Today marks the one week mark in the NFL’s new league year checking off seven full days of free agent frenzy and nonstop breaking news. Through six of those seven days, it’s probably safe to say that Vikings fans were fairly bitter about the moves, or lack thereof, that their team was making. With certain needs glaring crystal clear when the bell rang last week, fans started crossing names off their wish lists as other teams began snapping them up. Opponents throughout the league and in Minnesota’s own division began making improvements throughout their roster, and the Vikings were seemingly getting passed by.
Look back at the events of the past week with me quickly. Right off the bat, Matt Kalil signs with the Panthers trimming the Vikings offensive line even thinner. Following suit were Charles Johnson, Rhett Ellison, Jeff Locke, Audie Cole, Cordarrelle Patterson, Captain Munnerlyn and Andre Smith who all opted to sign deals with other teams ending their various stints in Minnesota.
Meanwhile, through the first five days of free agency the Vikings landed LT Riley Reiff who on the surface was seemingly their second (maybe third) option, depth lineman Jeremiah Sirles and journeyman RT Mike Remmers. It wasn’t a terrible start to free agency but man did it leave a lot to be desired for a team that had an immediate need to make improvements.
So now I ask you this. Two days later, is it time to start feeling a little bit better about the Minnesota Vikings work in the 2017 Free Agency?
The thought here is two-fold.
Starting with the obvious, surface level take, they actually went out and nabbed a few players that appear as if they’ll help this team right away. Look back to Tuesday afternoon when the Vikings announced they had reached a deal with DE Datone Jones. A LB with the Packers, Jones plans to pack on a few pounds to return to defensive line and the Vikings could plan to slide him inside as another option at defensive tackle given the lingering knee issues that are continuing to hamper Sharrif Floyd. Remember also that last year we saw a few times where Brian Robison slide to the inside DT position and the DT slid outside. With Datone Jones’ outside rushing skills and experience, this could be an interesting curveball for Zimmer to mix in from time to time.
Then yesterday happened. It started pretty hot and heavy when the team announced they had reached a new contract agreement with wide receiver Adam Thielen. A 3-year, $27 million contract with $11 million guaranteed. A solid number two with potential to grow his role even further as the offense develops further.
It wasn’t too long after that when we learned that cornerback Terence Newman was coming back for another stint in Minnesota bringing back much needed veteran leadership to the Vikings defense. Newman is expected to back up Trae Waynes at corner but remember back a year ago to the discussions we were having about Newman shifting back to play safety alongside Harrison Smith and further understand the potential value that bringing Terence back for another year could bring.
Then came the middle of the night signing of running back Latavius Murray. We knew he was visiting, the length of the meeting implied that the conversation was going well and then at 12:47am the team made the signing official on Twitter. With Murray comes a 6’3” power running back tipping the scales at 230 lbs. Furthermore, he brings a moderate level of pass catching and an above average skill set when it comes to pass blocking, improvements on both fronts over the previous back. Now let’s dig a little deeper yet, below the surface benefits for Murray include ball protection, tackle breaking ability and maybe most important the fact that the Vikings don’t have to use a high round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft on a running back freeing up those selections to bolster their other needs.
Looking at it through the lenses laid out above you start to see a bit of a different picture of the Vikings level of success in free agency. Admittedly on paper, they’ve improved their defensive line, improved their offensive line and improved their running back. On top of that they added depth and most assuredly are not done working yet.
Maybe, just maybe, while we were all freaking out about missing out on guys like Okung, Zeitler and Whitworth the Vikings were running their plan, being thorough and landing the guys that they actually wanted. You know, guys that fit the scheme, fit the work environment and fit the salary cap along the way.
It hasn’t been earth shattering but think about it a little differently and it might be time to start looking a little different at the Vikings 2017 Free Agency.