By all accounts it would appear that the Minnesota Vikings have primarily wrapped up their planned moves for Free Agency 2017. Sure there will be some additions after rosters shift around following the draft and in the months before the 2017 season actually kicks off. But for now, with the initial waves of Free Agency past us, the Vikings look to be done.
So that brings us today’s topic, an interesting thing to ponder since none of the new guys have stepped foot on the practice field and none of the old guys have laced them up next to their new found teammates, but let’s tackle it anyways. Of the carry over players from last year’s roster, who’s the one that has benefitted the most from the additions (and subtractions) made by the Vikings so far during the offseason?
Before we break that down in full, let’s get a quick recap of the transactions from the Vikings so we remember exactly what we’re dealing with here…
Re-Signed: WR Adam Thielen, CB Terence Newman, OL Jeremiah Sirles
Acquired: RB Latavius Murray, DE Datone Jones, T Mike Remmers, T Riley Reiff
Lost: T Andre Smith, WR Cordarrelle Patterson, CB Captain Munnerlyn, LB Audie Cole, TE Rhett Ellison, P Jeff Locke, T Matt Kalil, WR Charles Johnson, G Brandon Fusco, T Jake Long, LB Chad Greenway (retired)
Remains On The Market: RB Matt Asiata, RB Adrian Peterson, QB Shaun Hill, FB Zach Line, T Jake Long, DE Justin Trattou
So that’s where we stand, no here’s five players that might be benefiting the most from the team’s transactions over the past month.
Let’s start up front with our big name free agent acquisition from one year ago, Left Guard Alex Boone. Boone’s kickoff campaign with the Vikings in 2016 wasn’t exactly memorable for him or the Vikings. The lone member of the front who stayed healthy through most of the season, Boone was part of eight different offensive line combinations while playing next to FIVE different players who lined up at left tackle. The signing of Riley Reiff doesn’t guarantee health for Boone or anybody else, but it should bring with it stability when it comes to performance. Who knows exactly how good it could have been last season if Boone and Kalil had lined up next to each other as was the original plan. We might not be looking at Boone’s first season the same way, we may even instead have been praising it. Stability and maybe even improvement across the entire offensive line should benefit Alex Boone this season and truly allow him to spread his wings and showcase what he’s bringing to the table.
Following suit with the improvements on the offensive line, our second player that should benefit from this year’s offseason acquisitions is none other than the huddle captain himself, Quarterback Sam Bradford. After being acquired by the Minnesota Vikings only a few weeks before the start of the 2016 season, Sam managed to make something pretty decent out of a bit of a crappy situation. The offense had to go through a bit of a transition from focusing on the run and opening up the top of the passing game to a short passing game with as an extension of the run game just to move the ball up and down the field. That’s fine, adapt and survive as far as I’m concerned. But when you really break it down, that’s not what Bradford does best. This dude seriously has a cannon of an arm. We’re not talking about Brett Favre or anything here, but Bradford can chuck that pigskin more than we were afforded the opportunity to see in 2016. The only problem was, he didn’t have enough time in the pocket to get those deep routes ran and hit his receiver in stride. It should open up the back end of the passing game, but the improved offensive front here should help every aspect of Bradford’s game as well. I’m talking an uptick in short game, mid-range, run game and the like…if all goes according to plan, which has yet to be proved.
In turn, another position group that should be improved by this logic in 2017 would be the wide receivers. More time for the quarterback means the wideouts can have more time to work and get open. Re-signing Thielen helps the group, it helps Diggs on the other side of the field, but the main wide receiver that should benefit this coming season should be WR Jarius Wright. It’s kind of funny to think that back to before the season even started and as recently as the opening bell of free agency in 2017, the common thought across the Vikings fanbase was that Wright would be released. He was making a decent chunk of change and hadn’t really factored into the offense in a bit. Fast forward to today with Cordarrrelle Patterson in Oakland and Charles Johnson in Charlotte and it would appear as if Wright is once again back in the fold as the team’s number three/slot receiver role. I don’t mean to kid anybody here, it’s not as if Wright is poised for a breakout season in 2017, he kind of is what he is as a shifty, undersized wide receiver. But as a number three guy behind Diggs and Thielen, 500 yards, 30 some catches and a couple TDs will suffice. If the offense opens up the way that is should, he could be one of the main benefactors.
We’ve focused a lot on the offensive side so far, mainly because that’s where most of the attempted improvements were coming in. Let’s shift over to defense now to chat about a few players that are set to benefit in 2017.
People thought that the writing was on the wall a year ago for the Vikings and their decisions at the nickel cornerback position when they drafted Mackensie Alexander out of Clemson in the second round. Not one to shy away from his confidence in his skills, Alexander almost said as much right off the bat. Still, Captain Munnerlyn had other plans…at least for one season. But now that Captain has returned to Carolina, CB Mackensie Alexander stands to be slotted into the starting nickel cornerback role despite the feeling that he has a lot to learn still at the NFL level. Alexander appeared in 13 games for The Purple in 2016, most of the appearances are memorable due to a bad play here or there causing him to get yanked off the field rather quickly. His rookie campaign was a little overzealous and maybe a little undisciplined, at least on the surface. But he seems to have the skills to play at this level. Get the kid to take a deep breath and think before he jumps and he could fill in nicely for this team on defense.
Next up, and closing out our list of five players is everybody’s favorite little man CB/PR/KR Marcus Sherels. I love this guy! I love his story, I love his heart and I love how year in and year out he continues to prove the doubters wrong and solidifies his role on this team and in this league. We already know that he’s an above average punt returner averaging 13.2 yards per return last year and taking two all the way back to the house, but with a cornerbacks room that is only getting younger and a kick returner spot that appears to be up for grabs, Sherels’ role might expand in 2017 adding to his value and giving him even more of an opportunity to shine.
Obviously, this is all speculation and it’s all according to what we’re seeing on paper and hoping to come to fruition on the football field, but the logic is sound. These guys should have a decent opportunity to step forward this season.
Next week we’ll take a look at the other side of this spectrum and highlight a few players that might stand to take a step backwards in 2017 due to the teams additions/subtractions during the offseason.
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