Saturday, March 28, 2009

Twelfth-Hour Decision Nets Vikings Critical Offensive Weapon

The Minnesota Vikings pulled the trigger on what arguably is their most significant off-season move, matching the Cincinnati Bengals' tender to restricted free-agent fullback Naufahu Tahi. The move keeps intact a Vikings' offensive backfield that last year accounted for 82 of the team's 267 completed passes, with Tahi accounting for 16 of those receptions for 37 yards. Those numbers reflect an astounding 1,600% increase in receptions and 528% increase in yards receiving over Tahi's 2007 statistics with the Vikings, almost assuredly giving Tahi the league lead in both statistical increases last year.

While impressive, Tahi's receiving numbers, alone, do not reveal the significance of the fullback to the Vikings' offensive system. Despite accounting for zero yards on zero carries in 16 games played in 2008, Tahi remains the Vikings primary weapon on third down and generally can be relied upon to haul in both laterals and one-yard passes--attributes that Vikings' head coach Brad Childress reportedly weighed heavily in lobbying for Tahi's return. And, as Tahi proved in 2007, when given the rock, he can dazzle, scampering for an eye-popping 15 yards on six attempts, good for a 2.5 yard-per-carry average. What's not to love about this soft-handed giant?

The only question in Vikingland is what took the Vikings so long to decide to match the Bengals' offer to Tahi? Hinting, earlier in the week, at the Vikings' inclination to resign Tahi, Childress stated that it would probably come down to the very last minute, which it in fact did. "Particularly in these tough economic times," the coach monotoned, "every last little penny matters. So, I suspect that that decision will occur at a time that allows us to save as much money as possible from the perspective of time."

Well said, coach. And well done, indeed. The pundits can say what they will about the Vikings' short-comings along the offensive line, at quarterback, at receiver--and, for those who don't yet get his genius, at head coach--but Tahi's signing should win some converts for this Gerald McRaney look-alike. And it should send a strong message to the rest of the league that this Viking team means business.

Up Next: Is There Another Cherry in the Vikings' Pocket, So To Speak?

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