or two in him at that point.

117. John Sullivan C

Sullivan was rated #115 so this pick would have been just about right although taking a center this high with Matt Birk still in the fold is questionable. But you need depth.

150. Ahtyba Rubin DT

Considering the team took Guion at #152 this would have been better as Rubin was rated #139.

152. Carl Nicks OG

Here we have another pick that will come off as cherry picking. But during that draft I recall some posters (it was another site) calling for Nicks at this point in the draft. They may have been Husker homers but it was not a bad idea. Even though Herrera was signed to a 5 year extension in November of 2007, taking a 5th round guard for depth is not a bad idea. Nicks was rated #122.

Now the remaining picks could be anything but these players were rated high and may have helped.
You can look at the 2008 draft and fill in with any players you want.

182. Pierre Garcon WR rated #172
187. Peyton Hillis RB rated #170
193. Erin Henderson LB rated #77
207. Wesley Woodyard LB rated #105

Knowing Spielman he could have traded away some picks for future picks especially considering they did not have a 6th round pick in 2009 thanks to the Holcomb trade.

The point is that after the first 3 picks you could have done whatever you wanted as long as you looked at the players available and the needs. I did look at what the team did and tried to stick to that philosophy when making the picks above (i.e. taking players at the same positions as the team did).

So what would have happened in 2008?

Well without Frerotte then Flacco probably would have been playing once they say TJack was not performing at the levels they needed.
Would Flacco have done as well as Frerrote who completed 178 out of 301 passes for 2,157 yards with 12 TDs and 15 INTs?
You would like to think he could have performed similar. He did do slightly better.

It is hard to say what their record would have been in 2008 if Flacco played the majority of the time.
With DJack at WR with Rice, they may have been decent.

I do not know if they would have finished 10-6 and first in the NFC North.
Without Allen’s 14.5 sacks the defense may not have been as good as they were.

Trying to predict the final record is tough but I think they could have done the same with Flacco/TJack as they did with Frerotte/TJack.

So heading in to 2009 what would they have done in free agency and the draft considering the philosophy of building through the draft?

I think you can scratch the Rosenfels trade off the list for sure. The team would have had Flacco and TJack with either Holcomb or Bollinger as the third stringer.

They did sign these free agents …

Karl Paymah CB and Glen Holt WR. I think you can cross these two off the list.
They resigned CB Cedric Griffen, DT Fred Evans, LB Heath Farwell, DE Otis Grigsby, DT Jimmy Kennedy, TE Jim Kleinsasser, and CB Benny Sapp.

None of these were earth huge moves besides the Griffen deal.
I think Kennedy may not have even been signed if they had drafted Rubin.

I think they should have kept Sharper going into the 2009 off season.
They may have resigned Babin too if they had picked him up.

Other than that I think keeping the team intact and just looking to the draft for upgrades would have been best.
I think I will use the same draft position too because I think they would have probably performed similarly.
But for argument’s sake let’s say by not having Allen the defense dropped down a notch.
So I will have them going 9-7 instead of 10-6, not making the playoffs, and drafting 20th overall.

What could they have done with picks 20, 51, 82, 117, 156, 221, & 227?
What would the needs have been looking at this probable roster after the 2008 season?

QB - Joe Flacco, Tarvaris Jackson, Kelly Holcomb
RB - Adrian Peterson, Chester Taylor , Mewelde Moore
FB - Naufahu Tahi , Peyton Hillis
WR - Sidney Rice, DeSean Jackson, Bobby Wade, Aundrae Allison, Pierre Garcon
TE - Jim Kleinsasser, Visanthe Shiancoe, Jeff Dugan, Garrett Mills
OT - Bryant McKinnie, Ryan Cook
OG - Steve Hutchinson, Anthony Herrera, Artis Hicks, Carl Nicks
OC - Matt Birk, John Sullivan
DT - Pat Williams, Kevin Williams, Fred Evans, Ahtyba Rubin, Jimmy Kennedy
DE - Ray Edwards, Brian Robison, Cliff Avril, Otis Grigsby, Jayme Mitchell
LB - Chad Greenway, E.J. Henderson, Ben Leber, Erin Henderson, Wesley Woodyard, Heath Farwell
CB - Antoine Winfield, Cedric Griffin, Marcus McCauley, Charles Gordon
S - Darren Sharper, Dwight Smith, Thomas DeCoud, Eric Frampton
K - Ryan Longwell
P - Chris Kluwe
LS - Cullen Loeffler

Looking over this group you could argue that a CB, ILB to back up EJ, DE, OT, and WR all could use upgrades.

Here is what they could have done in the 2009 draft

20. Vontae Davis CB rated #28
51. Phil Loadholt OT rated #35
82. Jared Cook TE rated #54
117. Louis Murphy WR rated #83
156. Chris Clemons S rated #91
221. Ricky Jean-Francois DT rated #127
227. Dannell Ellerbe LB rated #150

I can go on to the 2010 off season.
Obviously the team would not have signed Brett Favre.
They could have dipped into free agency if they wanted though.
Perhaps they would have paid the big bucks for Julius Peppers like Chicago?
The Vikings may still have needed a DE and getting one in free agency is better than giving up all those draft picks.
Perhaps they could have went after Dunta Robinson CB to help the secondary?

What could they have done in the 2010 draft?

If you assume the Vikings do well in 2009 with Flacco as the QB but not as well as they did with Favre then putting them in the 20 to 32 range is not a stretch.

What positions would they have targeted? Would they have went for Cook? Would they have used two picks on Gerhart?

I can go on but it is kind of messy at this point because you really do not know what the record would have been and then what positions they could/should have taken.

Also, I am sure there will be some comments about the 2010 draft I did above.
Feel free to substitute whatever players you like in this scenario.

The point is that by sticking with TJack and then not making the QB a priority it set back the franchise all those years.
Sure they did a very good job at winning which is why you play the game (as I always say) but then the cupboards were bare and the long term prospects of being a contender were not very good.

This brings me to the 2011 draft.
They made the decision to select Ponder with the #12 pick.

This decision needs to work out or it will have set us back again.
At least they are building a solid team around the QB position.

What will the sliding door story be like if Ponder does not step up his game and more importantly (to me at least) finish a season?

Will we wonder what if the team had Kaepernick rated higher?

I think that the 2008 off season has led us to this point.
I think this is a critical season for the team especially at the QB position.

I would hate to have to start all over again or go rummaging through the QB roulette line gambling on a free agent continuously.
I think the best organizations are defined by their ability to find a really good QB.

In the end, I think the point I am trying to make (and maybe not so well) is that the team appears to be moving in the right direction in regards to hanging onto their draft picks.

I think the trade for Allen was a mistake looking back. He had been great on the field and it has nothing to do with him. It is just that the team needed to get a QB badly.