A clear message is being sent by the Vikings in the opening days of free agency – if you don't have a franchise QB capable of putting up 35 points a game, you had better have a strong defense.
In 2013, the Purple People Eaters morphed into the Lavender Hill Mob. The Vikings had one of the worst statistical defenses in the majority of comparative categories. The worst of those was in points allowed. Nobody allowed more points than the Vikings – a stat that can't be ignored and has been reference repeatedly by new head coach Mike Zimmer.
The only moves the Vikings have made on the offensive side of the ball have been to increase the salary of Matt Cassel
and re-sign backup interior lineman Joe Berger
They have signed no outside free agents and got rid of John Carlson and Greg Childs, and they lost Toby Gerhart to free agency. From the offensive perspective, the Vikings haven't gained any ground. If anything, they've taken a small step backward.
But it was clear that, as far as the first wave of free agency was concerned, defense has been the only focus of the Vikings heading into 2014. They re-signed Everson Griffen
, Fred Evans
, Larry Dean
and Marcus Sherels
and went outside the organization to sign defensive tackle Linval Joseph
, cornerbacks Captain Munnerlyn
and Derek Cox
, and linebacker Jasper Brinkley
None of their defensive free agents have been signed by other teams. In fact, Gerhart is the only Viking to have been signed that wasn't released by the Vikings.
If the first three days of free agency – where more than $1 billion in contracts was given out on by NFL teams on the opening day alone – the Vikings have opted to load up on defense.
Is this a precursor to an offense-dominated draft? If nothing else, the Vikings have repaired enough leaks in the defensive boat to potentially put them on the back burner if the need arises to trade up in the first round to land a franchise QB. Just sayin'.
Nobody can claim Norv Turner had anything to do with the signing of Cox. He spent his first four seasons with Jacksonville and, after signing a big free agent contract with San Diego, wasn't a system fit and was cut after less than 12 months on the team. Turner was in Cleveland last year, so he had little to nothing to do with the intel the Vikings gathered on signing Cox to a one-year deal.
Perhaps the Vikings didn't take Turner's advice when it came to the Saints trading RB Darren Sproles. When he refused to take a pay cut, New Orleans threatened to release him. When drooling general managers started lining up like bead-brandishing tourists on Bourbon Street, the Saints got a salient idea. Why cut him when we can trade him? The new team would take on the contract, but, in the right offense, he would likely sign for more up front. The Eagles came through with a fifth-round pick. Seeing as Sproles was dynamic while playing second fiddle to LaDanian Tomlinson with Turner at the helm, it would seem natural that they could find a sweet fit giving Adrian Peterson a dynamic breather. But Philly makes more sense because Chip Kelly is looking for a college pinball-style offense that, when executed properly, will make Shady McCoy and DeSean Jackson even more dangerous.
Seattle lost Golden Tate to Detroit, which many observers don't necessarily view as a big step backward considering what the Lions paid him $31 million for five years as a No. 2 option behind some guy named Calvin Johnson. The Seahawks now are reportedly looking to re-sign Sidney Rice at a more team-friendly price.
The 49ers reportedly visited with Chris Cook on Thursday. The Niners have made their name for having playmakers in the secondary. In his four seasons with the Vikings, Cook has posted solid passes defensed numbers, but his next NFL interception will be his first NFL interception, which one can only imagine will drop his asking price entering his fifth season in the league.
Mel Kiper Jr. has Johnny Manziel dropping to the Vikings at No. 8 and more mock drafts have started dropping QBs into Vikings Country. Don't bet on it. Every year as the draft draws closer, the value of quarterbacks increases as the "have nots" want to become one of the "haves." Don't start saving up for you Manziel jersey just yet.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
The Vikings have spent the vast majority of their free agent dollars on the defensive side of the ball – for good reason.
The Vikings have spent the vast majority of their free agent dollars on defense – for good reason.