As a person who spends much of his day refreshing Rotoworld over-and-over I can safely say one thing about this year’s free agency build-up: There is almost no buzz whatsoever around the Vikings. Pick a big name free agent and look through the articles on them. Can you find a Viking mention in any of the speculation? There’s been a tiny bit of buzz about Vincent Jackson, but with so many teams in on him, the chances of the Vikings winning that bidding war look extremely remote to say the least. Ditto Cortland Finnegan. Brandon Carr generated some heat early on but to go by the experts he’s not in the mix either. Either the Vikings are playing things really close to the vest, or they’re just not planning to be big players in free agency this year.
If the Vikings do bow out on the big names, it won’t be for lack of cap space. By last count they had around $23 million to play with, and there was still a chance for them to free up more space by restructuring a couple contracts. You’d figure with that much flexibility they could at least make a play for a top wide receiver or cornerback. The problem is that, this year, there are lots of teams with lots of cap space. A lot of big numbers are going to fly around. One or two guys are going to get really inflated contracts. The kind of contracts that two years from now will have people saying, “What the heck were those guys thinking when they gave him that much money?”
The Vikings have given out their share of such contracts in the past. Fred Smoot was arguably the biggest free agency goof-up, and then there was Bernard Berrian, who comes in at least a close second. Those debacles are probably the best arguments you can make for taking the frugal approach. The question has to be asked though: Why clear the cap space if you’re not planning on using it? The answer is, the Vikings probably are planning on using it, just not on the big names.
I don’t need to inform you that the Vikings have a lot of needs. When you have a lot of needs, the prudent approach is probably not to blow all your cap space on one or two guys. Instead you’ll want to spread that money around to several lower-priced guys who can be at least slight upgrades over what you ran out there last year. I do think the Vikings will sign multiple free agents, I just don’t think the names will be ones we’re all that familiar with. And I think the players signed will all be pretty young and have some upside.
This prudent, multiple-need-filling approach may disappoint those hoping for a Vincent Jackson or a Cortland Finnegan, but I’m guessing the true wonks won’t be too upset. Wonks love it when lesser guys get targeted. “I’ve had my eye on Laurent Robinson all this time!” That’s wonk nirvana. Brodrick Bunkley? Who ever heard of him? Tom Pelissero did, and so did your weird friend who has trouble making eye contact. Rick Spielman strikes me as the wonky type, so maybe he’s got a few of these lesser names on his radar screen. It might not be a blockbuster free agency period for the Vikings, but for the Rotoworld refreshers at least, it could be a highly intriguing one.