With teams signing players left and right I can feel (and read) Vikings Twitter panicking over the lack of moves. On top of the Vikings remaining quiet, they have lost premier talent in lineback Anthony Barr and defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson. I’m here to (hopefully) help. Here’s what I’m seeing from the Vikings faithful:
“The Vikings don’t have cap space!”
It’s because they already have good players. Yes, Kirk Cousins holds a major cap hit, but the Vikings also pay Stefon Diggs, Danielle Hunter, Harrison Smith, Linval Joseph, Xavier Rhodes and others. These guys cost money and they’re the reason we have high expectations for this team. Most of the teams that are making splash signings do not have the core the Vikings possess. The Vikings drafted well (enough) in recent years, and when that happens you spend money to keep your own. Other teams failed in the draft and thus fill their holes with free agents, which is exciting, but more often than not results in overpayment. Meanwhile the Vikes get to keep Thielen, Kendricks and Hunter on below-market value deals.
Exhibit A., pointed out by Matt Fries on Twitter:
“Za’Darius Smith was drafted one round later than Danielle Hunter in 2015. He has 18.5 career sacks in 4 seasons, as many as Hunter had after 2. He is 2 years older than Hunter. He’s going to make about $2 million more per year.”
“Really, though, thanks for the lack of cap space, Kirk”
We are complaining about not spending, but the reason we cannot is because we spent last year. Also, what else were we supposed to do? The catastrophic knee injury from Teddy Bridgewater set off a chain of events that left the Vikings grasping for straws at the league’s most important position. The Vikings couldn’t afford to groom a rookie or take a chance due to the strength of their roster, so they had to pay above market value for Cousins. The other option (Keenum) was just valued at a 6th round pick in a trade. Cousins gave the Vikings best chance to take this team to the next level and is a top 10-15 option in the league. While we wanted immediate results in Year 1, there are two more years to determine whether this contract was worth it. Things can change quickly.
“The defense is being gutted… What will we do?”
The Patriots let people walk, why can’t we? Everyone goes crazy about how the Patriots replace their impending free agents at a lower cost so that they can collect compensatory picks. (For those who do not know, the NFL distributes 3rd-7th round picks to compensate teams that lose players in free agency. The better the players/higher the contract, the higher the pick). Both Barr and Richardson received major contracts from teams, so expect them to fetch the Vikings two 3rd round picks in 2020 while the team looks for cheaper replacements. What’s wrong with taking a page out of the Patriots’ book?
“The defense is worse, though.. ”
On paper, yes, but it is still one of the league’s best and only has one hole (albeit a big one) that was vacated by Anthony Barr. I am confident that Sheldon Richardson can be replaced by former (and new) Vikings Shamar Stephen and recent draft picks Jaleel Johnson and Jalyn Holmes. Everson Griffen (assuming he stays and can get back to half of what he was) and Danielle Hunter still pose one of the league’s best pass rushes, and we all know the cornerback depth this team boasts. Not to mention, the Vikings will also get their 2018 first-rounder, Mike Hughes, returning from his torn ACL, an addition that won’t show up on the Vikings transaction report. Despite losing premier players, the defense is in good shape with playmakers on every level.
“If you insist we’re so good, is there anything to fix?”
Linebacker, Guards (two of them) and a third receiving option. The Vikings aren’t done making moves and the later days of free agency allow them to truly get players at their market value, which is necessary due to their current salary cap situation. If the Vikings can address these with savvy moves, such as: sign a Pierre Garcon, or trade for the Jets Darron Lee, in addition to adding ANOTHER (I can feel everyone’s eyes roll) depth guard, they will be in good position to address the rest of their needs in the draft. No, they didn’t make the playoffs last year, but I can still confidently look at the core of this roster and recognize this team is plenty good enough to make a run in 2019. Don’t panic they aren’t spending. They already did. They don’t need to sign core players. Theirs is already in place.
PS: Don’t underestimate the potential that Gary Kubiak was the Vikings biggest addition this year.