While not many people were expecting the Minnesota Vikings to be terribly active in free agency this offseason, they have made a handful of signings, most of which have been met with minimal fanfare. One such signing was the acquisition of former Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Emmanuel Lamur, who became the latest member of Mike Zimmer's former team to join his current team.
Lamur was a rarity in this Vikings' offseason in that he was given a multi-year deal, as opposed to the one-year deals that most of Minnesota's free agent class has signed thus far. He received a two-year deal worth a maximum of $6 million. That might seem a little high for a player that, in four NFL seasons, has started just 15 games and lost an entire season to injury.
So, what is the plan for Emmanuel Lamur in Minnesota?
First, let's take a look at what our friends over at Cincy Jungle have to say about the "wasted chance" Lamur had with the Bengals.
Lamur was able to bounce back a little bit on a reduced role last season, acting solely as a nickel linebacker and on special teams. Still, he's not physical or strong enough to consistently play in the box and he doesn't have that aggression the Bengals generally like in their linebackers. Lamur can't defeat a block and has been known to miss tackles, he's often a split second slow to react and doesn't have the bulk to bring guys down easily. These were likely among the reasons the Bengals let Lamur walk in free agency this year.
Not only have injuries slowed him down throughout his four-year career in Cincinnati, but his development as a complete player never really took off. Other safeties-turned-linebackers like Deone Bucannon in Arizona, or Mark Barron in Saint Louis Los Angeles, have transitioned well and are now valuable players for their respective teams.
It is obvious that there is a need for guys like Lamur around the league, but the Bengals let him go even with no replacement available in the roster. When he was injured in 2013 another athletic-gifted safety stepped up and into the role, Taylor Mays. Interestingly, the Bengals just brought Mays back and though he has yet to figure out a way to standout in the NFL, he keeps getting chances because of his athleticism and size. It seems the Bengals are willing to take another chance on him this year.
When looking at the Vikings' linebacker corps, we can see that the Vikings have two young players that are clearly ascending in Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks. Barr is already on the short list of the NFL's best linebackers, and Kendricks played very well after cracking the starting lineup at the middle linebacker spot. Longtime veteran Chad Greenway, who is still unsigned at this point, would be playing a lot of weakside linebacker in the Vikings' base defense, and that seems to be the position that Lamur might be best suited to play in the Vikings' base defense.
However, if he can stay healthy, maybe there's more to what he can do. Lamur played safety in college at Kansas State, and the Vikings definitely have a need at the position, so it's possible. . .though I'd assume that it's not likely. . .that he could see some time at that position as well. Given that Barr and Kendricks stay on the field for the Vikings in most nickel situations, it wouldn't appear that the nickel linebacker role that he had grown into in Cincinnati would be much of an option, barring injury.
Perhaps the Vikings envision Lamur as an option in a "big nickel" set. As Cincy Jungle's initial free agency scouting report on Lamur says, he's a former college safety "and moves like it." Of course that same report says that he also has a tendency to miss tackles. Players don't seem to be having any issues figuring out how to tackle under Mike Zimmer and George Edwards, so maybe that's something that can be fixed.
The Vikings' signing of Emmanuel Lamur might not have been the "sexiest" signing the team made this offseason, but if he can stay healthy, he has some pretty solid potential to contribute to one of the NFL's better defenses. Mike Zimmer has emphasized how important it is for his defense to be athletic, and Lamur certainly fits that bill. It will be interesting to see how he is used this fall.