The Vikings don't have to sign linebacker Desmond Bishop, but adding him would be a nod more toward depth than any expressed blemish on Erin Henderson's potential at middle linebacker.
Bishop is reportedly down to the Vikings, Kansas City Chiefs and New York Giants for his new possible team, according to NFL.com, but none of them appear ready to offer the kind of long-term stability Bishop thought he had when he signed a four-year, $19 million deal with the Green Bay Packers in 2011.
Situations can change quickly in the NFL, and Bishop's did. He followed the signing of that contract with an initial season that warranted the Packers' investment. He was their leading tackler despite missing three games in 2011.
Since then, however, Bishop hasn't been on the field in the regular season. Last year, he didn't play a down that counts after suffering a torn hamstring in the preseason opener.
He told reporters this spring he is 100 percent healthy, but he didn't participate in any of the Packers organized team activities or minicamp this spring and was released Monday, just days after Green Bay finished their final practices before the start of training camp.
Apparently it didn't matter to the Packers that the Vikings were starting their minicamp the day after Bishop was released, which should have suitors proceeding with caution because of Bishop's medical condition. In fact, the Vikings didn't figure there was a big hurry in getting him signed either, waiting until Wednesday to give him a physical and then not making him enough of an offer to get him to cancel his visit Thursday to the Kansas City Chiefs.
But then the Chiefs followed suit, declining to offer him a deal that was enticing enough to take right away.
"Decisions decisions!!!" Bishop tweeted the day after his visit with the Chiefs. "Stuff spot, but great position to be in because I have options. Truly a blessing."
The Giants reportedly are only interested in Bishop if he is willing to accept a one-year, minimum-salary deal. Mostly likely the Vikings would be willing to give a little more than minimum salary to a linebacker that likely would be projected to play in the middle – he was an inside linebacker for the Packers.
According to reporters in Green Bay, Bishop wasn't only one of the starters in 2011, he was probably the best inside linebacker they had when healthy. Even so, the Packers gave Brad Jones a three-year, $11.75 million contract extension, which might further signal they don't trust Bishop can stay on the field.
That would seem to leave only the Vikings and Chiefs as possibilities, unless Bishop has been playing coy and really just hoping to leverage anything out of Green Bay. That doesn't seem likely, either, because it would be in a backup role, and there were also these words from Bishop after his release:
"There's something about being released that's definitely going to add another chip to my shoulders," Bishop said. "It's motivation. It's nothing negative about this whole situation. I think it's all part of the plan, and I have to keep playing it out. I think it's going to be good. I think all that is going to help me reach my goal."
But where exactly will that goal be strived for next?
The Chiefs can offer him a 3-4 defense, similar to the one he played in Green Bay.
The Vikings can offer him a division rival of the Packers and the chance to make his former team regret their decision to release him. Most likely, he would be used as Minnesota's middle linebacker, and that wouldn't sit all that well with Henderson, who longingly wants to increase his value and become an every-down linebacker. Maybe that could still happen, even with Bishop, who isn't known for his coverage skills and might be the linebacker to come off the field in the team's nickel defense.
Either way, signing Bishop shouldn't be perceived as a slight on Henderson's offseason performance. Teammates have praised his presence and leadership in that role, and defensive coordinator Alan Williams said he would be just fine going into the season with his current cast of linebackers.
But there is no doubt that signing Bishop to a minimum-risk deal would increase the depth at a position that could use it. It would allow Gerald Hodges, the team's fourth-round pick, to develop and keep Marvin Mitchell where he is most effective, as a special teams coverage leader, and away from something he doesn't have much experience with – starting and playing linebacker full-time (he has started only three games in his six NFL seasons).
Bishop may not be dominating, but he would be a smart addition. Even if the Vikings weren't in a hurry to get the deal done and overpay, if his hamstring checked out – and two sources said he had a good workout – he should be a move that is made to increase the overall depth and experience on a defense in transition.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Sunday slant: Bishop would be smart addition
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