Friday, February 29, 2008

Vikings have a new safety, look for help elsewhere

When the Vikings traded Randy Moss to the Oakland Raiders before the 2005 draft, they acquired linebacker Napoleon Harris and the Raiders' first-round draft pick, number seven overall. Harris did nothing of consequence with the team and that #7 pick was used to draft Troy Williamson, who wowed scouts at the combine with a 4.32-second 40-yard dash but was otherwise virtually unknown. (When it became obvious that the Vikings would take a wide receiver with their pick, I favored USC wide receiver Mike Williams as a safer pick but, as bad as Williamson has been, Williams has been worse, notching just 44 catches in three seasons.)

Now, all the Vikings have to show for dealing Moss is a rumored sixth-round draft pick from the Jacksonville Jaguars, which would figure to be around the 200th pick in next month's draft. Last year's sixth-round picks -- all of them -- had 22 receptions in 2007 and that includes a guy who's listed as a linebacker. Not exactly fair compensation, but we're past the point of wondering whether Randy Moss or Mike Tice should have been shipped out after the 2004 season, when Moss said that he "wasn't sure" Tice was the head coach for him. Hint: It probably wasn't Moss.

But the free-agency period has begun, and there's a lot of talk of who the Vikings might get to fill the void at wide receiver and other positions, some of which might come true very soon.

I don't give the rumormongering from Yahoo much thought most of the time, but saying that Zygi Wilf has flown to California to court Bernard Berrian does seem like a bit more than your run-of-the-mill "Team A is interested in Player B" garbage they spew out regularly. The last paragraph, in particular, throws a ton of names out there, from Sage Rosenfels to Thomas Tapeh to Justin Smith, but it's the Berrian deal that seems most likely to develop into something more, and as soon as tonight, if true. confirms the Vikings apparent interest in Berrian and their desire to sign him quickly.

The stated terms of the deal worry me, though. $6-8 million per season for a wide receiver who hasn't even generated a 1,000-yard campaign yet? Granted, catching balls from Rex Grossman and Kyle Orton will depress anyone's numbers, but is Tarvaris Jackson that much better?

* According to the SI story, Smith and Madieu Williams could also be wearing purple very soon, filling voids at defensive end and safety, respectively. The Vikings have $35 million of cap room, the fifth-highest total in the league, so they can afford to overspend a bit and still have plenty left for signing draft picks and second-tier free agents.

(And...just as I write this, the story comes up on about Williams signing a six-year, $33 million contract with the Vikings, making him one of the highest-paid safeties in the league.)

* Even if all these deals get made, that will still leave a semi-gaping hole at one position for the team: quarterback. The team cut Kelly Holcomb earlier this week, and Derek Anderson, the closest there was to a top free-agent QB, has already re-signed with the Browns, leaving the Vikings to pick from a lackluster group of free agents that includes Trent Green, Quinn Gray, Cleo Lemon, and Byron Leftwich, or to work a trade for Rosenfels or J.P. Losman if they want to find a complement to or replacement for T-Jack. And, unlike last year, I won't be stumping for the team to pick up David Carr, who was recently released by the Panthers.

* Another interesting free agent is defensive end Jevon Kearse, recently released by the Eagles. Though he struggled with injuries in his Philadelphia career, and only managed 3.5 sacks in 14 games in 2007, he might be an interesting third-down option if he's willing to sign a low-cost, incentive-laden contract. Even with last year's disappointing season, Kearse averaged about half a sack per game in his Philadelphia career and if the 31-year-old is only counted on for 20-25 snaps a game, it might be that he could still be effective.

If you want to keep track of all the free-agent activity, I suggest either's free-agent tracker or the one located on It should be an interesting weekend!

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