What the Vikings must do in free agency
By Adam Elenz
Feb 21, 2013; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman speaks at a press conference during the 2013 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
The first day of free agency has come to an end, and in typical fashion, things have been less than exciting for Vikings fans. Well for the most part. Losing Percy Harvin and Antoine Winfield certainly affects the team a great deal, but you can’t really call either of those things exciting news. Sure the Vikes have resigned Phil Loadholt, Jamarca Sanford, Jerome Felton, and others (could I care less about Jerome Simpson?) but what fans are looking for in free agency is big name, big time players getting signed to big money deals and coming in as game-changers, not just as another guy at a given position.
This is where the Vikings have never truly delivered. In the Rick Spielman era the Vikings have gone with the tried and true method of building through the draft, and plugging in a few players here and there with free agency. The 2012 season was a perfect example of this philosophy. Very little was done in free agency, whereas the draft was used to fill a number of key positions with players that will likely spend a long time in Minnesota. This brings me to my point. I’ve been on board with the Spielman way of doing things up until now. Maybe I still am, but that depends on what happens in the next two days. Let me explain:
A few months ago, after the Vikings had made it to the playoffs, Spielman was being ripped in the media and among the fan base for two things: not providing an adequate backup quarterback, and not bringing in any good (or even average) receivers. Sure it’s easy to complain about these things when your team is in the playoffs and everything rests on those two parts of the team. But think about the quarterback position at the beginning of the season. This was a team that just went 3-13, and was undeniably in rebuilding mode. Would you go with three young, talented, athletic QB’s, or would you get rid of one of those guys for a vet who will never be anything more than a backup? I personally was all in favor of cutting Sage Rosenfels (as much as I like him) and keeping Joe Webb and Mclead Bethel-Thompson, two guys who have their whole careers ahead of them, and presumably nowhere to go but up.
On the second point, the lack of receivers, let’s not forget that Spielman did try to address this as well. In free agency he picked up Jerome Simpson and John Carlson, two guys who could have really helped out the passing game. Unfortunately neither worked out. Then in the draft the Vikes picked up Greg Childs and Jarius Wright, another pair of potential playmakers that could help the Vikings abysmal passing game. One was an utter failure due to injury, and the other was just mediocre in what playing time he had. So to recap, that’s four guys who could theoretically catch a ball, and make an impact. There’s only so much money you can spend on free agents, and you only have so many draft picks, so bringing in four new guys on a team that had so many needs seems to be reasonable. Unfortunately none of them worked out as planned, but you can’t blame Spielman for not trying… although so many people do.
What does this have to do with free agency this year you might ask? Let me reiterate that, putting emotions aside, I think the way that the receiver and quarterback situations were handled last year was the way to go. Sure, it didn’t work out, and we all know that hindsight is 20/20, but given the way things were going into the 2012 season, it was what most of us would have done. But now it’s 2013 and things are different. The Vikings are a playoff team that has just been weakened by the loss of two great playmakers. No doubt we’ll find some good players in the draft that can immediately step in and make a difference, but that won’t be enough. Given the situation the Vikes are in right now, they need to make a move in free agency. I’m thinking receiver. They need to begin to replace the gaping hole in the offense that was left by Percy Harvin, and it’s not something that can be done in the draft, certainly not with all the other needs the Vikings still have to fill. Taking Greg Jennings from our division rivals would be a good start…
It’s time for the Vikings to break their trend of mostly disregarding free agency and relying on the draft to build a team. If they want to compete for a division title, and ultimately a Super Bowl, there are just too many things they need. Go out and get a name like Greg Jennings, or anyone for that matter, just do something. If there was ever a time it’d be now, where there’s a solid, young team that’s just a few big playmakers away from being a true Super Bowl contender.