Saturday, May 12, 2007

Early Season Out-of-the-Box Time

After a free-agency period filled with non-descript signings that did little, if anything, to address the team's most pressing needs and a draft that appears likely to produce one productive starter and, possibly, two or three spot players as early as this season, the Minnesota Vikings remain in need of players at several key positions heading into the 2007 season. Barring an unexpected windfall in the post-June 1 free-agency pool, the Vikings' predicament requires some immediate outside-the-box thinking.

Players Wanted

Prior to free agency and the draft, the Vikings were in desperate need of a right offensive tackle, a right offensive guard, two to four wide receivers, a pass-catching tight end, one or two defensive ends, a cornerback, a safety, and a starting quarterback for 2007.

The Vikings filled their off-season needs by signing little used, journeyman wide-receiver Bobby Wade, little-used tight end Visanthe Shiancoe, and injured safety Mike Doss. In the draft, the Vikings picked up several wide receivers, most with more promise than proven ability and one with the dual affliction of having played at the other USC and being widely regarded as an immature pain in the ass, a defensive end, and a cornerback--all of whom the Vikings believe can make a contribution in 2007.

Assuming that the Vikings' signees and picks pan out and that the right ones pan out in 2007, the Vikings still have gaping holes on the offensive line, at wide receiver, and at defensive end. Assuming, as well, that the team will be unable or unwilling to spend some of the team's remaining $28 million in salary cap space on a veteran free agent that becomes available on June 1st, the Vikings' predicament thus requires some creative engineering.

Filling the Holes

To fill their remaining holes in 2007, the Vikings have more options than they give themselves credit for. Beginning with the most important position on the field, the Vikings still have a very good option for filling their quarterback vacancy.

With Tarvaris Jackson at least another season away from being prepared to lead an NFL team to any meaningful victory total and Brooks Bollinger apparently further behind than that--or given no chance by a coaching staff intent on proving itself right for banking on Jackson so early--there is a veteran presence that remains on the market for as little as a fourth- or fifth-round draft pick that would fit nicely onto the Vikings' roster. That player is current Kansas City quarterback Trent Green.

When healthy, Green is one of the more capable passers in the game. In 2005, Green passed for over 4,000 yards and had 17 TD passes despite presiding over an offense that featured a TD-scoring machine in running back Larry Johnson. Given Green's history with concussions and Kansas City's other options at quarterback, however, Kansas City is ready to cut ties with its former Pro Bowl quarterback.

With Kansas City intent on starting Brodie Croyle or Damon Huard next season, with the other serving as the number two quarterback, the writing has long been on the wall for Green in Kansas City. Green's agent has already informed Kansas City that the quarterback will not return to the team next season and has requested a trade. Kansas City seems all too willing to part with Green but is said to be asking for something more than the sixth-round draft pick that the Dolphins have offered for Green in return. The only question remaining is whether Kansas plays petty for a mess that it created and refuses to trade Green for less than the team had hoped, once upon a time.

Green would give the Vikings the veteran presence they so desperately need at quarterback and would provide the team with a legitimate starting quarterback that could mean the difference between four more wins or four more losses. Odds are Childress would veto this move, not only because it is not his brain child but also because it would preclude him from showing everyone that he was right and everyone else was wrong about Jackson's NFL timeline.

Up Next: Other Moves That Make Sense. Plus, buzz around the league.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Vikes Geek, do I understand that you would advocate a veteran quarterback to start this season and let Tarvaris Jackson sit on the bench for another year? Or do you want a veteran presence to be available to replace Tarvaris if he should be injured or simply be inefective?
It seems to me if we are truly building a young team around the draft and free agency, that we ought to let Tarvaris have his shot this season.

I don't necessarily think we have yet assembled enough quality players to do well this season anyway, especially given the tough schedule we are facing, nor do I believe it is our priority to have short-term success at the expense of the long-term goals of this team.
MikLev

Vikes Geek said...

MikLev,

I think they are one in the same. I don't see Jackson being ready for the NFL this year. It would be one thing if the Vikings had shored up their offensive line and improved their wide receiving corps, thus taking pressure off of Jackson and giving him more time to make his reads and more options once those reads were made. Alas, the team did little to rectify these issues. That suggests that Jackson's progress will be slow.

