With the ever-expanding base of fantasy football fans, there certainly is no lack of fans able to recite every significant player statistic from the most recent NFL season. When it comes to other figures pertaining to the NFL, however, that number dwindles dramatically.
This fan myopia greatly benefits the Minnesota Vikings in 2012, for it permits the team's front office to trot out such ridiculous phrases as "we are not going to spend merely to spend" and "we are not merely a player or two away from contending." Both are seemingly odd contentions for a team looking to secure public funding for a new stadium and also raising ticket prices, but not when one considers the roll-over mentality of the vast majority of Vikings' fans, known far and wide for accepting, as meritorious, the "give them a few years [under this new set of circumstances, however much they resemble the old]" and the always classic "they must know what they are doing, it's their job" lines.
New Vikings' General Manager Rick Spieman has enlisted the aid of both of these ridiculous stand-bys this week, claiming that the Vikings have not bid on any of the high-end free agents in this year's free-agent pool because they are over-priced and the Vikings need more than one or two players to contend this year; ergo, the logic presumably follows, signing one or two high-end players is meaningless.
Spielman offered that the Vikings will look to a "deep draft" to fill many holes and suggested that there were still some very good players left on the free-agent market whom the Vikings would be bringing in for interviews. As with his claim of not spending merely to spend, here, again, Spielman is relying on the verifiable docility of Vikings' fans in the face of clear evidence either of a team's fundamentally idiotic approach to free-agency or the team's parsimony (or both).
For Vikings' fans, it is unclear whether it is worse to have a General Manager who does not understand that, even being more than one or two players away from being a contender ought not limit a team's ambitions in free-agency as a means of building for the future or to have a General Manager/ownership group that does not understand that the NFL does not reward parsimony and has even legislated against it to such a degree that parsimonious teams ultimately end up spending merely to spend.
This week, the Vikings deferred to 2013 the additional cap space that they received courtesy Washington's and Dallas' circumvention of league spending mandates in the uncapped 2010 season. That was the first sign that the Vikings were not interested in bidding for high-end talent this year.
Yesterday, the team signed once-upon-a-time pass-catching tight end John Carlson in what can best be described as a hopeful signing of a local. Coming off of a season missed due to injury, Carlson would give the Vikings another tight end pass-catching threat--one of the holes that the team did not have entering free agency--assuming he returns to health. As interesting as are Carlson's injury history and the redundancy of the signing, however, is that the Vikings signed Carlson to a five-year deal with $11 million in guaranteed money and $25 million over the term of the contract. That's nearly what the Saints paid to sign a young offensive guard--a position of dire need for the Vikings--in Carl Grubbs.
Assuming Carlson returns to the form of his best NFL season (2009), when he caught 51 passes and had seven touchdowns, the Vikings would have a nice tight end receiving duo in 2012. That assumes, as well, of course, that there is even time for a check down to the tight end, with the hordes passing through the sieve that has been the Vikings' offensive line for at least two years running.
Signing Grubbs would have made a player like a healthy Carlson more relevant and made a true number one at wide-out somewhat less necessary. Instead, in a season in which the Vikings vowed not to spend merely to spend, the team has spent $11 million in guaranteed money for a player who probably otherwise would have garnered something more along the lines of $3 million in guaranteed money. Why the overpayment? The best guess it that it ensures the team of meeting the salary cap floor--approximately $108 million in 2012. That, or Spielman truly does not know what he is doing. Either option is on the table and neither bodes particularly well for the locals.
Up Next: Why Free-Agency Matters--Or What Rick Spielman did not Learn in Kindergarten.