Since the end of the NFC Championship game in 2009, the Vikings have been struggling to get back to being one of the NFL's elite teams. Sure, there was that pretty epic run at the end of the season to make the playoffs in 2012, but for the better part of the last four seasons, professional football in Minnesota has been pretty bad.
I may be biased, but I think things are on the upswing. Let's take a look at some key off season moves the Vikings have made and see where we stand.
Firing Leslie Frazier And Most Of The Staff: A. It seems pretty callous to say 'great job in firing a guy and completely uprooting his family', but that's life in the NFL. Frazier's run came to an end, and it was a move the Vikings had to make. I liked the Frazier hire at the time, and I thought he was the right guy for the job after he handled the craziness of 2010 like a consummate professional. But after the promise of 2012, 2013 turned into a morbid Groundhog Day of really bad defense, a Keystone Kops strategy at the quarterback position, and the same, worn down 'we'll look at the tapes' excuses that became a running joke.
Hiring Mike Zimmer: Incomplete: Giving this a grade right now, in a lot of ways, is like grading a draft 10 minutes after it's completed. The truth is,we have no idea what kind of head coach Mike Zimmer will be. He's one of the best defensive coordinators in the game, and he's made one hell of a positive first impression, but to say he's passed the test right now is jumping the gun a bit, wouldn't you say?
Re-Signing Everson Griffen And Matt Cassel: A. The Vikings had a ton of business to tend to when free agency began, but they got started before the bell rang and brought back two guys that are going to be a important pieces for Zimmer's new team. With Jared Allen not coming back, Everson Griffen was priority number one, and they got him signed for a lot of years at a team friendly contract. He will help anchor a line that will see three new starters in 2014, and will provide continuity for a defense in transition. Cassel brings stability to the quarterback position for at least one year, and after the Year Of Pondcasman, in which the starting quarterback was determined, near as I can tell, from throwing darts, having one guy the team can rally around will do wonders for the offense.
Linval Joseph Signing: A. In the days leading up to free agency, I was getting ready to head on vacation and I probably wasn't paying as close attention to NFL rumors that I normally do, but I can't recall Joseph being rumored to the Vikings by anyone. Other than, you know, commenters on here and elsewhere who wanted to see Joseph in purple. I agreed, but I kind of thought he was a guy that was headed anywhere but the Vikings. But in signing him, Minnesota addressed an area on the defensive line that hasn't been solid since Pat Williams clogged up the middle, and make no mistake, Joseph was signed to be the next Pat Williams.
Captain Munnerlyn Signing: A. Heading into free agency, arguing whether nose tackle or cornerback was a bigger need on the Vikings defense was kind of like arguing whether food or water was more important to survive. Munnerlyn gives the Vikings a legitimate cover corner that can effectively play the slot, which was a black hole on the Vikings defense in 2013.
Releasing Greg Childs: F. Let's be clear on this grade--this isn't football related at all. This is the unabashed fan in me coming out. From a football perspective, this move probably makes sense. No one in NFL history has come back and played after suffering two torn patellas, and to think Childs would was being hopelessly optimistic. But man, after reading his twitter feed, which is always upbeat and positive, and knowing the Vikings have the best trainer in the business in Eric Sugarman, I was hopelessly optimistic. His release was a bummer for me, it really was. I really hope Greg Childs has a productive NFL career with someone.
Releasing Letroy Guion...And His Subsequent Signing With Green Bay: A+++. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA GREEN BAY HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA WE GOT ONE OVER ON YOU WOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Man, Guion was terrible for the Vikings. The fact that he's no longer going to be terrible for them and will be terrible for Minnesota's arch rival? That's a win-win gang.
Re-Sign Marcus Sherels: B. Sherels seemed to improve as a cornerback last season, and is a solid punt returner. He gives the Vikes solid depth in the secondary, and a chance to flip field position on a change of possession. I'm still going to be leery with Sherels as a nickel or dime back, but I can't argue with this move based on his ability as a punt returner.
Re-Sign Jerome Simpson: B-. His best play seems to be drawing a big pass interference penalty--which don't get me wrong, with the Vikings passing offense for most of 2013, yards are yards--but when you add in his inconsistency with continued off the field issues, I was fairly surprised Minnesota brought him back. That said, he had a career year in yardage last season, and he came back on another one year deal. So for the level of production he'll provide, the Vikings were probably going to be hard pressed to find a better player at the price they got. And if he has another incident, letting him go at the end of the season won't put the Vikings behind the curve ball from a salary cap perspective.
When I look across the landscape of free agency, I'm having a hard time finding a team that addressed more needs and set themselves up for the draft better than the Minnesota Vikings did. They still need to address linebacker and the long term answer at quarterback, but with eight picks in this years draft, including two third rounders, Minnesota is in position to address those needs and more come May 8th.