So...what's new with the NFL these days? Oh, EVERYTHING? Good to know.
Maybe it's just me, or maybe it's just the fast and furious nature of the Twitter-enhanced news cycle, but it sure seems like this is one of the craziest free agency periods we've ever had in the NFL. People are flying around from team to team at breakneck speed; it's easy to get lost.
Therefore, we're here to give you a quick, Vikings-centric summary of what has happened thus far in free agency along with what to look for in the coming days.
Note: This article will probably become outdated in the next few hours with someone leaving and someone else signing, but it should still serve as a "where we stand right now" primer.
WHO WE GOT
The Vikings haven't been historically active in free agency under GM Rick Spielman, but 2014 appears to be the exception. Thanks to a very large amount of cap space, Minnesota has made a few big moves with more possible signings on the horizon.
Everson Griffen, Defensive End: The first big re-signing of the offseason went to the Vikings' talented edge rusher. Griffen knew he had a big payday coming with all the teams interested in him, and that's just what happened. He's going to have to step up his game to earn his big contract, but he has all the skills (and now the opportunity) to do it.
Matt Cassel, Quarterback: The Vikings have their quarterback of the (immediate) future! Did Cassel light the world on fire in 2013? Nope. Did Cassel (and more importantly the offense as a whole) play a lot better when he was out there than Christian Ponder? You're damn right. Bringing Cassel back means the Vikings don't have to reach or trade up for a quarterback early in the draft with so many QB-hungry teams picking ahead of them. That's probably a good thing. It also means that Ponder most likely won't be the Week 1 starter in 2014. That's definitely a good thing.
Linval Joseph, Defensive Tackle: Pat Williams is back! OK not literally, but if Joseph plays to his potential in Minnesota it should look very familiar to Vikings fans. Joseph isn't going to put up gaudy sack numbers but he will plug the middle against the run and open up his fellow talented defensive linemen to make plays. Ted had a good post yesterday about what we can expect from Joseph. Personally, I think it's a lot, as it should be for a guy that the Vikings just gave $14 million guaranteed.
Joe Berger, Guard: Offensive linemen don't often get many headlines. Backup offensive linemen that quietly sign one-year deals definitely don't get many headlines. But this was a good move for the Vikings. Berger provides depth all along the interior line. He provides quality depth and can give you a spot start at either guard position or center in a pinch. Not everything that makes a difference makes a splash, and this is the perfect example of how a team can quietly shore up their depth.
Larry Dean, Linebacker: He isn't going to solve any of the woes the Vikings had at LB last year, but he will shore up the special teams.
Marcus Sherels, Cornerback/Punt Returner: Another special teams ace that the Vikings brought back from restricted free agency. It's great to see the hometown kid scratching and clawing his way to earning another deal with the Vikings.
Jasper Brinkley, Linebacker: Who says you can't come home? After playing his first four years in Minnesota and heading to play in Arizona for the 2013 season, the Prodigal Linebacker has returned to the Vikings. I think Brinkley is a better fit in Zimmer's defense than he was in the Cover 2; Brinkley's style is more suited for read-and-react than covering a lot of ground against the pass. I think he'll fare better than Erin Henderson did at MLB--of course, it's hard to fare much worse. But I'm still hoping that Brinkley provides depth to the position rather than becoming an integral part of the starting defense.
WHO WE DIDN'T GET
Aqib Talib and Darrelle Revis, Cornerbacks: Talib signed with the Broncos and Revis signed with the Patriots. Both would have been amazing additions to the Vikings, but let's be honest--they were always only a pipe dream for Minnesota fans.
Jairus Byrd, Safety and Alterraun Verner, Cornerback: These two were definitely more on the radar for Vikings fans than Talib and Revis, but Byrd ended up in New Orleans while Verner signed with the Buccaneers. Both would have been welcome additions to the Vikings secondary, especially for the relatively low price that Tampa Bay paid for Verner.
Michael Johnson, Defensive End: With Johnson's Cincinnati connection it was thought that Zimmer and the Vikings could be a front-runner for his services, but it turned out that the Vikings were never really in the running for Johnson. The Bucs made another big addition to their defense by signing him.
Darren Sproles, Running Back: On Tuesday we told you that Sproles was a possible target for the Vikings. The thought of AP and Sproles would make for one very scary backfield. Instead, the cap-strapped Saints traded Sproles to the Eagles for a fifth-round pick, making the backfield of LeSean McCoy and Sproles in Philadelphia very scary instead.
