With the fast and furious first day of free agency winding down, a few thoughts on the deals that involved the Vikings.
Matt Kalil to Sign with Panthers
While there were a few other deals that made it clear offensive linemen were getting premium (i.e. overpaid) deals, the deal Kalil got with the Panthers was truly unbelievable. For an oft-injured left-tackle who really hasn’t put together a good season since his rookie year, the Panthers reportedly shelled out $55 million over 5 years, with $25 million guaranteed. Putting this in perspective, Kalil now is set (to continue) to make about the same money as Joe Thomas, perhaps the best left-tackle in the league, despite the huge disparity in performance. Apparently the Vikings were willing to offer Kalil $10m/year on a 3-year deal, but Kalil opted to join his brother Ryan in Carolina. Perhaps a change of scenery will be good for him, particularly as he was not particularly a fan favorite as he proved a first-round injury-related bust for the Vikings.
Vikings to Sign Reilly Reiff
After a number of possibilities for the Vikings to upgrade their offensive line were dispatched to other teams- Kevin Zeitler and JC Tretter to the Browns, Russell Okung to the Chargers, Larry Warford to the Saints, Ron Leary to the Broncos, and Andrew Whitworth to the Rams, causing much consternation among Vikings fans, it was reported that the Vikings reached a deal to acquire Reilly Reiff, although at this moment the terms have not been released. Undoubtedly the Vikings paid a premium for Reiff.
Reiff is a mid-tier tackle coming off his rookie deal in Detroit, after being the 2nd tackle drafted (after Matt Kalil) in 2012. While not a top-tier performer at this point, Reiff has been consistent- something the Vikings have not seen from either tackle position in recent years. It’s not immediately clear if Reiff will play LT or RT for the Vikings, but barring another significant LT acquisition, my guess is he’ll go back to playing LT for the Vikings, as he did his first 4 years in Detroit. Pro Football Focus rates Reiff as essentially an average tackle over his first five years in the league. Note the drop in performance after moving to right tackle last year.
The Lions were willing to move on from Reiff, who signed Ricky Wagner to replace Reiff at RT for a reported $9.5m/year.
Vikings reportedly offered Alshon Jeffrey @ $14m/year
Somewhat surprisingly (at least to me) the Vikings apparently were late bidders for Alshon Jeffrey’s services, and may have offered him the most guaranteed money, but he opted for Philadelphia on a one-year, $14m deal, apparently with the idea that it will lead to more money down the road. In any case, the fact that the Vikings were willing to shell out that kind of money for a WR, given their other needs and $35m in cap space, was a bit surprising, at least as a top priority.
The Vikings reportedly gave Adam Thielen a 2nd round tender, which should keep him in Minnesota this year, while not tendering Charles Johnson, who is now officially a free agent, along with Cordarrelle Patterson, whose 5th year option the Vikings did not exercise.
Rhett Ellison and Jeff Locke Sign Elsewhere
While not a big loss, the Vikings did lose a solid blocking TE in Ellison, who may have been eclipsed in the depth chart by David Morgan, also a good blocking TE, but with better receiving skills. That, along with a change in scheme and a solid TE draft class this year, perhaps made Ellison’s services expendable. It’s not clear if the Vikings hoped to retain Ellison. In any case, the Giants offered Ellison a sizable offer, given his position- reportedly averaging $4.5m/year over 4 years.
Jeff Locke was also signed away by the Colts, who offered him $3.45m over two years- more than the Vikings- who wanted to keep Locke- were willing to offer.
Vikings to meet with Eddie Lacy
In another somewhat surprising development, the Vikings have reportedly expressed some interest in Eddie Lacy’s services, and reportedly have scheduled a meeting with the Packers free-agent. Perhaps the Vikings are interested in Lacy as a replacement for Matt Asiata, at the right price, to complement the somewhat more svelte Jerick McKinnon.
Vikings have interest in Nick Foles
The Vikings also have some interest in acquiring Nick Foles as a backup to Sam Bradford. Foles played under Shurmur in Philadephia and presumably is familiar with his scheme, so not a huge surprise here. It’s not clear what Foles’ market value is, but he would be an upgrade to the backup QB position if acquired.
NFC North Free Agency Notes
Around the NFC North, there were other developments on this first day of free agency.
The Packers, who have a few key free agents, appear to have re-signed one of them- Nick Perry in a 5-year, $60m deal, which seems a bit pricey for the edge-rusher, but there you go. Perhaps more noteworthy, the Packers appear to have lost a couple of those free agents- notably Micah Hyde to the Bills, and JC Tretter to the Browns. Beyond that, the Seahawks reportedly have signing TJ Lang as a top priority, while TE Jared Cook, who Aaron Rodgers credited for the Packers turnaround last year, is also drawing serious interest from three other teams.
The Bears finally brought the Jay Cutler era to an end, releasing the deeply unpopular QB in favor of Mike Glennon, whom they signed to a 3-year, $45m deal. The Bears also signed safety Quintin Demps, and WR Markus Wheaton, replacing Alshon Jeffrey, who signed with the Eagles, as mentioned above.
The Lions, in addition to inking the reportedly $9.5m/year deal with RT Ricky Wagner, also released LB DeAndre Levy, while signing LB Paul Worrilow, and defensive linemen Akeem Spence and Cornelius Washington.
Overall, it’s unclear who came out best after day one of free agency in the NFC North, but it’s pretty clear the Packers suffered the most key losses. We’ll see what happens as free agency continues.
The Vikings reportedly have interest in RG/T DJ Fluker from San Diego, who came off his rookie deal. A handful of other teams have interest in Fluker as well, so it remains to be seen if the Vikings are willing to presumably outbid the competition for his services. I suspect the Vikings would be interested in him as a RT, where he played his first 2 years in the league, and where he performed at a higher level than at RG, where he was moved beginning in 2015. Fluker is generally a better pass protector than run blocker.
Like Reiff, Fluker is a former 1st round draft pick- #11 overall in 2013. Fluker’s addition, if it comes to fruition, could solidify the other tackle position for the Vikings, and go a long way toward improve the Vikings’ dismal offensive line performance last year.
Beyond Fluker, the Vikings have their own free agents in Captain Munnerlyn, Terence Newman, and Cordarrelle Patterson that hopefully will warrant competitive offers from the Vikings front office. Munnerlyn may be the most problematic, as he is looking for a longer-term deal than the Vikings will likely give him with MacKenzie Alexander coming up behind him. The risk with Newman is that he will retire, but hopefully that will not be the case after having an excellent year. The Vikings could use him (hopefully) as depth/nickelback if Trae Waynes can take over outside, and if Munnerlyn is not re-signed.
Patterson is a more controversial free agent, as he hasn’t panned out so far as a WR. The Vikings willingness to spend big on Jeffrey is something of an indictment against Patterson as well, but he did show he can do more than bubble-screens and sweeps this year as a WR, although only on a few snaps, in addition to being the best kick returner in the league. The discussion of Patterson becoming something of a hybrid RB/WR-type back is also intriguing, particularly as that could fit in Shurmur’s scheme, but how well he would do in that role, as well as his future production as a WR, is speculation. My guess is that his market value will exceed the $4m previously thought, but we’ll see. I have the sinking feeling that Patterson’s production is on the rise, and would hate to see that happen with another team.