Oct 13, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings tackle Charlie Johnson (74) blocks against the Carolina Panthers in the first quarter at Mall of America Field at H.H.H. Metrodome. Panthers win 35-10. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports
Charlie Johnson’s contract voided the Friday after the Super Bowl, making him a free agent.
When the dust had settled on the early stages of free agency, and the Vikings looked around for a veteran guard, they couldn’t find anyone any better than the guy they had allowed to walk.
So, the Vikings brought back Charlie Johnson on a two-year, $5 million contract.
Johnson was undoubtedly the weak link on the offensive line last year, a liability in pass protection and barely adequate in run blocking.
The move to retain him may frustrate some fans who were looking for an upgrade there, but clearly the Vikings had other priorities in the first days of free agency.
Trust me, the Vikings have no interest in leaving Johnson at left guard a second longer than they need to. They just weren’t going to break the bank bringing in a replacement.
Johnson is the veteran guy who fills that position until a young player can be developed to take his place. Jeff Baca is the most obvious option currently on the roster, but the Vikings could also look to the draft.
The team’s philosophy for several years now has been to draft developmental players at the guard and center spots and let them grow into starters with veterans as insurance.
This plan worked with John Sullivan, who initially was behind Matt Birk. It worked for Brandon Fusco who initially was paired with Geoff Schwartz.
They’ll try it again at left guard, possibly drafting someone in the middle rounds. Maybe Billy Turner, a promising North Dakota State prospect who drew attention from the Vikings at the Senior Bowl.
Johnson brings a bit of extra value as he can also play tackle.
Had Johnson by some miracle scored a deal elsewhere, the Vikings were prepared to kick the tires on a bunch of second-tier free agents including Daryn Colledge, Vlad Ducasse and Travelle Wharton.