As of now, I do not see Jackson as the future at the quarterback position for the Vikings, at least not in the short term. He has a strong, if erratic arm, and great speed, but he looked as bad in his few starts last year as any QB has ever looked in purple. If he is the future, that future does not appear to be 2007 or even 2008. In a league where winning is possible with the right players in key positions, the Vikings at least stand of chance of doing something with a veteran QB like Green in 2007. While I am fairly certain that Childress would never allow the Vikings to pick up Green, that certainty only further increases my sense that it is the right move.

The question for the Vikings is what they believe they have in Jackson. What do they hope he will accomplish and in what time frame?

Though the Vikings are still missing key pieces, with a little bit of thought, the team could fill key holes from within, making signing Green a wise option. Of course, if the team is committed to the same old in the box mentality, Jackson can probably continue to learn for the next five or six years, or longer.

VG

Anonymous said...

VikesGeek...
I'm not as convinced as you are that the Vikes -- with their generous cap space -- won't sign a free agent wide receiver, a right guard, and a veteran "backup" quarterback yet this year.

Don't get me wrong, I don't think much of our head coach's play-calling ability, or lack thereof, but I do think he has done a good job in other areas.
MikLev

shimrod said...

I'm curious if we're going to see Cook and Johnson on the right side. Right guard was a disaster last year and Hicks isn't going to get any better. At least the two youngsters have potential, although Johnson rates as a solid bust if he doesn't start this year.

If the plan is to start Jackson without making any effort to acquire a new right guard and tackle, Johnson and Cook need to start and play much better than they did last year. If the right side sucks as badly as last year the Vikes need to fire Childress and start over. They may need to anyway, but starting the season with no veteran qb and no O-line (not to mention no number one OR two wideout) has disaster written all over it. Unless, of course, the intention is to suck badly enough to get out of town.....

Anonymous said...

I think you'll be seeing Cook at RT, shimrod; I think he'll be much improved this year too. The RG position is a bit more worrisome though. We can only hope that just having played together for an entire season and two training camps will translate to improved play upon the field.

I also don't think we need to go get Green. Throw T-Jack in this season and just ride the ups and downs. The kid is smart, and a hard worker. I expect that he will make some mistakes, but IMO he'll develop quicker on the field than riding the bench. Green was having a pretty lousy season last year before his concussion anyway. Do we really want to bring in another geriatric QB whose best days are behind them? Tarvaris can't do any worse than Johnson did last year, so I'm all for hitching this team to his arm and seeing what the kid can do.

I do think we'll probably sign another veteran WR, although I don't think our situation is as desperate as some would like to imagine. McMullen has shown to be a competant possession receiver; Wade is perfect for the slot and should be productive this year; Nance is an athletic freak and I predict that he'll move into the starting lineup. I even have hopes that Williamson will begin to live up to the potential that obviously exists in him. And who knows, Allison and Rice might even surprise people and contribute immediately.

I like the fact that we have a young, exciting team again. I say let these young WR's, Peterson and Tarvaris all grow up together on the field. There will be some bumps in the road, but having these guys play together and build chemistry now will give us a better chance at success in the future than having Tarvaris riding the pine for another year. Let the youth movement begin!

Go Vikes!!

RotoRob said...

Hi Vikes Geek,

We just posted a profile of Adrian Peterson that I thought might interest you:

http://www.rotorob.com/football/nfl-draft-recap-adrian-peterson/

Cheers

RotoRob

Vikes Geek said...

MikLev,

As a result of the cap rules that now predominate--i.e., with most teams still having considerable cap space--it's not as if the Vikings are in a prime position to sign any of the few players that will be worth signing after June 1. Add to the cap issue the fact that the Vikings are far from most free agents' dream destination and it's difficult to see the Vikings signing anybody of consequence after June 1, and certainly unlikely that the team will fill it's remaining needs with post-June 1 signings.

If you don't like Jackson as a starter, you'll need to come to grips with the situation as a reality as Childress appears intent on opening the season with him.