WHO WE LOST
Toby Gerhart, Running Back: Toby's finally going to get his shot, and we couldn't be happier for him. He toiled away for four seasons in the shadow of Adrian Peterson and will get his chance to shine in Jacksonville. He was one of the nicest Vikings players I've had the opportunity of interviewing and always handled his situation in Minnesota with class. The Jaguars got a heck of a player and person in Gerhart.
Jared Allen, Defensive End: He hasn't signed with another team yet, but he's gone. Kyle had an excellent ode to Allen on Sunday so there's no need for me to rehash it here. We all loved Allen and enjoyed the hell out of his time as a Viking, but we pretty much knew he was leaving for the better part of last season. I even wrote about the impending departures of Allen, Gerhart, and Kevin Williams all the way back in November. Allen has yet to sign with a new team and has threatened to retire if he doesn't get the kind of contract he wants. As a football fan, it would sadden me to see Allen hang them up when he has so much good football left in him. As a Vikings fan, I would love to see Allen doing funny stuff on TV instead of terrorizing opposing quarterbacks in a non-Vikings jersey.
WHO TO LOOK FOR
Kevin Williams, Defensive Tackle: Despite the Vikings seemingly bringing in every defensive tackle out there, K-Will is still technically a Viking--for now. According to an interview with Pioneer Press, Williams is still undecided on his future. It would be pretty surprising to see Williams back in purple next season with the sudden explosion of depth the Vikings have at his position, but there still might be a chance. Defensive line is one of the positions on the field "you can never have too many of" and Zimmer has been known to rotate a lot of D-linemen. But with a suddenly formidable starting line of Brian Robison, Sharrif Floyd, Joseph, and Everson Griffen, it's looking rather doubtful that Williams will return. (Especially when you look at who else is visiting the Vikings on Thursday.)
Captain Munnerlyn, Cornerback: The Carolina CB is scheduled to visit the team...well like, right now. Most Panthers fans I talked to before the Carolina vs. Minnesota game in 2013 have a love/hate relationship with Munnerlyn. He can make big plays but he can also give them up. But since he's a slot specialist and I poke out my eyes with sharp pencils if I see Josh Robinson in the slot again next year, he could be an excellent addition to the team.
Henry Melton, Defensive Tackle: When I heard about Melton visiting the Vikings today, this was my reaction:
It's a surprising move to say the least after the Joseph signing. But like I mentioned earlier, you can never have too many quality defensive linemen. If the Vikings can sign him for something affordable (read: a whole lot less than Joesph), the Vikings would easily have one of the deepest defensive lines in the league.
Antonio Cromartie and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Cornerbacks: Everyone seems to be confusing the Cromartie "brothers" so I figured I'd bunch them together here. Both are around the same age (29 and 28 respectively) and around the same talent level (not elite, but solid starters). Neither have been linked to the Vikings in any rumors I've seen but both could be a welcome addition to Minnesota's woeful secondary.
Chris Cook, Cornerback: I know all of you would be totally heartbroken if Cook left, especially if the team was able to sign someone like Munnerlyn. (/Sarcasm) Cook is still a serviceable DB but he still has as many career interceptions as I do and he still makes you nervous with his off-field troubles. He probably won't demand a ransom on the open market, so if the Vikings can bring him back for a reasonable price I wouldn't be against it.
Josh Freeman, Quarterback: As long as we're watching him leave. I didn't want him on the team when we signed him and I don't want him on the team now. The end.
Charlie Johnson, Guard: If this was 2001, I would totally make a hilarious "You ARE the Weakest Link...GOODBYE!" joke here. Alas, I'll just have to explain that Johnson is probably leaving and the Vikings could certainly use an upgrade at left guard anyway. Johnson isn't horrible but the Berger signing made his impending departure all the more palatable for Minnesota.
Jerome Simpson, Wide Receiver: I think I found an excellent way to describe Simpson: he's the NFL version of the "Heat Check Guy" in the NBA. In basketball, the "Heat Check Guy" is someone that's incredibly streaky but can pull off some amazing stuff when he's on. He's the guy that pulls up from 25 feet with 15 seconds left on the shot clock for no apparent reason. When the shot goes up, everyone is the crowd is screaming "NOOOO!"...until the shot goes in. Of course the next time down the court he'll do the same thing and toss up an airball. Simpson's play is the football equivalent of that. For every amazing athletic feat, leaping catch, and crucial first down grab, there's a sloppily run route, missed assignment, or boneheaded drop. If Simpson re-signs with the Vikings, I think I'll be cautiously optimistic. If he doesn't re-sign, I think I'll be...cautiously optimistic.
That's it for now. As I mentioned earlier, this list might change drastically in the near future. In case that does happen, here's the handy Twitter feed of Vikings media members we've been using this week.