The NFL‘s free agent signing period – the Christmas shopping season for football teams – begins in two days. So far there hasn’t been a lot of big buzz around the Vikings, despite their being well under the cap, and despite Zygi Wilf‘s known willingness to open up the pocket book. Part of the reason for this lack of buzz is that the Vikes simply don’t have that many big holes to fill – an enviable position to be in, but sort of a bummer for those who enjoy the NFL’s version of the hot stove league even more than they like the actual games. Another problem is that, frankly, there aren’t that many guys worth getting jazzed about, at least not at positions where the Vikes might want to upgrade. The biggest needs would seem to be at offensive tackle and cornerback…unfortunately, all the good corners and tackles have been re-signed by their old teams, leaving just a lot of second-tier names, has-beens and unestablished types. Some would argue that the Vikes need receiver help too – that’s where the name T.J. Houshmandzadeh would come up, except that no one expects the Vikes to shell out that kind of money for a wide-out just a year after doing the same for Bernard Berrian.
So, in short, it looks like the Vikes won’t be big players when the 27th rolls around and team executives’ cell phones start lighting up. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few rumors to discuss. First, there are the Vikings’ own free agents, and where they currently stand:
Matt Birk – A month ago it looked like Birk was gone. Hell, two weeks ago it looked like he was gone. Now all of a sudden the team is said to be negotiating with him. It’s not hard to figure out why the Vikes would suddenly do a 180 on Birk – all you have to do is look at the crop of potential free agent centers. Birk might be the best guy on the market, and if he can be had for a reasonable price, why the hell not bring him back?
Jim Kleinsasser – It’s hard to imagine anyone actually coveting Kleinsasser. However, there are rumblings that the Jacksonville Jaguars – where Mike Tice is still on the staff – could try to lure the veteran blocking tight end. Chilly says he wants Jimmy back and I would wager he stays.
Heath Farwell – Everyone knows what happened to the Vikings’ special team coverage units when they lost this guy. He’ll be coming back healthy in 2009, and word is he wants a shot to play defense somewhere. The Vikings are set at linebacker, so only injury would allow Farwell a chance to start on D. There’s a decent chance we’ll lose him, which would be a genuine blow to the club.
Darren Sharper – No doubt about this one: He’s gone. You won’t see many tears from me, since I thought he was washed up going into last season. The Saints are apparently ready to sign him.
Jimmy Kennedy – The defensive tackle situation remains a tad touchy for the Vikes. The Williams Wall could still end up suspended for the first four games of the season, but we won’t know until after their case is heard in court – and the court date isn’t until June. I’m sure the Vikes don’t want to take any chances and will therefore be reinforcing themselves at defensive tackle. That means both Kennedy and Fred Evans, who is a restricted free agent, ought to be retained.
Napoleon Harris – I thought Harris played okay for us in place of E.J. Henderson. It could be that Napoleon is realistic about the weakness of his starting prospects and would therefore accept a back-up role with the Vikes, who have no reason to think E.J. won’t be back starting in ’09. Then again, maybe Nap ain’t the realistic type.
Naufahu Tahi – Tahi is a restricted free agent. The KAO would just not be the same without his two-yard catches in the flat. I’m sure he’ll be back. However, Brad Childress has hinted that the team is looking around for another fullback. Hopefully they find something better than Thomas Tapeh.
Ellis Wyms, Benny Sapp, Michael Boulware, Dontarrious Thomas – I have no particular feeling about any of these guys either way. Well, I take that back: I do have a little feeling about Benny Sapp. It’s kind of like the feeling I get when I’ve eaten too much pasta and can’t find the Tums. Thankfully, the Vikes have been able to re-sign Charles Gordon, so barring anymore catastrophic ankle injuries, Benny should be no higher than a fourth corner if the Vikes decide to keep him at all.
And now the guys the Vikes are rumored to be pursuing and/or interested in. It’s a thin list…
Jason Brown – The Ravens‘ Brown is an intriguing possibility for numerous reasons. First off, he can play both center and guard, which gives you plenty of flexibility. Second, he is only 25, and has the best years of his career in front of him. Third, he is said to be a high-character guy, and you know how the Vikes love those high-character guys.
Jeff Saturday – This name comes up only because of Birk’s uncertain future. I personally don’t see the point of signing a guy who’s a year older than Birk and contributed to one of the weaker run-blocking lines in the league last year. This guy only makes Pro Bowls because he snaps to Peyton Manning. Skip him.
Chris McAlister – Was released by the Ravens as part of their campaign to free up money for Terrell Suggs and Ray Lewis. He can play when he’s healthy but, oh darn, he’s never healthy. And he’s getting up there in years. Maybe he could beat out Cedric Griffin in training camp…but that wouldn’t be saying much, would it?
Jon Stinchcomb – This is where process of elimination gets you after you remove Jordan Gross and Vernon Carey, who both re-upped with their teams. Here’s what I’ll say in Stinchcomb’s favor: I bet he’s better than Ryan Cook. Pretty much anyone would be.
Mark Tauscher, Khalif Barnes, Tra Thomas, Marvel Smith, etc., – This is where process of elimination gets you after everyone worth having is gone. And they’re all better than Ryan Cook. Pretty much anyone but Ryan Cook would be good, is what I’m trying to get across.
Jeff Garcia, Jon Kitna – I’m throwing them in here because of that tiny possibility that the Sage Rosenfels deal could fall through. Both are gritty and tough; neither has long to go before retirement. Garcia is a touch older but still more mobile. Loons who continue to cling to their Brett Favre fantasies need to have it pointed out to them that Brett is not a free agent. The Jets still hold his rights. So he doesn’t belong here.
Justin Griffith – Dumped by the Raiders as part of their purge. Would give the Vikes a better pass catching threat as a fullback, assuming he didn’t get hurt. Who knows – he might even break some tackles and turn those two-yard dump offs into four-yarders.
T.J. Houshmandzadeh - Hold on…didn’t I say they wouldn’t spend big money on Housh so soon after giving huge bucks to Berrian? Yes, I did. But, let’s face it…I’m often wrong. And this is one occasion where being wrong would delight me. So, allow me to indulge, just this once, in a little bit of nonsensical fannish wishful thinking. Mmm…T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Adrian Peterson. Bernard Berrian. Chester Taylor. Visanthe Shiancoe. You have to admit…that would kick ass.
Tags: Add New Tag Baltimore Ravens Benny Sapp Bernard Berrian Brad Childress Brett Favre Cedric Griffin Charles Gordon Chris Mcalister Darren Sharper Dontarrious Thomas E.j. Henderson Ellis Wyms Fred Evans Heath Farwell Indianapolis Colts Jacksonville Jaguars Jason Brown Jeff Garcia Jeff Saturday Jim Kleinsasser Jimmy Kennedy Jon Kitna Jon Stinchcomb Jordan Gross Justin Griffith Khalif Barnes Mark Tauscher Marvel Smith Matt Birk Michael Boulware Mike Tice Napoleon Harris Naufahu Tahi New York Jets Oakland Raiders Peyton Manning Ray Lewis Ryan Cook Sage Rosenfels T.j. Houshmandzadeh Terrell Suggs Thomas Tapeh Tra Thomas Vernon Carey Zygi Wilf