NFL Free Agency has been underway for almost two weeks, and correct me if I'm wrong, but it feels that it unfolds like this for the Vikings every year, according to fans:
Night Before: WOOOOO CAN'T WAIT TO SEE ALL THE GUYS WE SIGN I'M SO EXCITED
Literally less than one hour into free agency: RICK SPIELMAN HAS SIGNED NO ONE WHYYYYYYYYYYYY THIS SUCKS SOOOOOOOO BAAAAAAAAAAD
When the prize free agent at the Vikings biggest position of need signs elsewhere: FIRE SPIELMAN NOW THIS ORGANIZATION IS A FREAKIN' JOKE AND AN EMBARRASSMENT MAN WHY DO I CHEER FOR THIS TEAM THANKS FOR ABSOLUTELY NOTHING AGAIN RICK HERE COMES 0-16 FULL REBUILD MAAAAAAAAN
When the Vikings sign several free agents at positions of need: Do you guys see a loss on the schedule? I don't see a loss on the schedule! Spielman's a genius at getting good players at positions the team needs without busting the salary cap. Really good, solid moves.
'That' Guy, at every stage of free agency, no matter who is signed: SPIELMAN SUCKS MAN THE GUYS HE SIGNED ARE AWFUL AND MAYBE YOU HAVEN'T BEEN KEEPING UP ON CURRENT EVENTS BUT WE JUST GOT OUR ASS KICKED IN FREE AGENCY! GAME OVER, MAN! GAME OVER! (RIP, Bill Paxton. You will be missed...also some NSFW language warning in that 'Aliens' clip if you watch it)
Yet, every year free agency comes down to money. Who's offering the most, how they're offering it in terms of guaranteed money and front-loaded or back-loaded contracts, and who can't hustle for it. And whenever player A hits the lottery and says 'it wasn't about the money', you know, more than anything...it was about the money, money, money. Isn't it, Abba?
A man like that is hard to find but I can't get him off my mind
Ain't it sad
And if he happens to be free I bet he wouldn't fancy me
That's too bad
So I must leave, I'll have to go
To Las Vegas or Monaco
And win a fortune in a game, my life will never be the same...
Money, money, money
Must be funny
In the rich man's world
Money, money, money
In the rich man's world
All the things I could do
If I had a little money
It's a rich man's world
The first paragraph in the lyrics was for 'that guy' griping about Vikings free agency every year, in case you were wondering. Your free agency SMR follows.
Blue Chip Stocks:
Riley Reiff, T: The Vikings absolutely, positively, without question had to get a new starting left tackle. In the early hours of free agency, rumors were hot that they were really pushing for Matt Kalil, and had it not been for a monster offer from Carolina, Kalil would be back in Minnesota. For a couple reasons, I'm glad the Vikings have Reiff, and not Kalil. If any player ever needed a fresh start with a new team, it's Kalil. He became the player fans loved to hate because of his sub par play, and his sub par play was due in large part to injuries that limited both his ability and availability.
And frankly Reiff is better, at least according to Pro Football Focus (I know, I know). They were both drafted in 2012, and Reiff has not only played more games, he's been better than Kalil the last three years, and they were essentially a wash in 2013. The only year where Kalil was clearly better than Reiff was their rookie season of 2012, when Kalil was named to the Pro Bowl as an alternate.
And if your argument to Reiff being better than Kalil is 'well, if Kalil was healthy he would be better', I don't disagree. But Kalil has been dealing with some kind of injury that's limited his effectiveness for three years now, so at some point you are probably going to be dealing with an injury again. So yeah, give me a healthy Reiff that I can run out there every week. Because not only is Reiff as good as Kalil, he's more reliable, and that reliability should prevent T.J. Clemmings from ever seeing the field. That, if nothing else, makes the Vikings offensive line much better.
Adam Thielen, WR: It was kind of expected that once the Vikings tendered Thielen with a second round option, he'd be back with the purple in 2017. Still, it was good news indeed when he signed a three year extension with $11 million guaranteed. Stefon Diggs has developed into Minnesota's most explosive wide receiver, but Thielen has become their most dependable. He has become a vitally important part in the Vikings offense, and if the revamped offensive line can give the QB some time, Thielen is in line to improve upon his 69 (niiiice) catch, 967 yard (so close to niiice) 2016 season.
Latavius Murray, RB: If you go with the argument that the offensive line is going to be better, and that's a reasonable argument, you have to feel positive about this signing. Murray is a good runner, a solid pass catcher, and a really good blocking running back. With the 'bell cow back' philosophy in Minnesota more than likely over, Murray pairs very well with Jerick McKinnon, and should allow the Vikings to run out of the shotgun a lot more effectively than they have in the last couple seasons.
Datone Jones, DE: This was a fairly under the radar signing, and I really like it. He's a guy that should roll right in to the DE rotation, and will be a good backup to Brian Robsion, Everson Griffen, and Danielle Hunter. And depending on what the Vikings decide with Robison, Hunter could take over the LDE spot with Jones being his primary backup. He really seemed to be misused as an OLB in Green Bay's 3-4, and should do much better as a traditional edge rusher in a Mike Zimmer defense.