Eric Moulds and Trent Green are upgrades over what the Vikings have now, regardless of injury histories. In an NFL that begs teams to play for a winner today and penalizes teams that try to stockpile talent for the long-haul through an unforgiving free-agency system, it is pointless to let a rookie quarterback feel his way into a role in the NFL if he doesn't show the aptitude immediately.

VG

Vikes Geek said...

Anon,

You're as rosy as they come! McMullen has "shown" he's a competent receiver? Wade is "perfect" for the slot? Nance is an "athletic freak?" I love the optimism but please. These are three guys that nobody else in the league even wants. The only thing distinguishing them from the fans next year will be their uniforms.

Of course we'll see Cook at RT, because Childress has left himself no alternatives. The bigger question is whether Cook will matter. What did Cook do last year that convinced you that he is the answer at RT? RG? Enjoy another season of Artis Hicks.

And who doesn't want to see Jackson go for 7 and 21 (TDs and INTs) over a veteran who knows when to eat the ball?

If you enjoy watching a team full of "get to know 'ems" when you know that slogan applies only to players that are filling space until the team fiugures out how to replace them with quality players, you will have some good vieving in the Fall at several of the positions on the Vikings' offense. Fortunately, the defense should at least keep the games interesting--for the dwindling number of fans who will be tuned in.

VG

Anonymous said...

Wow, you are one pessimistic fan, VG. Truth is, nobody really knows how this team will perform on the field next year, so why not be optimistic? It must be tough for you to be a fan if you think all of our players suck so bad.

What crystal ball did you look in to see that Jackson will have 7 TD's to 21 INT's? And young doesn't just equal crappy. Every HOF player in this League was a rookie at some point. Our "get to know 'ems" could very well become great veteran players for this team in the future.


But, like I said, none of us really knows how it's going to work out on the field, so I'll continue to hope for the best and you can continue to expect the worst. Let's hope I'm right.

Vikes Geek said...

Anon,

It's one thing to be hopeful and another to be realistic. Surprisingly enough, you can be both. I hope the Vikings win the Super Bowl. I am realistic enough to realize that they still have too many holes to do so. It sounds as though you are hopeful, though not realistic.

Your conclusion that one need have a crystal ball to forecast a team's performance plays into the pitch that every sub-par team's ownership makes to its fan base every year. The argument--"we can't know what's going to happen until it happens." Correct. We cannot know precisely what will happen until it happens. But, drawing from past performance, we can make an educated guess about what generally will happen. And, based on last year's Vikings' performance and the holes left to be filled on the squad, this team does not appear ready to challenge for a championship--now three years after the promised date.

VG

Anonymous said...

I don't think most fans have championship visions for this team at this point. For those of us who aren't constantly whining about the state of the Vikes, we'll be happy to see improvement in this team and the progression of our young QB, RB and WR's. At this point, we're just shooting for a playoff berth.

I suppose you have to find something to write about though, and Souhan/Powers and Sansevere have shown us that it's easier to rip on the team than to find the positives. This isn't your father's NFL anymore though and the fate of teams can change quickly from year to year. Last year nobody thought the Jets and Saints would have the great seasons that they did, and nobody thought the 'Fins or Tampon bay would stink so badly.

We should have a top 10 defense this year and a powerful running game. If we can get even moderate play from Tarvaris and Co. tossing the ball, there's no reason why this team shouldn't be competing for a playoff spot.

Vikes Geek said...

Thanks Anon. You just made my point for me. Yes, with this team it currently is easier to point out the negative. Yet, as is the case with any fan base, in any sport, in any city, there are fans who prefer to run around with blinders on, virtually ignoring the team's short-comings while inhaling the team's bright spots. The only qualm I have with that is that it lessens the call for change in a sport, as you acknowledge, that allows for rapid leaps in the standings over a short period of time.

If you like the Vikings how do you feel about the Lions who have added yet another outstanding receiver to a truly solid receiving corps, will start a QB who threw for over 4,000 yards last season, has a new running back, an improved offensive line, and a decent defense? How do you feel about the Bears? About the Packers? About any other team in the NFC?

FYI, I appreciate the fact that, although previous articles have noted certain positive changes to the team, you elected to respond to a column that is more pessimistic in tone. I guess that's just easier.

Thanks again.

VG