Pioneer-Press writer Jeremy Fowler just passed along the Geoff Schwartz contract details. The Vikings got the former Panthers offensive lineman on a one-year deal that maxes out at $1.5 million and includes a tiny $150,000 signing bonus. That for a guy who has a legitimate shot to win the starting right guard job in camp.
Some will call this another el cheapo signing by Rick Spielman but I call it a solid move. Forget about Schwartz’s injury problems from 2011 cause he’s over that. Go back to 2010 when he was developing into one of the better guards in the league. If he picks up where he left off? The Vikings will have themselves a top 10 performer at right guard. That’s not hyperbole. Read what the experts at Pro Football Focus said about Schwartz in their run down of potential free agent bargains:
When the Carolina Panthers opted against tendering Schwartz, there was a collective gasp from the PFF team. Sure Ron Rivera wasn’t in charge when Schwartz managed to finish 2010 with a PFF grade of +12.3 despite playing two positions, but it wouldn’t have been hard to watch some tapes and see he’s got more talent than anything they can currently put out on the right side of their line. Schwartz offers the kind of versatility and talent that brings to mind a poor man’s Marshal Yanda; good enough to make him the best right tackle available and possibly the best value guard too. He has a very real chance to be this year’s Evan Mathis for a team with a diligent scouting department.
It’s Schwartz’s versatility that really makes this a potentially great move for the Vikings. Even if he doesn’t win the right guard job, he gives you a solid back-up at two positions. His ability to play right tackle also opens up the intriguing possibility of him taking over for Phil Loadholt at some point if Loadholt struggles. Loadholt is young and talented but in my mind he still has a lot to prove. If Schwartz’s presence in camp pushes Loadholt to get better? That’s added value.
Some fans may lament what they perceive as cheapness from the Vikings this offseason but I think Rick Spielman has earned a pat on the back for seeking out these low-risk, potentially high-reward propositions. If it works out with Schwartz, who by the way is only 25, you could wind up with a very good starter at right guard for the next 5-7 years, provided he doesn’t bolt after his one-year deal expires. If it doesn’t work out? You lose almost nothing.
Spielman has yet to make a big, splashy move as a GM but he’s pulled off two or three smaller deals that have a good chance of improving the team for not just the near term but the long term. They’re getting younger and they may actually be getting better, at least in small ways. If they win big on draft day, the Vikings stand a decent chance of turning things around in our lifetimes.