Mike Remmers, T: The Vikings needed two starting tackles entering free agency, and Remmers will be the bookend to Reiff. Remmers is a blue collar guy that has played out of position on the left side last year in Carolina, and looked over-matched at times. But on the right side, his natural position, he's more than held his own. The addition of Remmers, along with Reiff, were welcome news, and both will be tremendous upgrades for the Vikings offensive line.
Adrian Peterson, RB: All off-season, you could make equally good arguments about Peterson coming back to Minnesota or moving on, but I honestly thought Peterson was going to be coming back to the Vikings on a re-structured deal until a couple days before free agency began. Then his father (and I'm sure it was okay'd by AP or his people) said some disparaging things about the Vikings line (which weren't inaccurate, but still), and that he felt unappreciated by the Vikings...and the Vikings signed Latavius Murray. And some two weeks into free agency, Peterson remains unsigned.
Buy: The Vikings offensive line is better than it was this time last year. I don't know how anyone can look at the signings of Remmers and Reiff and think the Vikings aren't better. Now, did they get the top available tackles in free agency? No, but I'm not claiming they did. Remmers and Reiff are leaps and bounds better than a hurt Kalil, a healthy Clemmings, and any of the other guys the Vikings rotated through the left and right tackle spots last year. I would also argue that if you add Reiff and Remmers to the Vikings 2016 line, and subtract Clemmings and Kalil, that offensive line is good enough to make the Vikings a playoff team.
Sell: The Vikings have a top 10 offensive line. I don't think this line approaches Oakland or Dallas talent wise, but that's not the end of the world. It's probably safe to say that if the Vikings weren't the worst offensive line in the NFL last year, they were easily a bottom five unit. If Reiff, Boone, Berger, TBD, and Remmers can stay healthy and play together all season, it's not unreasonable to think they can be a league average unit, which that will be a huge upgrade and allow the Vikings offense to operate with the whole playbook, for a change.
Buy: Adrian Peterson is one of the 10 best running backs in NFL history. Someone asked me on Twitter if AP was a top five back of all time, and I didn't think so, but he's definitely top 10. My top five are (in no particular order) Walter Payton, Barry Sanders, Jim Brown, Earl Campbell, and Eric Dickerson. And even though there are great backs left out of that top five, you can make an argument for AP over every one of those remaining guys, in my opinion. He was a rare combination of speed and power that only Walter Payton eclipsed, and maybe Barry Sanders. He should be a first ballot hall of famer, and is the best running back in Vikings history.
Sell: Adrian Peterson is the best running back for the Minnesota Vikings in 2017. Yet for everything he did on the field, you could see this coming. The Vikings offense has evolved from an offense that saw the QB over center a majority of snaps to one that has the QB operating out of the shotgun, with the running back taking on a bigger role as a receiver. When you add that to Peterson's legitimate liability as a pass blocker, he's really become a 2-down back in this offense, and a tertiary receiving option. When you add in his knee injury and declining play, this wasn't a complete shock. It wasn't the way a lot of fans wanted to see his career in Minnesota end, but it's just one more reminder that the NFL is, first and foremost, a brutally harsh business.
Buy: The Vikings let a lot of in-house free agents walk. Minnesota has seen eight players leave for new teams, only it felt like 11, all of whom seemingly went to Carolina (it was actually three). Audie Cole, Charles Johnson, Matt Kalil, Captain Munnerlyn, Cordarrelle Patterson, Jeff Locke, Rhett Ellison, and Andre Smith will all be playing for different teams as the Vikings continue to re-tool their roster after last season's disappointing 8-8 season.
Sell: Not re-signing those in house free agents really hurt the team overall. The only player I really was hoping would come back was Captain Munnerlyn, because as young and promising as Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander are, Munnerlyn was one of the best slot cornerbacks in the NFL. But Terence Newman was re-signed for the Vikings, and a four to make three of Newman, Xavier Rhodes, Alexander, and Waynes has the potential to be pretty good, if one of the two young guys can adapt to the inside. And it's not out of the question for the Vikings to still address nickel back in free agency yet, either.
I also wanted Cordarrelle Patterson back as a kick returner, but he was beaten out of a top WR job by a fifth round draft pick (Diggs), an undrafted free agent (Thielen) and a 7th round draft pick who the Vikings let walk in free agency because he wasn't that good (Johnson). Even though Patterson had kind of a re-birth last year, it was still a disappointing time in Minnesota for a former first round pick, and him not returning won't be a disaster for the Vikings.
Don Glover Quote Of Free Agency:
Dad: Did the Vikings sign anyone yet?
Me: Yeah, they signed a couple guys for the offensive line.
Dad: They did? Are they any good?
Me: Yeah, they're better than the guys they had.
Dad: Good God, I hope so. They can't be any worse.