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Stock Market Report: Free Agency

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The week that was...was something, indeed

NFL: Preseason-Los Angeles Rams at Minnesota Vikings Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Hey gang, how are we all handling this COVID-19 stuff? I hope you’re all doing well, all things considered, and doing what we’re being asked to do by state and federal officials. And if you aren’t, come on man, get with the program. I want to go to Canada at the end of May and go fishing. Look, if you can’t get behind stopping the spread of this disease to high-risk folks that could literally die if they catch it, at least get behind all these measures so I can go to Canada, you selfish bastards and bastardettes!

#WashYourHandsForTed needs to get trending, I think. But I digress.

If I could, I’d like to get serious, for just a minute. I’m happy to roll out the Stock Market Report here at The Daily Norseman, for what I think is for the 11th season, and 10th full season, if I’m doing my public math correctly.

It’s been a heck of a fun piece to write...usually...and so many people have told me that it’s their favorite Vikings piece to read, whether it’s from a blog, traditional media, or otherwise. I probably don’t say it enough, but thank you. This community, and the people I’ve met because of it, and the things I’ve been able to do like go to training camp and the NFL Draft, has turned out to be one of the great blessings in my life, something I didn’t see coming when I started here right before the NFC Championship game back in 2009. I’m truly thankful for each one of you that take the time to read my rantings, even those you you who think I’m a dope and read just to confirm your suspicions; I hope you’ll continue to do so. Because let’s face it, I am a monumental dope.

Okay, on with the blog.

—Ted

_________________

Free agency in the NFL is usually an exciting time. We have a good idea that some players are leaving, we all have our ‘wish list’ of players we’d like to see our favorite team sign, and there’s almost always a ‘I did NOT see that move coming’ moment, whether it’s a surprise cut, signing, or trade. And free agency is a time where teams address a couple of big needs, then use the draft to shore up some other needs and round out the roster.

For the Minnesota Vikings this year, it’s been more of an exodus than a shoring up of the roster, as it has been for the better part of five years, give or take. We kind of knew that, though, as the Vikes have a combination of salary cap issues and expensive veterans. That combination meant we were going to have to say goodbye to some guys that have been solid players for the Vikings in the past, while somehow finding some decent replacements at fairly decent value.

And as now former Vikings everywhere signed elsewhere (or were traded), it became apparent that for all the money the Vikes have shelled out in the past, it still can’t buy them love, can it, Paul and John?

I’ll give you all I’ve got to give

If you say you love me too

I may not have a lot to give

But what I’ve got I’ll give to you

I don’t care too...much for money

Money can’t buy me love

Your stock market report that’s getting up there in years but still has one or two good seasons left follows.

Blue Chip Stocks

Michael Pierce, DT: When it was announced that stalwart DT Linval Joseph had been released, it felt like there was going to be a huge hole in the middle of the Vikings defensive line. However, the Vikings quickly solved this problem by going out and getting Michael Pierce from Baltimore. Over the last three seasons, Pierce and Joseph have very similar grades and rankings from PFF, they’re both big dudes, and Pierce is younger and comes at a cheaper price. I really, really like this signing. If you want to see some more in depth analysis on what Pierce brings to the Vikings, check out this article.

Solid Investments

Dan Bailey, K: Is the long, regional, kicking nightmare finally over for the Vikings? The Vikings signed Dan Bailey to a three year extension, solidifying a position that had as much stability as the Ring of Fire the last several years.

Junk Bonds

The Diggs trade: I’m not going to go into as much detail as I did here...when it was in the immediate aftermath of the trade and I was PISSED...or here, when I had some time to look at it more rationally...but it’s going to take a lot for me to think this was ever a good trade for the Vikings. For a team that needs playmakers, trading your best receiving playmaker and makes your offense worse does not, and will not, make sense to me. Yes, they received a bevy of draft picks, and we’ll talk about that later. And yes, Diggs was being a diva, but I would argue the Vikings contributed to the situation to get to the point he wanted out. For me, I keep going back to what Mike Zimmer has said in the past about getting Cousins the weapons needed to run the offense, then they trade their best weapon. And now, moving forward, they need two wide receivers, not one. And the next day they...

