2013 Team Needs: Minnesota Vikings
The 2012 season for the Minnesota Vikings surpassed almost everyone’s expectations. After having a franchise worst 3-13 record in 2011, the Vikings opened 2012 going 4-1, which included an impressive defeat of the 49ers. The Vikings struggled in the middle of the season, but closed out December by winning their final four games against the league’s toughest remaining schedule, en route to a 10-6 record and the final wildcard spot in the NFC.
Adrian Peterson had one of the all-time great rushing seasons, made especially impressive since he was coming off major reconstructive knee surgery. This highlighted not only the amazing talents of AP himself, but also the improved run blocking he received from his offensive line and tight ends, as well as the contributions of newcomers Jerome Felton and Rhett Ellison.
The Vikings have shown over the past two years under GM Rick Spielman that they are mostly interested in building their team through the draft, using free agency to supplement the squad with mostly inexpensive players. Their only big ticket signing over this time period was TE John Carlson, who was a major disappointment in his first year with the team.
With that said, here are some free agents who may interest the team as they strive to get better.
This is by far the weakest unit on the team, and without Percy Harvin, possibly the weakest unit in the NFL regardless of position. The Vikings are committed to Christian Ponder at quarterback, at least for another year, and so must get him some receiving help in the offseason.
Once Harvin was lost to injury, the Vikings fielded Jerome Simpson, Michael Jenkins, Devin Aromashodu, Stephen Burton and Jarius Wright. Naturally it didn’t go well, with the unit combining for a PFF passing grade of -16.5. Harvin himself managed a +16.5 score.
To show how reliant Minnesota was on Harvin for yardage, consider that he managed 2.56 yards per route run, while Simpson (1.05) and Jenkins (1.03) barely broke the 1 yard mark. Furthermore, while the rookie, Wright, intrigued at times he did not show enough to let the Vikings gamble at this position.
Free Agent Fix: Greg Jennings
How much would that hurt the Packers? Seeing a guy who contributed to them for so long wearing the colors of a divisional rival… again (remember that Favre guy?). Jennings isn’t coming off his best year, with injury limiting him and then finding his role diminishing (his 1.28 yards per route run was 0.79 less than a year before), but his play toward the back end of the season (particularly in the Week 17 encounter against Minnesota) shows he can still get it done. Christian Ponder isn’t a guy who wants to overly stretch the field, so finding guys who can operate all over it, will make his life a lot easier.
In his first season starting Jasper Brinkley failed to impress. He missed too many tackles (21) and is a liability in pass coverage, which carries added importance in their Cover-2 defense. His 6.81% first down allowed percentage per snap in coverage was sixth-worst out of all linebackers, playing a big part in him not being able to maintain an every-down role.
His work in run defense wasn’t at a level that would allow you to look past this weakness and be happy with him in a two-down role, and with Erin Henderson poised for free agency the Vikings are left looking extremely thin at linebacker.
Free Agent Fix: Brad Jones
Stealing another Packer? Why not? Jones has emerged from being a failed 3-4 outside linebacker into something of a stud in the middle, someone who the Packers entrusted with an every-down role. With Henderson looking to move on, and Brinkley not cutting it, Jones could fit in at outside linebacker or in the middle, while becoming an every-down linebacker. He was our 10th-ranked inside linebacker last year with positives in the run game and in coverage.
The Vikings still have a strong defensive line, but have sorely missed Pat Williams’ presence since his retirement a few years back. The onus fell on Letroy Guion to step up and replace him, but he just hasn’t been able to, earning every bit of his -11.1 grade this year. Sure, Minnesota got some excellent play from Fred Evans in relief, but with Kevin Williams not the player he once was, they can’t afford to carry a passenger next to him much longer.
Free Agent Fix: Vance Walker
While he’s not a player on the radar of a lot of fans, Vance Walker who took full advantage of an increased role for himself this year. The Falcon finished 17th overall in our defensive tackle rankings, grading positively in every area, and walking away with a 6.7 Run Stop Percentage that ranked 22nd in the league. That may not ‘wow’ you, but it’s a stark upgrade on the 5.4% from Guion.