Sam Cowart – LB (2005)
The Vikings 2005 season was an unintentionally pivotal one for the course of the team’s history. Prior to the season beginning, franchise cornerstone Randy Moss was jettisoned to the Oakland Raiders for a first-round pick and a flunkie linebacker.
And then during the season, Minnesota quarterback Daunte Culpepper would shred his knee in a game against the Carolina Panthers when cornerback Chris Gamble delivered a franchise-altering blow.
In the same offseason that saw Moss leave town, former Buffalo Bills and New York Jets linebacker Sam Cowart signed with the Vikings.
That particular Vikings team turned out to be bogus, but Cowart actually performed quite well. He contributed 84 total tackles which led all purple and gold linebackers. It was second on the team to tackling guru Antoine Winfield.
Cowart added seven tackles for loss (also second on the team behind only Lance Johnstone) and two sacks. “Bright spot” might be overly-optimistic phrasing, but Cowart was a sound free-agent addition for Minnesota.
The Vikings moved on from the 30-year-old following the season. Cowart would head to Houston and assume the role of starting middle linebacker, but that never happened. He was injured before the season began and his career was kaput at age 31. His absence from the Texans gave rise to a rookie named DeMeco Ryans, a man that would go on to evolve into an All-Pro.