Terminate the contract of Josh Kline: This move baffled me as well. Was Josh Kline an All-Pro, as many of you are quick to point out? No, he’s not. Was he the best interior lineman the Vikings had last year? Yes, he was, and when teamed with Brian O’Neill, the right side of the Vikings line was pretty good for most of the year. By releasing him, the Vikings now create yet another hole that needs to be filled that didn’t need to be addressed, much like the Diggs trade did. Yet, unlike the WR position, the interior offensive line group is not all that great this year, according to most draft experts, and heck, even Zimmer hinted at it during his press conference at the NFL Combine.

The C.J. Ham contract: I like C.J. Ham, I really do. But four million bucks for a fullback? Really? With everything else the Vikes need, I just feel that was money they really needed to spend elsewhere. Unless he can play guard, amirite?

Buy/Sell

Buy: The Vikings have a plan. I think it’s foolish to think the Vikings have no plan. Rick Spielman has done a pretty good job of building and maintaining a pretty good roster over the last 7-8 years.

Sell: Knowing what that plan is. But for the life of me, I’m having a hard time seeing it right now. Even if they draft a wide receiver in the first round, there’s no guarantee he will work out. He could be great, sure, but it will be unknown until they actually start playing. And the chances of him being as good as or better than Diggs are remote, but not out of the question. They have said they want to be a run-heavy team, yet they trade a guy that can take pressure off the running game, and trade their best interior offensive lineman from a year ago. They have limited cap space, and they haven’t signed a player at either position. And the interior lineman class isn’t great for this draft, so maybe they think Dru Samia is ready to step up, or they will shuffle some players around. At this point, I’m not sure what else they could do, to be honest.

Buy and sell: Buy the Anthony Harris franchise tag, while selling the rumors the Vikings were taking trade offers for him. The whole Anthony Harris situation crystallizes The Plan That No One Understands for me. For one, I like the fact that the Vikings, at a minimum, tagged Harris. The secondary has been hit hard, and having Harris back with Harrison Smith would really help the 42 new cornerbacks the Vikings will have on the roster. But why didn’t they get a fairly team friendly 2-3 year extension done last year or the year before? It kinda seemed like a logical move,yet the Vikings passed. Then, when they did tag him, they made it immediately known they were taking trade offers. In the meantime, Jayron Kearse signed with the Lions, and Andrew Sendejo signed with the Browns. So now, if they trade him it creates yet ANOTHER defensive backfield starter position they’ll need to address, but if they sign him it will have to be for a lot more than they want to spend, a lot more than they could have signed him for the last two years, and a lot more for the franchise tag number he’ll play under in 2019. It just seemed like they decided to tag him at the last minute, didn’t get a trade offer for him, and now they don’t know what the hell to do now that their backup plan Sendejo signed elsewhere. Just...weird, man.

Buy: Having 12 picks in the draft. The DIggs trade brought a haul of picks for the Vikings, leaving them with 12 selections in this year’s draft, including five picks in the top 105 selections. That gives them enough ammunition to target damn near whoever they want, or if Spielman is true to his own self, he can now trade down in an attempt to own every seventh round pick the draft has to offer, attain Nirvana, and be reincarnated as a future Mr. Irrelevant. Either way, with as much wheeling and dealing the Vikings do, the draft is going to be nuts, and I can’t wait.

And my mock drafts are going to be crazier...

Sell: Needing those 12 picks to address all the needs this team has. I will say, if the Vikings keep all those picks in the first 105, they almost have to hit on every one of them. On offense, they need two wide receivers, two interior offensive linemen, an eventual replacement for Riley Reiff, and depth. I’d also argue they need to draft and develop a QB to eventually replace Kirk Cousins, but with his new extension that isn’t going to happen for a season or two. On defense, they need a starting and backup DE, a 3-technique, three cornerbacks, possibly more depending on the health of Mike Hughes, and a couple of safeties.

