Tag Archives: Minnesota Vikings

NFL free agency 2017: As odd and frantic as ever

With the calendar finally turning over to March, NFL fans can celebrate the start of a new season. Well, those that like to watch the fire-sale frenzy that is free agency, at the very least.

As contracts expire and players are allowed to move freely to another team, it’s time for some smooching from GMs and coaches as they try to promise new hopefuls they’ll be big in their city. Most end with heartbreak but sometimes, they can be a match made in heaven.

Here’s a few thoughts on the first few days of free agency.

 

The best just got better

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The New England Patriots didn’t need any help in being good, NFL. You didn’t have to help them strengthen a team that won the whole damn thing last year, y’know?

They’ll never learn.

Bill Belichick is an absolute master of this game and strangely enough, it was two trades that actually impressed the most. Bringing in an exciting young receiver in former New Orleans Saints man Brandin Cooks to be their new number one option out wide for draft picks was a solid move even after picking up the almost-Super Bowl 49 MVP Kony Ealy from the Carolina Panthers.

Add to that the pickup of Pro Bowl corner Stephon Gilmore, from none other than a divisional rival in the Buffalo Bills, and former Green Bay Packers tight end Jared Cook to replace Martellus Bennett and that’s a nice little mix.

The focus shifts now to keeping Malcolm Butler and Dont’a Hightower, which would be a frightening thought to the rest of the NFL. Even with all the picks they used up, they could regain almost all of them by sending Jimmy Garapolo to the Cleveland Browns.

 

The poor got a little stronger

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Speaking of the Browns, they made baby steps toward climbing out of the basement.

They started with the offensive line, just in case they finally find someone to stand behind it. Kevin Zeitler weakens an opponent in the Cincinnati Bengals while adding a veteran to the group, J.C. Tretter is another solid addition and extension to Joel Bitonio finally puts this unit back to where they were before they lost Alex Mack last offseason.

Bringing in Kenny Britt was also a solid move, a relatively consistent performer over the last few seasons. Not trying to combine him with Terrell Pryor, especially when the former QB signed a reasonable deal with Washington, does seem a little odd but spend where you need to spend.

Some of that gigantic cap room was used on a blockbuster trade for Houston Texans quarterback Brock Osweiler. While it’s likely they’ll bin the lobster as soon as possible, they bought a second round pick they can add to the pile of 11 selections in each of the next two drafts.

That booty should have enough value in it to tempt the Patriots to move Jimmy G to Ohio. With the champs moving so many picks, surely it’s only a matter of time?

 

There’s money if you’re an offensive lineman

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If you’re a decent lineman this March, you got paid.

Along with the aforementioned dynamic duo in Cleveland, the Los Angeles Chargers slapped a big deal on former Denver Broncos left tackle Russell Okung and the Minnesota Vikings paid a pretty penny to steal Riley Reiff off their fellow NFC North side, the Detroit Lions.

Neither of those played at a particularly high level last year but with needy teams come looser purse strings. Combine that with a draft reportedly thin on the ground at tackle and guard, anyone with experience with a bit of quality was treated like a diamond in the rough.

There’s no doubt some of these players have talent but to be paid $53 million over four years for Okung? That seems a little too steep of a price.

 

But there’s not so much for wide receivers

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Alshon Jeffery is a legitimate number one receiver in the NFL, yet teams looked at him like he’d kissed their wife right in front of them.

Credit to him for taking a prove-it deal with the Philadelphia Eagles, along with a “promise” to stay if he succeeds, but the PED violation hit his value harder than many expected it to. I mean, enhancing your performance is a big sin but players with worse records have earned plenty of bucks otherwise.

As it was mentioned earlier, the market for Pryor was also thinner than some anticipated. He looked a real threat since converting to a wideout but teams still stayed away from a potential one-season wonder.

Even DeSean Jackson settled for a secondary role as a deep threat in Tampa Bay, which shows there just wasn’t that much love for pass catchers this year. In fairness, the talent level was pretty thin too.

 

The quarterback market stay still, for now

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While the players were thin on the ground at quarterback in free agency, we are really still waiting for the big moves to happen, if they will at all.

