Vikings Free Agency: Aggressive Again

Madieu Williams (David Maxwell/Getty)

Last year, the Vikings tried and failed to sign the top receiver on the free-agent market, leaving a small and lackluster group of signings. This year, they appear to be as aggressive in the free-agent market as they were in 2006.

The concern of fans that the Vikings wouldn't be aggressive in the free-agent market after a near-silent year in 2007 – when the only signings were Bobby Wade, Visanthe Shiancoe and Vinny Ciurciu – were quickly allayed Friday. That's when the aggressiveness the Vikings hinted at the week prior at the NFL Scouting Combine became evident.

The signings of safety Madieu Williams and fullback Thomas Tapeh displayed that the Vikings are willing to spend the money necessary to upgrade at need positions and fill in spots where they were convinced they wouldn't be able to re-sign the player who held that position down last year. Williams fit in the former category, replacing recently released Dwight Smith at safety, and Tapeh fit in the latter, replacing veteran Tony Richardson.

The swirling rumors that the Vikings are also willing to give wide receiver Bernard Berrian a big-money deal is also a sign that the team is legitimate in its attempt to upgrade a position of weakness. Last year, the Vikings tried to swing a deal with Miami when it became apparent that Wes Welker was on the trading block and offered more total money and more guaranteed money to free agent Kevin Curtis, who eventually took less to sign with Philadelphia.

With the expectation in place that the Vikings weren't going to spend big money to re-sign Richardson, it became apparent that the team was going to add fullback to its list of needs that require filling. Not only have the Vikings done that in signing Williams and Tapeh, but being one of the frontrunners for both Berrian and Bengals DE Justin Smith, as well as making overtures toward quarterbacks Cleo Lemon and Sage Rosenfels displays a willingness to attack all of their top need positions through free agency instead of ignoring the problem at quarterback as they did last year or not doing what it took to get a No. 1 wide receiver in town last year.

The early popping of signings is reminiscent to Vikings fans of 2006 in Brad Childress' first year as head coach. The Vikings were extremely active that year, signing three starters – Chester Taylor, Ryan Longwell and Ben Leber – in the first day of the delayed free agency March 11, 2006, which they followed up with one of the biggest free-agent signings in the league when they hooked Pro Bowl guard Steve Hutchinson to a contract March 21. Richardson and Tank Williams quickly followed and Vikings fans were excited about the prospect of the future.

It would seem 2008 could have many of the same earmarks to success that 2006 had. With a couple signings already in the books and a couple more big names scheduled for visits, it would appear that this time around, the Vikings won't be content to sit back and watch others sign free agents while they're on the sidelines. The Vikings aren't that far away from being a legitimate playoff team and, if they can augment the team with a handful of decent free-agent signings and another strong draft, the timetable for turning the corner and being a team many view as a playoff favorite may be much closer than many fans might think.

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