Buy: This team is closer to rebuilding than a lot of fans care to admit. With the moves the Vikings have made in free agency so far, the Vikings have not gotten better. Their WR corps outside of Adam Thielen is mediocre, at best, their offensive line is not better, and the secondary has been decimated. They don’t have enough cap space to address much of anything in free agency, unless they make some more moves to address that. So they’re really going to have to lean on this draft class, and this is going to be, more than likely, a fairly inexperienced team at some key positions. And that means a couple extra losses because of that inexperience.

Sell: The Cousins extension if the team is in rebuild mode. In a vacuum, I’m cool with the Cousins extension. He provides stability at a position where the Vikings haven’t had a lot of it, he’s good, and he’s durable. But if the Vikings are already punting on 2020, and so far the moves they’ve made seem to indicate they’re preparing us for lowered expectations, my thought is that they just let Cousins play out 2020 and either use the draft picks they have now to draft their QBOTF in this year’s draft, go into the next off-season with an embarrassing amount of cap space, build around whoever the QB is they drafted in 2020, and fast track the rebuild. Or, use next year’s cap space to try and fix as much as they can, use the draft to go get a guy like Trevor Lawrence, and let him learn and grow on the job. As it stands now, Spotrac is estimating a 2021 salary cap of $217 million and some change, and are projecting $53 million in cap space for the Vikings. If you take the Cousins extension out of the equation, it jumps to a staggering $84 million.

Both options could have been on the table, but the Vikings seem to think that they can still compete while just re-tooling some areas. Look, it might work, but it seems that if they were needing to rebuild, then go all-in and do it. The kinda-sorta approach seems like it will take longer than going all in on turning the roster over, and will put the Vikings in this weird purgatory where they’re good enough to not draft in the top 10 and not have enough valuable picks to aggressively move up for a QB, yet bad enough where they aren’t a playoff team and finish like 6-10 or 7-9. I would be okay with being really bad for one year with a realistic ability to get a potential franchise QB and build around him, as opposed to several years of 7-9 or 8-8 before they realize that a full rebuild is required, only by then there won’t be any assets to realistically trade to create cap space and acquire draft picks to remake the franchise.

Buy: The Vikings needed to get younger, so losing all these veterans is okay. It happens every year in the NFL, on every team. Long time players who have produced over a lot of years get too expensive, and the team has to move on. So, seeing players like Everson Griffen, Linval Joseph, and Xavier Rhodes (probably) go elsewhere is just the downside of the modern NFL. I hate it, but life goes on, and players need to be replaced. Heck, even Tom Brady left the Patriots.

Sell: The veterans the Vikings are losing are all old. There were some guys that the Vikings had walk that aren’t old, though. Mackensie Alexander and Jayron Kearse, for example, signed really moderate deals elsewhere. There’s a lot of backchatter that indicates both Kearse and Alexander were unhappy and were moving on, so re-signing them was moot. This isn’t about why guys might have been unhappy here, it’s just that not all the guys leaving have been old and they needed to move on. Trae Waynes is another guy. He signed a deal that was too rich for the Vikings, though, who I have heard wanted him back.

Then, of course, the Diggs trade and the Kline release. If it seems like I’m contradicting myself about a rebuild while complaining about the loss of a guy like Kline, but I just don’t see a replacement yet, unless Samia is ready, which I hope is the case. Not all the losses were guys that the Vikes needed to move on from just yet, and although a couple seemed unavoidable because of cap constraints, a couple seemed to be because reasons, apparently, and in the short term it’s hurt the Vikings and created more holes on the roster.

And that makes it seem more difficult that they’ll be able to compete in 2020. But, that’s just me.