Mike Glennon joined the Chicago Bears was the only real deal that has gone down so far. That’s not counting some backups signing up but that isn’t going to change a franchise overnight.

Jay Cutler was released into the wild and had a meeting with the New York Jets but there’s been no paperwork as of yet. He may look if anyone else pops their heads up and then decide if it’s even worth lacing up over a cushy retirement.

Jimmy G can’t stop teasing us on Instagram and in fairness, that one will likely rumble on until the draft next month. New England will like to squeeze every last bit of juice from that deal until Cleveland have no option to throw in a sweetner.

The final chip to fall anywhere is Tony Romo. The Dallas Cowboys are hoping someone is willing to trade, everyone is giggling at their poker face and are waiting for him to be released and go on a Peyton Manning-esque tour.

That one could go on and on as well, but whether he ends up staying in Texas with Houston or follows in Manning’s footsteps to Denver, it will be the story of the offseason.

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The Minnesota Vikings are in an alarming tailspin

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Zimmer is a good coach, he just needs more luck and more options. Source: Fox Sports

The NFL is a fickle mistress. One week you can be the talk of the town and a month down the line, you can be shot down to no-hopers that got a little lucky.

That’s exactly what has been the case for the Minnesota Vikings, the darlings of the early season. Despite some serious injuries, they were 5-0 heading into their bye but since then, they have been 0-4 without many signs of turning that around.

So, what has gone wrong? Where have they fallen off after such a promising start?

The first issue many will point to is the running game, that sits bottom of the NFL at a staggering 69.8 yards per game. They have only had one game where they totalled over 100 yards on the ground and only two more games over the 80 mark, a figure not helped by the absence of future Hall of Fame running back Adrian Peterson.

However, this was an issue before the bye that just hasn’t got better. Their worst total of 30 yards rushing came in a victory over the Green Bay Packers, while the 93 yards they managed in the defeat in Philadelphia swaps the 58 and 65 they got in wins against the Carolina Panthers and the Tennessee Titans respectively.

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Bradford has given the team a decent return, he just needs a better offensive line, which he has for almost his entire career. Source: twincities.com

Sam Bradford’s production has declined slightly but he’s not giving the ball away from passing, with only 2 interceptions this season. Since the bye, the quarterback has been sacked 16 times, double what was given up in the first five games.

Some may pin some of that liability on the Matt Kalil injury and while he is a good left tackle, they need a better contingency plan. Now that Jake Long is out for the season as well, it doesn’t look like the poor offensive line that has struggled in both blocking and protection will recover.

Added to those woes is the fact that their offence just doesn’t always get going. They are 25th in the league on third-and-out percentages, with 23 coming this season. It was most evident in a woeful display against the Chicago Bears, where they racked up five in a row in the first half and allowed a poor team the lead that they could not claw back.

The well-liked offensive coordinator Norv Turner resigned seemingly out of either pride, empathy or in an effort to save his reputation. The group has not gone forward since he left and there simply aren’t enough pieces outside Stephon Diggs and Kyle Rudolph to pull them out of the mire.

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Diggs has been a breakout star that can become a key in the future, at least. Source: Heavy

The buck is then passed on to their stout defence, something that coach Mike Zimmer is a specialist at. They trampled over teams in the opening third of the season, essentially winning them games in some respects, but have they kept it going?

The easiest way to say that is no, even if they do rank first in points allowed this season. First of all, they simply aren’t creating the havoc they had in the first few games of the season against a few teams that have struggled to keep their QB upright.

Their pass rush amassed 19 sacks in five weeks to start the season. That statistic has dropped off considerably to three in their last four, which shows that the pressure from their front liners is not as panic-inducing as previously thought.

They have also stopped turning the ball over, which was a huge factor in their wins to start the season. The defence had seven interceptions and six recovered forced fumbles in those five wins, just 3 INTs and 2 FFs since then, giving their offence less possession and their defence more time on the field that seems to have worn them out.

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Rightfully cut, it has been such a disappointing downturn for the once-promising Walsh. Source: Yahoo Sports

All of that is then compounded by a poor kicking game from Blair Walsh. He is 12/16 on field goals this year and has missed four extra points, including one against the Detroit Lions that would have seen them win the game.

