Apr 26, 2012; Eden Prairie, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman addresses the media as he introduces the 2013 1st round draft picks at a press conference at Winter Park. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports
With some of the last few higher profile free agents signing in the last couple of days, NFL free agency is probably headed for stagnancy in the coming weeks, as teams focus their attention to younger and cheaper players entering the NFL Draft.
Now that the major waves of free agency are over with, how does the Vikings free agent class of 2014 look?
For a complete list and breakdown of every Vikings signing this offseason, as well as what needs the team still has, check below. Signings are listed by whether the incoming player will step in as a starter, likely be competing for a starting job, or will simply provide depth for the team.
Everson Griffen, DE – 5 years, $42.5 million
Linval Joseph, DT – 5 years, $31.5 million
Captain Munnerlyn – 3 years, $11.25 million
Griffen was the team’s biggest signing of the offseason, and now it’s up to him to show he can live up to all that money and an expanded role in the defense. Joseph is a massive, run-stuffing tackle who fills a huge (pun intended) need for the Vikings as nose tackle. Munnerlyn is already being touted as the successor to Antoine Winfield due to his tackling ability, and should provide stability for one of the league’s worst secondaries in 2013.
Starters (For Now):
Matt Cassel, QB – 2 years, $10.5 million
Charlie Johnson, OG – 2 years, $5 million
Cassel was an adequate starter for the Vikings in 2013, and he’ll likely enter training camp this year competing with a rookie for the starting job. Johnson received a nice contract that would seem to indicate he’s a starter, but the Vikings have plenty of depth at the position now so he’ll have to prove he’s the man for the job again.
Coorey Wootton, DE/DT – 1 year, $1.5 million
Marcus Sherels, CB – 2 years, $2.2 million
Fred Evans, DT – 1 year, $1 million
Jerome Simpson, WR – 1 year, $1 million
Larry Dean, 2 years, $2 million
Tom Johnson, DE/DT – 1 year, $845,000
Jasper Brinkley, LB – 1 year, $830,000
Vlad Ducasse, OG – 1 year, $730,000
Joe Berger, OG/C – 1 year, $635,000
Derek Cox, CB – 1 year, $570,000
Wootton and Evans will still likely see plenty of snaps this season, as Mike Zimmer likes to rotate his defensive lineman. Sherels was one of the best punt returners in the NFL last season, but he is still a defensive liability and his roster spot is by no means secure. Simpson should be a nice fit in Norv Turner’s vertical offense as a third or fourth receiver provided he stays out of trouble off the field. Dean is a special teams player who should not see many snaps on defense. Berger was the team’s swing lineman on the interior last year, but 2013 sixth round pick Jeff Baca will battle him for that job this year. Johnson, Brinkley, Ducassee, and Cox should all provide veteran competition in training camp and will battle with younger players for roster spots.
Vikings Remaining Top 5 Needs:
QB, CB, LB, FS, RB
The Vikings primary remaining need, as if most people didn’t already know, is at quarterback. While Matt Cassel is a good stopgap option, the team needs a younger signal caller that could possibly lead the franchise into the future. The team has already talked to several of the top prospects at this position in the draft, and will be talking to several more over the coming weeks.
While Captain Munnerlyn should start opposite Xavier Rhodes and then move inside in nickel, the Vikings still need a dependable third corner, especially since they were in nickel packages approximately two-thirds of the time in 2013. This is definitely a position the team could go after early in the draft.
The Vikings could use some more athleticism at linebacker, but it is hard to tell how committed this team is to upgrading this position given the state of their current roster. Chad Greenway had a bad 2013, but he was playing with a broken wrist and had sub-par pieces around him. The team also has three young linebackers in Audie Cole, Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges and may want to see what they can do on the field.
While the Vikings have Harrison Smith on their roster, he has performed much better so far in his career in the box than out in coverage. None of the other safeties on the Vikings roster perform well in coverage either, and Smith could use a long term partner on the back end of the Vikings defense. This is a relatively weak free safety class in the draft though, so it would not be surprising if the Vikings passed on taking one.
Adrian Peterson isn’t getting any younger, and the Vikings lost a very valuable backup, Toby Gerhart, in free agency. With Adrian Peterson getting older, the new coaching regime has already stated they want to reduce the amount of hits he takes, which could mean giving another back a few carries each game. Does the team trust in-house options like Matt Asiata or Joe Banyard could turn into a complementary back? Norv Turner could also want to add more of a third-down type back for his system (one that has good pass protection and receiving skills).
After all of their moves, the Vikings still currently are $12 million under the cap, according to Spotrac. The team will likely use around half of that space signing their drafted players. After that the team will likely just hold onto that money to sign some lower tier free agents that are still left on the market or to work on an extension with tight end Kyle Rudolph that could be completed some time during the season.
What do you think about what the Vikings did this offseason? And what positions do they still need to improve? Sound off in the comments or talk to me on Twitter @Goatman102!