Most Viking fans have started the painfully familiar annual ritual of looking toward next season. Being the eternal optimist that I am I believe, yet again, that this Vikings team is just a few personnel moves away from being a legitimate playoff contender. That is given that this coaching staff is no longer here of course. Below I have comprised a list of the teams glaring needs and a few options to address each one. I look forward to hearing your responses to this because, like most Viking fans, my favorite topic to discuss is “next year”.
Team Need: Defensive back
One glaring weakness that seems to remain a constant over the past few years is the secondary. The recent additions of CB Xavier Rhodes, and S Harrison Smith are proving to be steps in the right direction, but I’ve got two words for you: Chris Cook. Cook along with Robinson have been torched time and time again by opposing wide-outs, and while both Sanford and Sandejo have shown some bright spots, the verdict is still out on them.
Top Free Agents
-Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (Denver)
Cromartie has been nicked up this season, but has still made the most out of his 1 year contract with the Broncos. Opposing QB’s have completed just 28 passes against him all season, on 62 attempts. Completely different kind of DB than Rhodes, their styles would compliment nicely.
-Brent Grimes (Miami)
Grimes had a nasty Achilles injury in 2012, leading to the Dolphins signing him for just 1 year. He has come back from the injury and had a stellar year in Miami. Most teams would jump at the chance to re-sign a player like this, but with all the blockbuster moves this team has made recently I don’t think they have it in the budget to offer Grimes the payday he is due. Would love to see this guy in purple next season!
-E.J. Gaines (Missouri)
Gaines stands 5’11, and weighs in at 194 lbs. The Vikings would be getting a gem n the 3rd round if they were to select this kid, who registered 68 tackles, 4 picks, and a couple of defensed passes. He has good size and speed (4.5), and would be a great compliment to Rhodes skill set.
Team Need: Interior DL
The defensive line as a whole in Minnesota was nothing short of a letdown in 2013, especially on the interior. Kevin Williams had one great game against the Redskins, but has not been the same force he was a few years ago. He says he wants to return for one more season in purple, I’m undecided on if this would be a good idea at a bargain rate, but either way we know he is on the way out. Letroy Guion and Fred Evans have been nearly non-existent, and both should seek employment elsewhere.
Top Free agents
-Tony McDaniel (Seattle)
While I believe this is a need that should be filled via the 2014 draft, I would not be upset if they brought in this tough DT from Seattle. So far McDaniel has registered 49 tackles and 2 sacks. He has enough years in the league to bring veteran experience, yet is young enough to be in his prime.
-Louis Nix (Notre Dame)
Everybody has the Vikings taking a QB with their first round pick, I on the other hand do not believe there is a QB in this draft that is good enough to warrant a top 10 pick. That said, the DT position was so weak that I believe another first round tackle is exactly the way to go. There isn’t a better defensive lineman in this draft than Nix who is just BRUTAL against the run, and very rarely let’s a player get past the point of attack. Nix would be a perfect compliment to 2013 first rounder Shariff Floyd. That coupled with Spielman’s propensity to draft players out of South Bend and I believe the Vikings have their #1 pick right here.
Team Need: Quarterback
I know, you probably think I’m crazy for thinking we need a QB with all the stellar talent they have at the position right now. But I’m going out on a limb and saying that Ponder may not be the first round talent that most of us knew he wasn’t from the beginning. Matt Cassel is great at the art of deception, he comes in relief of an injured Ponder and lights things up giving us all hope, and then the next week I can’t tell the difference between the two. I’m not sure if it was the management or the coaches that squandered the Freeman pick up, but I knew that the powers that be threw in the towel on the 2013 campaign after that Monday night game where they had Freeman, who hadn’t even been in Winter Park long enough to find the restroom, not only start the game but attempt 53 passes. I wouldn’t mind seeing the team draft a QB for the future, but there just aren’t any in my opinion that are good enough for a top 10 pick. Instead of seeing them throw another QB to the wolves next season I would like to see them bring in a good veteran that can actually bring this team some wins while they groom the QB of the future.
Top Free Agents
-Josh McCown (Chicago)
The veteran journeyman QB is at the tail end of his career, but has proven that he is more than capable of starting at the NFL level with his impressive run when he took the reigns from Jay Cutler who was banged up all season. In fact I would venture to say that had Trestman stuck with McCown the Bears would be in the postseason. McCown has something the Vikings sorely need, ball security. Ponder and Cassel each threw 9 picks in 2013, McCown just 1. One of the things that impressed me most about McCown was his leadership on the sideline after Cutler returned. He would be a perfect stop-gap option until the QB of the future is ready to start.
