In a previous post, I suggested that there are times, such as this season, when it behooves NFL teams to get into bidding contests for the few decent players on the market in the hope of at least filling one hole for one season. The Vikings have glaring holes at wide receiver, tight end, defensive end, offensive line, and, at a minimum, backup quarterback.
To address these holes, the Vikings released the tight end that has made the most positive difference to their offense over the past three seasons, released their only red zone receiving threat (something the team opted to do before the season was over), and opted not to compete for players being wooed by other teams.
The first bad omen of a weak off-season struck when the Vikings announced their replacement for pass-receiving tight end Jermaine Wiggins. Vikings' player personnel director, Rick Spielman, himself a story for another day, commented that the Vikings got the man they wanted to replace Wiggins when they signed Visanthe Shiancoe. Yes, that Visanthe Shiancoe.
What did the Vikings get in Shiancoe? It sounds like the complete package--if by package is meant something other than a pass-catching tight end. Here's what Vikings' head coach Brad Childress had to say about his newest addition:
"He's well-rounded. He can play on the line of scrimmage. He can play away from the tackle. He can block. And I think he can catch. So he gives you a little bit of everything."
Those critical of Childress' maneuverings that resulted in the release of a tight end with nearly 200 receptions over the past three years in favor of a tight end with 35 receptions over four seasons, including 12 receptions for 81 yards in seventeen games last season, are missing the bigger picture.
The bigger picture is that a guy who plays well on the line and off the tackle is more of an asset in Childress' offensive system than a guy who catches the ball. And, at $18.2 million over five years with $7 million guaranteed, Shiancoe is a bargain to boot, we are told. One has to squint, of course, to see that bargain given that the Vikings would have owed Wiggins considerably less money in 2007.
Sure to add to the groundswell of support for Shiancoe is Spielman's observation that the tight end runs the 40 in 4.58. As Vikings' fans can attest, speed gets you speed in the NFL. And that might not be enough for Shiancoe.
On the same day that the Vikings signed Shiancoe, they added linebacker Vinny Ciuciu, a four-year special teams player whom they believe might be able to compete for the middle linebacker position. Ciuciu, who signed for $3 million over three years with a $500,000 signing bonus, last played linebacker as a collegian at Boston College.
The final addition to the Vikings' current free agent class of 2007 is former Chicago Bear and Tennessee Titan wide receiver Bobby Wade, whom the Vikings' signed yesterday to a five-year, $15 million deal. Wade's 33 receptions last season, give the Vikings' current top three wide receivers a combined 93 receptions and four touchdowns in 2006--less than the reception totals of three wide receivers and less than the touchdown totals of forty-one receivers in 2006.
Where Do The Vikings Go From Here?
Though much of the Vikings' off-season signing futility is attributable to the dearth of talent in this year's free agency pool, there were players available in free agency in whom the Vikings had an interest but whom the team elected not to pursue. And there are players still available that might fit the teams needs, such as Corey Dillon, Travis Henry, Eric Moulds, and Ross Verba.
With the exception of a few remaining free agents, and some possible June 1st cuts, the Vikings would be well served not simply to sit on their money this year, losing a year of use in the process. If not used for free agents, the money should be used to restructure contracts to bring forward cap hits into the present. This would allow the team even more cap space in the future and provide the team an opportunity to identify and sign to long-term deals players in whom the team would like to make a long-term commitment.
Up next: More free agency. Plus, draft talk and division rivals.