Thursday, March 02, 2006

It’s a Wonderful Life

This offseason the Vikings are like Mr Potter from It’s A Wonderful Life. Taking advantage of others misfortunes and doing it economically. Many NFL teams are panicking, trying to limbo underneath the $95 million cap bar. Meanwhile the Vikings, $24 million under the cap, sit and wait, ready to swoop in for some great deals.

Half of the NFL teams are below or within $2million of the cap number. Several other teams need to cut payroll to resign other free agents. Three months ago it was a very weak free agency year. Now, thanks to a stalemate in labor talks, the NFL off season will be a
land rush. Of the few teams have the money and cap space of the Vikings, only San Diego, Jacksonville and Philadelphia are close to playoff ready.

The cap craziness also means teams will need to decide how many of their own free agents they can keep. Look at the Carolina Panthers. They started the off season $12 million over the cap and already cut Stephen Davis, Brentson Buckner and Rod “He Hate Me” Smart. More cuts will bring them below the cap, but will they have enough money to resign free agents LB Will Witherspoon and S Marlon McRee? In a normal year a restricted free agent like Witherspoon would never make it to the open market. Suddenly teams like the Vikings that need an upgrade in the middle have a realistic shot at him. The flipside of this is less competition for the Vikings’ free agents like Koren Robinson.

One of the most common cap cuts are offensive lineman. Coincidentally, this is the Vikings’ most visible need. Players like Will Shields, Brad Hopkins, Pete Kendall are all rumored to be cut. Many of these players are nearing the end of their careers, but it would grant time to Marcus Johnson and Tonui Fonoti. The other option is the Saints’ LeCharles Bentley who can play both guard and center. He is a free agent and while he is the more expensive option, he is entering his prime.

Other options worth tracking are defensive back and defensive end. Lance Johnstone is a free agent, Kenechi Udeze is rehabbing a torn knee, and the cover 2 relies on pressure from the front four. Why not sign a Pro Bowler like Trevor Pryce for a one or two year deal? A safety or converted corner to replace Corey Chavous could be cheaply found among the cap castoffs. Ditto for a veteran corner as a nickelback. Sam Madison, Marcus Coleman, Eric Warfield or Ahmed Plummer for an inexpensive third corner would be luxurious. And that is exactly the luxury the Vikings can see.