It is tough to say someone hit a home run in free agency. Nothing is clear until players step on the field. But on paper, it seems Rick Spielman and the Vikings absolutely knocked this last week out of the park.
The home stretch of the 2018 season exposed the glaring needs of the Vikings’ roster. They lacked pass rush depth, consistent offensive line play and a quarterback who could make plays when nothing was working. Though they missed on the hotter free agent offensive linemen, at least for the time being, Minnesota nabbed the biggest names on the market at each of their other two needs.
Plus, with such a deep offensive line draft approaching, there is a high likelihood of finding at least one, maybe two immediate starters who are rookies. The same cannot be said for quarterbacks or defensive linemen, at least at the position where the Vikings draft.
As such, Spielman used free agency exactly what it should be used for: he filled holes, maybe found a franchise player or two and left fewer needs for the draft. And he did it all at relatively reasonable prices.
Let us take a deeper look and evaluate each of the Vikings’ moves in the last week.
Kirk Cousins: A
Three years, $84 million, all guaranteed.
We can debate until we are blue in the face whether or not Cousins will be an upgrade worth $10 million more than Case Keenum. But the facts of situation are thus: Cousins was the best quarterback on the market. By all indications, he received $30 million-a-year offers, presumably from the Jets. And it was the Vikings who nabbed him for less money and a relatively short-term deal.
It is the three-year aspect of the contract that is so beneficial to the Vikings and a little curious from Cousins. He has been franchised multiple times, never given a long-term deal, despite good production. One would assume he would seek the stability of a four or five-year deal. But alas, the appeal of the Vikings’ roster was clearly the greatest selling point. As a result, Spielman and company will have a little more flexibility than originally thought. If it becomes clear that Cousins has already peaked and will never get the Vikings over the hump, they are not tied down like the Ravens are with Joe Flacco.
So in the end, the Vikings got about as low a risk deal as was conceivable when free agency started. And the reward could be the first true franchise quarterback since Daunte Culpepper.
Trevor Siemian (Trade): B+
Broncos receive fifth-round pick in 2019
Vikings receive Siemian and a seventh-round pick in 2018
The Vikings acquired a backup with starting experience without giving up a lot. They also added another draft pick in the process. Though the most recent Siemian tape is not pretty, he has shown he can be trusted with the ball in spots. Remember, once upon a time Keenum was nothing more than a failed starter. And he will go down as perhaps the greatest backup quarterback in Vikings history.
Siemian will make just $1.9 million in 2018 and will become an unrestricted free agent after this coming season. If they do not re-sign him, they will get yet another compensatory pick in 2020. The trade is low-risk for Minnesota with moderate reward.
One year, $8 million, $11 million with incentives
Richardson’s recent stint of lackluster production may very well be a blessing in disguise for Minnesota. At only $8 million for one year, $11 million with incentives, the Vikings landed arguably the top defensive tackle on the market with few detrimental effects to their cap. Richardson, a former Defensive Rookie of the Year and Pro Bowler, has historically been one of the better interior pass rushers in the game. Yet, his 2018 base salary will be lower than what he made in 2017.
And the Vikings are only invested in Richardson for one year. Should he re-ignite his career, he will figure into the Vikings’ plans. If his downtrend continues, they can cut bait. No harm, no foul. The upside is one of the most fearsome defensive lines in recent Vikings memory. The downside is a darn good defensive line at a modest price. Seems like a clear win for Minnesota, especially given what other defensive tackles on the market have made. Dontari Poe and Star Lotulelei both signed bigger, longer-term deals than Richardson, and neither has his history of pass rush ability.
All it might take is fewer double teams and a better locker room to turn Richardson back into his 2014 form. If that is the case, we could be looking at an historically great defense.
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