Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Time for Vikings to Shed Dead Weight

The Minnesota Vikings enter the 2010-2011 off-season with seventeen free agents. That's hardly the Vikings' most meaningful storyline, however, as the vast majority of those free-agents are highly expendable. Rather, the true storyline is that if the right 28 players were free agents, the Vikings would be in proper position letting all 28 walk, probably onto the street.

Among the Vikings' players not part of next year's free-agency class but meriting dismissal from the team's roster are Ryan Cook, Bryant McKinnie, Bernard Berrian, Tyrell Johnson, Madieu Williams, and John Sullivan. Combined with all but a handful of actual free-agents, the Vikings have approximately 28 players on roster with whom they should part in 2011 and an additional 2-3 players with whom they could part if they can sign that player's logical, free-agent replacement.

The following are the players that the Vikings should want to return next year and on whom they should be able to rely to produce: Adrian Peterson, Lorenzo Booker, Percy Harvin, Phil Loadholt, Visanthe Shiancoe, Jim Kleinsasser, Antoine Winfield, Kevin Williams, Fred Evans, LeTroy Guion, Chad Greenway, Heath Farwell, E.J. and Erin Henderson, Jamarca Sanford, Hussain Abdullah, Chris Kluwe, Cullen Loeffler, Ryan Longwell, Sidney Rice, Steve Hutchinson, Cedric Griffin, Chris Cook, Jared Allen, and Anthony Herrera. The remainder of the squad, with the possible exception of Ben Leber, is merely dried kindling.

Having front-loaded most of their players' contracts through the years, the Vikings have the benefit not only of ample cap space from year to year but also the luxury of bidding adieu to players under contract without worrying about accelerated bonus hits to whatever salary cap the new CBA will bring. That means no worries about jettisoning McKinnie, Madieu Williams, Berrian, Johnson, Sullivan, Cook or any other under-contract players. The sole concern is first identifying a viable replacement. For most of these players, that search will not take long.

The Vikings' offensive line was woeful in 2010, allowing 36 sacks and three times snapping the ball over the quarterback's head, the secondary "led" by Williams, largely was invisible, except when getting burned, and the Vikings' rookies contributed nothing to the effort. By far the most offensive performance of the season, however, was that turned in by Bernard Berrian.

Berrian's replacement is already on the Vikings' roster. That person is any wide-receiver not named Berrian. On a team that produced only four 100-yard receivers all year, even a lame effort by Berrian would have shone brightly. Unfortunately, Berrian was not up to even that minimal standard, finishing the season with 28 receptions for 252 yards. That's 88 more receiving yards than Randy Moss had in his brief stint with the Vikings, 85 more than Toby Gerhart, and 28 fewer than Sidney Rice, meshing nicely with Berrian's zero touchdowns and two fumbles in 28 times holding the ball. Truly putrid. Berrian's pouting about how he plays injured was the cherry on top of this turd sundae.

To these players, the Vikings ought bid adieu. The question will be with whom will they replace them?

6 comments:

bobg said...

Couldn't agree more. Berrian was a bad signing. He did nothing at Chicago and carried on the tradition here. Cook, Sullivan and McKinnie are all dead weight but perhaps if we were to go back to man blocking instead of zone blocking, McKinnie might have one more year left.

HBandM said...

Thought you would enjoy this anecdote given the topic: so a fellow Vikes fan buddy of mine was in Vegas last summer promoting a concert, and met Bernard Berrian at one of the events he threw. He asked Berrian what happened on the (last) Favre interception throw in the NFC Championship game and Berrian said, “I don’t know what he was thinking, man, I was wide open.”

VG, you’ve talked a great deal about players, but what are your thoughts about the coaches? Given the release of quarterback, offensive line, and assistant offensive line coaches do you think they have addressed the most pressing coaching problems with the team? Bevel seemed to open up as Offensive Coordinator after Childress left, but Pagac seemed hot-and-cold.

DC said...

VG:

My only quibbling with your list of players the Vikings should try to keep and that they can expect to produce is that you included Chris Cook and Fred Evans.

Cook only played six games and was benched in two of them. It's clear the knee injuries he had ruined his rookie season and he could still turn out to be a good one. But I don't see how the Vikings can expect him to produce in 2011 based on what he did in 2010. He's still young and a question mark.

And Evans only dressed for eight games this year and didn't do much in the ones he did dress for. He seems to have lost snaps to Letroy Guion – and with good reason – Guion is emerging into an effective player.

Even with Pat Williams, and perhaps Jimmy Kennedy, gone next season, I don't see Evans making much of an impact with the team.

vikes geek said...

Bobg,

Zone blocking has been a disaster for the Vikings--another reason to have let Childress go. The Vikings are best suited, if for anything, for traditional blocking schemes. McKinnie cannot/will not move, Loadholt is a back and forth rather than side to side blocker, Hutchinson is too hobbled to be expected to move fluidly, and the center can only be better outside zone blocking. Herrera might be the only player capable of zone blocking and he's hurt, too.

In theory, zone blocking is superior. But it's not exactly rocket science and it's perfectly susceptible to selective incorporation into a more traditional blocking scheme suite for the size of the preferred linemen.

VG

vikes geek said...

HBand,

I think what Favre was thinking was "I need to convert on this play--can I trust Berrian to catch a ball put on the money?" I like the Vikings' odds 99 times out of 100 with Favre passing elsewhere on that play--even to the opposing player!

Good question on potential coaches--more on that in a column sometime today/tonight.

VG

vikes geek said...

DC,

I agree with your take. Nevertheless, I do expect Cook to contribute something next year, if only because he probably will need to do so. Ditto for Evans. I agree Guion has passed Evans up, by with Pat Williams likely gone, the Vikings will need an interior lineman plus a backup capable of spelling on 20% of the plays.

My maxim on evaluating college talent holds for Cook--if you were an unabashed rock head in college, you probably will struggle in the NFL. Not surprising that Cook has been challenged, injuries notwithstanding. Things will only get worse if the Vikings switch to a more aggressive, read-and-react form of defensive coverage.

VG