As every Viking fan knows, the team hasn’t exactly had an exciting free agency period. But they did make a couple of potentially good signings, emphasis on “potentially.” Here’s how the various moves grade out in my humble estimation:
The notion of pairing Carlson with Kyle Rudolph to create a two-headed tight end monster looks good on paper, but as any cliche-spewing idiot TV analyst can tell you, games aren’t played on paper. The Vikings were supposed to get tons of production from their tight ends last year but it never materialized. If Bill Musgrave can get his two tight end attack rolling, the Carlson signing will look good. If not? Well, at least give the Vikings credit for covering themselves. Carlson’s 5-year, $25 million deal looked risky to begin with but when the contract’s full terms were released, turned out the Vikings had given themselves an out after two years. So if Carlson bombs, at least they won’t be stuck with him long. He’s younger than Visanthe Shiancoe and might be a slightly better blocker.
Like Carlson, Schwartz missed the entire 2011 season with injury. Unlike Carlson, he was only given a one-year deal. With that deal came the promise of a chance to start, which is why Schwartz chose the Vikings over his other suitors. This to me was a better signing than the Carlson deal for a number of reasons. One, it’s only a one year deal. Two, it’s for a lot less money. Three, Schwartz has way more upside than Carlson. If Carlson tops out he’ll be a nice complement to Kyle Rudolph. If Schwartz, who was on his way to becoming a Pro Bowler with Carolina before the injury slowed him, tops out? He’ll be, well, a Pro Bowler. Again, this move is all about risk vs. reward. In this case, the risk is very low and the potential reward is very high. Hard to be negative about this signing even if it’s not a big name.
The Vikings got next to nothing last year from Lorenzo Booker. As the season wore on it became increasingly clear that there just wasn’t a role for Booker in the offense. The Vikes didn’t need a small, shifty third down back with receiving skills. It didn’t help Booker’s cause that he fumbled a lot and made some dumb decisions on kick returns. So Booker wasn’t tendered as an RFA, allowing him to walk. The Vikings then brought in Lex Hilliard, a guy with much more potential value. He can block some, he can run some, he can catch some, and he’s a solid special teams contributor. Perhaps the best thing about him? He’s a legit short yardage back, unlike Toby Gerhart. He’ll be in the mix for the third RB job behind AD and Toby.
Ryan D’Imperio improved as a lead blocker over the course of the season but maybe the Vikings want more from their fullback than just lead blocking. Felton brings more to the table as a ball carrier than D’Imperio. But his main job will be blocking. The Vikings are trying to figure out ways to replace Jim Kleinsasser, who lined up as a fullback and H-back as well as at tight end.
This is all about scheme. Bowman is experienced in the Cover-2 and that’s why the Vikings valued him. They didn’t value him much though as evidenced by the contract he got ($615,000 for the season with no bonus). The hope with Bowman is that he’ll push Asher Allen down one spot on the depth chart. Ideally, the Vikes will start the year with Chris Cook, Antoine Winfield and a newly-drafted rookie as their top three corners.
Erin griped a little about not being re-signed right away but that was just a Twitter tempest in a teapot. Clearly there was no great market for his services, or he wouldn’t have come back on a one-year deal. If Erin continues on the upward curve he rode last year, he’ll be a steal at $2 million for one year. Then next year he can go someplace and score a big contract.
They wanted Pierre Garcon but couldn’t afford him. When the initial feeding frenzy settled, they looked around at the remaining wide receivers and decided Devin Aromashodu would have to Aromasho-do. Sorry.
He likes it in Minnesota. They like the way he works with the young quarterbacks. He seems like a nice guy.
We’re still waiting for Letroy Guion to realize the potential we’re always being told he has. Maybe this will be the year. Or maybe Christian Ballard will take his job by mid-season. The Vikings are really hoping Guion catches on, or the 3-year/$9 million deal they gave him will look kind of silly.
They dumped Remi Ayodele and kept Fred Evans. Net gain. Fred needs to work on not jumping offsides.
Grade: B- (cause it got rid of Remi Ayodele)
Overall Vikings Free Agency Grade
In all honesty, so many of these contracts are flier contracts, who knows what the grade should be? In two years we might look back and think Rick Spielman is a genius. Might.