ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Vikings have cash, but taking prudent approach

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The Vikings entered free agency's three-day negotiating period with their top two needs being a starting right defensive end to replace Jared Allen and a quarterback to serve as a bridge to the future.

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The Vikings entered free agency's three-day negotiating period with their top two needs being a starting right defensive end to replace Jared Allen and a quarterback to serve as a bridge to the future.

Hours later, they had scratched both items off that to-do list by agreeing to terms with two of their own free agents. Quarterback Matt Cassel, who went a respectable 3-3 during last season's three-headed quarterbacking nightmare, signed a two-year deal worth $10 million. Everson Griffen, a freakishly athletic and versatile 27-year-old defender, received a $42.5 million deal over five years and $20 million guaranteed despite having started only one game in his four-year career.

After making those two moves and also bringing former Vikings middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley back after a one failed season in Arizona, the Vikings had a new to-do list and a much more patient mentality heading into the opening of free agency's signing period on Tuesday.

"We've got a lot of holes to fill, but we want to be smart with how we use the money," said head coach Mike Zimmer, whose team is believed to be more than $25 million under the league's $133 million salary cap after re-signing Cassel and Griffen. "We don't want to go crazy in this thing.

"I think if we go out and spend a whole bunch of money now, we'd be upset two years from now because some of them didn't work out. So we're going to be real diligent in how we approach this and making sure that not only is it best for next year, but best for the long run, too."

ADVERTISEMENT

That's a philosophy that general manager Rick Spielman rarely strays from. He did it last spring, going against his core rules of thumb when a desperate need at receiver led him to Greg Jennings, an older, high-priced player with a history of recent injuries.

This spring, Spielman and the Vikings went into the free-agent signing period needing starters at nose tackle, left guard and weak-side linebacker. But their highest priority remains cornerback, where the roster looks extremely bleak behind top corner Xavier Rhodes. Chris Cook, a career underachiever, isn't expected to return and Josh Robinson, who failed and was injured last season in his first year as a starter, is more of a backup caliber player who isn't suited to play over the slot in the nickel.

Cornerback is the one position that could tempt the Vikings to spend the most money in free agency. They've already reached out to Tennessee's 25-year-old Alterraun Verner, who will be one of the more expensive free agents this year. The Vikings like his skills and are comfortable with signing him because new defensive backs coach Jerry Gray coached him as Titans defensive coordinator.

The benchmark signing for corners this spring is the deal Green Bay gave Sam Shields. It averages about $10.5 million per year, which would be quite a leap financially.

Zimmer isn't saying no, but he has been preaching patience in general.

"There are several ways to fill (our) holes," Zimmer said. "My thing (as a defensive coordinator) has always been play good team defense, not just be great players, but be good as a team. I do believe you can be real good, if you get the correct guys in there that buy into the system, that want to play for one another, that want to take ownership in something bigger than themselves.

"Everybody sees that Maserati and they want to go buy it and you know you probably shouldn't. You should probably buy a Ford F-150, like I got. Because if you get the F150, you can keep building the pieces you need. So I think we have to be smart about it."

What To Read Next
Get Local

ADVERTISEMENT