Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Minnesota Vikings 2011 -- Free agents, trades and the next quarterback

The Green Bay Packers are Super Bowl champions, the Chicago Bears fell one game short of the Super Bowl and the Detroit Lions didn’t finish in last place in the NFC North. All those things tell me the Minnesota Vikings have a lot of ground to make up if they want to be competitive next year.

The Vikings did the right thing by keeping Leslie Frazier on as head coach. The former defensive coordinator brings the right kind of approach to this franchise. He is transparent, willing to listen to his players and most importantly – he has the player's respect.

But all that stuff doesn’t mean anything unless the Vikings move some moves to get them competitive again. Here are five things that will make the Vikings a better football team next season.

Nnamdi Asomugha to Vikings
A loophole in Asomugha’s contract will allow him to test the free agent market this offseason. The former Oakland Raider is considered one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL and at age 29 (turns 30 in July), he’s still has some years left.

If the Vikings sign Asomugha, their entire defensive backfield would improve - simply by adding one player. A dynamic cornerback like Asomugha can change a defense. Look at how much impact Charles Woodson and Darrelle Revis have had on their respective defenses. A player like Asomugha takes away half the field by himself, which takes a ton of pressure off the other defensive backs. The Vikings could fix that mess in the defensive backfield with one player, Nnamdi Asomugha.

Trade Toby Gerhart
With one of the best running backs in football in Adrian Peterson, the Vikings don’t need Gerhart. At age 23 (turns 24 in March), Gerhart is still very young and would be an upgrade for a lot of teams looking for a running back.

Gerhart doesn’t add much value to the Vikings offense. He’s an average receiver, below average pass blocker and he’s had fumble issues. Essentially, he’s a poor man’s Adrian Peterson.
I could see a team giving up a third round pick for Gerhart, which if I were the Vikings, I’d jump at in a second.

Trade for Kyle Orton
Maybe the Denver Broncos would be interested in swapping Gerhart for Orton. The Broncos showed last season they weren’t satisfied with their running back situation and traded for Laurence Maroney during the year. That failed miserably and after getting arrested this offseason, Maroney may be done in Denver.

Orton has turned out to be a very good NFL quarterback, despite being run out of Chicago and benched for Tim Tebow in Denver. At age 28 (turns 29 in November), Orton still has plenty of years left in him. Over the past three seasons, Orton’s numbers have improved and he’s become a reliable starter. While his record as a starter doesn’t reflect his improvement (he’s played on teams with bad defenses), his stats tell a different tale.

In the past three years, Orton has started 44 games – 15 with the Bears in 2008 and 29 with the Broncos from 2009-2010. In those three seasons, he has passed for 10,427 yards, 59 touchdowns and 33 interceptions. I think it’s time for the Altoona, Iowa native to come back to the Midwest.

Franchise tag Sidney Rice
After missing much of last season because of hip surgery, Rice returned to the line-up and showed a glimpse of what we show two years ago. The verdict is still out on Rice and the questions linger about is ability to stay healthy for a full season. Before rewarding him with a multi-year contract, the Vikings might be better served to place the franchise tag on Rice and let him prove he’s worth the long-term investment.

The Linebackers
If the playoffs taught us anything it’s teams need playmakers at the linebacker position. OLB Chad Greenway has emerged as pro bowl caliber player and is a must “re-sign player” for the Vikings. Greenway is coming off a 144 tackle season and has a knack for always being around the ball. He should be the first player the Vikings sign this offseason.

Joining Greenway on the free agent market is OLB Ben Leber, who is coming off a very average year. At 32, Leber is nearing the end of his career and the Vikings should let him go. The Vikings need to find a more dynamic player to play opposite Greenway. The Vikings don’t have a player like that on their roster and they should target someone in free agency or the draft.

E.J. Henderson still has one year left on his contract and should be back in the middle for the Vikings next season.

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