It really looks like that kid has not recovered from the miss against the Seattle Seahawks in the playoffs last year. There was no surprise when he was cut earlier today.

All of that combines for a team going down, down, deeper and down. There is a chance for them still, with a relatively soft schedule and in a division without anyone doing much better, they could still make something of this season.

But saying that, they can’t afford many more slip-ups. If they can’t recover against the Arizona Cardinals or especially against the Lions, this team is cooked.

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How did Jeff Fisher hang on to the St Louis Rams job?

Fisher has outstayed any welcome without much progress.  Source: theodysseyonline.com

Fisher has outstayed any welcome without much progress. Source: theodysseyonline.com

The St Louis Rams finished the 2015 regular season with a 7-9 record, their fourth season in a row under .500 with head coach Jeff Fisher at the helm yet there is not a great calling to make a change. In the modern NFL, that seems a little more than strange.

At the start of the year, they again flattered to deceive. They pulled out a gutsy performance against the Seattle Seahawks, fuelled by the young defensive tackle Aaron Donald having a monster game and showed everyone how could they could be this season.

In fact, against the two teams in their division heading to the post-season, they finished 3-1. They beat the Seahawks twice, they beat the Arizona Cardinals in their own back yard and yet again, they showed promise that they could hang with the best in their division.

However, against a relatively soft schedule, they also showed that they lacked the composure to beat the weaker teams of the NFL. Sure, they got wins against the Detroit Lions, Cleveland Browns and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers but poor losses against the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens must sting when that would take you to a much more respectable 9-7.

Even against some good teams, they allowed their standards to slip enough just to lose. They lost close games to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Green Bay Packers and the Minnesota Vikings  but were soundly beaten by the likes of the Chicago Bears, who managed to put up 37 points, and they were humbled by the Cincinnati Bengals.

Nick Foles has been beyond poor and they need a replacement swiftly.  Source: Fox Sports

Nick Foles has been beyond poor and they need a replacement swiftly. Source: Fox Sports

It’s clear that despite the positives coming from the superb rookie season of Todd Gurley, this teams needs a hell of a lot on offence. They finished last in yards on offence and last in passing yards, showing that they don’t just need a steady quarterback, they need wide receivers and tight ends.

No pass catcher went for more than 700 yards, which is poor but when only three made it over 450 yards and the next best gained 250, that’s pretty appalling. Only three wide receivers caught balls for touchdowns this year, only one tight end managed it and no running backs caught it for a score either.

The shoddy play at quarterback was clear for everyone as Nick Foles threw for just 2052 yards for seven touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Case Keenum was slightly better, with 4 TDs to 1 INT in a couple of games but when the offensive line allows a league-best 18 sacks all season and the running back goes for 1100 yards in half of a season, that play is inexcusable and the trade was a huge mistake.

Their defence is exciting but at the same time, they finished 23rd in total yards allowed and were not good against the run or the pass. They got the quarterback a fair number of times, with 41 sacks and forced 20 fumbles, with 13 recovered but they were in the middle of the road on interceptions (13) and points allowed (20.6).

However, I think it’s fair to give their defence the benefit of the doubt. They were out there much more often thanks to poor offensive play and I actually think they have done pretty well considering how tired they must have been by the end of games.

Donald is one of the only bright spots this season, he has been sensational, Source: helmet2helmet.com

Donald is one of the only bright spots this season, he has been sensational, Source: helmet2helmet.com

When you combine all of that together, especially since they haven’t had any success under Fisher, why isn’t his head on the chopping block? He’s fired five assistants, that doesn’t include the offensive co-ordinator or even the quarterback coach but does include the WR assistant, but that doesn’t seem like enough to me.

While other former basement dwellers in his division used their young talent to elevate them to beat the strong teams in their division, the Rams are consistently stuck in the middle ground searching for relevancy.

It could be that the Rams are already in a difficult division, it could be that they have some promising youngsters or it could just be that they do not want to upset the apple cart before a potential move to Los Angeles.

Despite any of that, Fisher’s seat has to be the hottest of all of them heading into 2016. Failure again, especially if they do get their move back to California, and there can be no excuses should he be fired.

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