–Mike Vick (Philadelphia)
Vick last really impressed football minds in 2010, which was arguably his best season, completing 63% of his passes and throwing 21 touchdowns to only 6 picks. His career in Philly slowly fizzled away along with his pass protection. I believe a huge part of his decline was due to him running scared after all the vicious hits we saw him take over the last couple seasons. He became a turn-over machine trying to get the ball out of his hands before he got hit and making bad decisions, but I believe that with good pass protection, and an offensive scheme that doesnt require him to do more than he is capable of, that he still has a few more miles in the tank. He also brings a veteran savvy and knowledge to help groom the QB of the future.
-Teddy Bridgewater (Louisville)
With Mariota announcing he will return to Oregon (Why, I have no idea..that hasn’t panned out to well for other QBs that have done the same) the most coveted QB in this draft class I would imagine is Bridgewater. He will be a top 10 pick, and I wouldn’t be too disappointed if he somehow ended up in purple. That said I think he is a bit over-rated and I personally would not use even a top 20 pick on him. Bridgewater has a good skill set, but not a great one. He doesn’t have the athleticism of a Cam Newton or RGIII, or the passing ability of a Stafford or Luck. His arm strength is decent but not eye-popping. He does a lot of things well but nothing great. Maybe with the right coaching and some time to sit behind a seasoned veteran he could develop into a franchise QB at the NFL level.
-A.J. McCarron (Alabama)
Rather than using their first round pick on a reach like Bridgewater or Boyd, I believe the Vikings would be much better off going after McCarron with their second round pick. A lot of folks are not as high on him as me, and I will admit there are some question marks with his arm strenth, but this kid is much more suited to be successful at the pro level than previous Alabama game manager QB’s like McElroy. He knows how to take care of the ball and makes good decisions, boasting a lofty 67% in completions and 26 TD’s to just 5 picks in 2013. Not only will he not lose the game for you, but he brings along a winning pedigree the likes of which are very rare.
Team Need: Defensive End
Jared Allen has most likely played his last game in purple. His play has declined rapidly in the past few years, so much so that he was almost a complete non-factor in 2013 a majority of the sacks he accumulated in 2013 came in garbage time, and I think the Vikings made a mistake not pulling the trigger on a trade that would have at least got something in return for the $17,000,000 man. But that’s in the past, now they need to address the vacncy left at the position.
Top Free Agents
-Greg Hardy (Carolina)
In my opinion he is the best player in all of free agency this year. This man is some sort of monster. After seeing what 69 gave the team for $17 million I cringe a little to think of breaking the bank on another DE, and breaking the bank will be required to get this mans services. I think he would be worth every penny if somehow Spielman was able to yank him away from Carolina. In just his fourth season the 25 year old racked up 59 tackles and a whopping 15 sacks, and even those numbers don’t reflect what a disturbance he is. Hardy would make a great centerpiece for this defense for years to come.
-Everson Griffen (Minnesota)
Should the Vikings not be able to acquire a beast like Hardy, they need not venture too far to find a good option in free agency. It’s been a treat to watch Griffens growth with the Vikings, from being a gunner on punt returns to rotating in behind Jared Allen and Brian Robison he has made the most of every minute he has been on the field. Also a young buck, just finishing his fourth season, Griffen has shown us explosive play making abilities and a great understanding of rushing the passer. I see no reason why Everson Griffen would not be a quality starter for the Vikings next season.
-Stephon Tuitt (Notre Dame)
Barring another blockbuster trade it’s safe to say that Clowny will be off the board by the time the Vikings are on the clock. That said I think Clowny is slightly overrated and is still riding the wave from that devastating hit that was #1 on every highlight show for months. So again, I turn to Notre Dame for a quality defensive player. If he declares I believe that Tuitt will be the best DE in the draft. This kid is a high motor guy with great athletic ability and a knack for not only hitting opposing QB’s but taking the ball away from them as well. If the Vikings are looking to address this need in the draft I believe Tuitt would be a perfect fit.
There are quite a few other areas that could use an upgrade on this team, but in my eyes these are the most pressing. I would love to hear your ideas in the comments!