The Vikings may not be big players in free agency this offseason. But they’ve made a couple of splashy moves – one of course being a fairly big trade you may have heard about – and some smaller ones that have helped shore up the roster. Let’s run down five ways the Vikings have improved themselves thus far.
5. They got better by standing pat.
Sometimes the best way to improve is just to stand pat. Stick with players who have shown improvement and will presumably continue to grow. The Vikings kept a couple guys who arguably fit under this heading. Phil Loadholt still has some developing to do at right tackle and will be around to continue learning. Jamarca Sanford showed marked improvement last season and will still be in the mix at safety. And Erin Henderson arguably could become a better linebacker with some more seasoning. If those three guys continue on an upward track, the team will only get better.
4. They signed a legit backup QB.
Matt Cassel is a major upgrade from Joe Webb. There is just no arguing that. Webb is not a legit NFL backup and Cassel is. Hopefully this one won’t matter much though. Hopefully Christian Ponder will play well and stay healthy, keeping Cassel on the bench. But if Cassel has to come in, at least he gives the offense a fighting chance. You couldn’t say that with Webb.
3. They moved on from Jasper Brinkley.
Brinkley got a chance to start all last season and only seemed to regress. His tackling went from poor to woeful and his coverage was just brutal. He is simply not a good player and the Vikings were right to let him walk. Addition by subtraction. And they can use a draft pick on a middle linebacker now and maybe get some more playmaking ability into that defense. Brinkley at his best was only serviceable.
2. They rescued Christian Ponder from Percy Harvin.
You can have a pretty spirited argument about whether it helps or hurts the team to move on from Percy Harvin. From an on-field point-of-view I don’t know how you can argue that it helps. It’s never good to lose a player of that caliber. But from a chemistry point-of-view I think it probably helps. It certainly will help Christian Ponder’s psyche. I don’t think he and Percy were a good mix temperamentally. Percy likes challenging people and needs a QB who will put him in his place. Ponder I don’t think has the personality for that kind of thing. It was never going to work with those two.
1. They got a true outside receiving threat.
Yes they lose quite a bit by trading away Percy Harvin. They lose that amazing playmaking ability and versatility and just flat-out excitement factor. But by signing Greg Jennings I think they gain something arguably just as important. They gain a guy who does the one thing Percy Harvin really didn’t do. That’s work outside the numbers. Jennings is not a pure downfield guy but he’s a true craftsman at receiver who runs his routes precisely and knows how to work the outside. Ponder needed a receiver who knows how to get separation on the outside where it’s tougher to deliver the ball accurately. So yes they lose that home run threat in Harvin but they gain a guy who will probably help out Ponder a lot more. Maybe he’ll even work with Ponder on the back shoulder throw. Goodness knows Jennings caught enough of those from Aaron Rodgers. He must know a few things about throwing them.