Vikings follow free agent theme, get younger

The numbers show just how much younger the Vikings got with their replacements in free agency, and how much money they saved by doing it. They even did better than the NFL average this year.

The Vikings are following the NFL trend in free agency this year: get younger.

According to the Dallas Morning News, the average age of the first 62 salary-cap casualties this offseason was 30.7 while the average age of the first 95 players signed in free agency was 28.2. The obvious conclusion: youth wins.

The Vikings followed a similar path, but they went even younger with the direct replacements.

Five of their signings so far can be categorized as direct replacements for players they either released or didn't re-sign. Jared Allen is being replaced by Everson Griffen. Kevin Williams is being replaced by Tom Johnson (or Sharrif Floyd). Letroy Guion is being replaced by Linval Joseph. Erin Henderson is being replaced by Jasper Brinkley (or some other, likely younger, option). And Chris Cook is being replaced by Captain Munnerlyn.

In four of those five cases, the Vikings got younger, and in the case of Allen vs. Griffen they will get six years younger based on the age of the players at the start of the regular season. Allen will be 32 in September and Griffen 26. The Vikings paid Griffen handsomely on potential, but his contract still takes less than half the salary cap space of Allen's contract for 2013.

If Brinkley is beat out at middle linebacker by a younger player, it will be all five players being replaced by someone younger.

In those five positions, the Vikings are going from an average age of 29.6 to 27.2.

Comparing the old players' 2013 cap number to the new players' 2014 cap, the Vikings also saved $8.92 million in salary on those five positions, and using the scheduled 2014 cap number of players that were released (Guion and Henderson), the savings would exceed $10 million. Plus, the NFL salary cap is rising by $10 million this year, to $133 million. That allows the Vikings to sign more mid-level players, too.

In the case of the Vikings re-signing some of their own unrestricted free agents, those players were generally older, but there was a definitive theme there, too. Players like Matt Cassel (32 years old at the start of the season), Jerome Simpson (27), Charlie Johnson (30), Fred Evans (30) and Joe Berger (32) got short-term contracts. Cassel and Johnson were signed to two-year deals, but Johnson could be released after the 2014 season without any real cap consequence. The rest of them were signed to one-year contracts.

The chart below illustrates the age and cap numbers of "the replacements" vs. the "old blood."

Age: 32
2013 cap number: $17 million
Comments: The Vikings showed no real interest in re-signing Allen, focusing first on Everson Griffen. 
Age: 26
2014 cap number: $8.2 million
Comments: The Vikings are paying on potential here, but they know better than anyone what Griffen can do.
Age: 34
2013 cap number: $5 million
Comments: Like Jared Allen, the Vikings made no push to re-sign Williams, looking to get younger.
Age: 30
2014 cap number: $995,000
Comments: Johnson will be asked to provide rotational depth at defensive tackle behind Sharrif Floyd.
Age: 27
2013 cap number: $2.8 million
Comments: Guion's cap number for 2014 was scheduled to be $4.3 million before his release.
Age: 25
2014 cap number: $6.6 million
Comments: Joseph is much more of the nose tackle the Vikings were seeking than Guion.
Age: 28
2013 cap number: $1.75 million
Comments: Due to his arrest and personal issues (and a $2.25 million cap number in 2014), he was released.
Age: 29
2014 cap number: $830,000
Comments: Brinkley will be fighting for Henderson's job, but other younger players will compete, too.
Age: 27
2013 cap number: $2.3 million
Comments: With no interceptions and too many injuries, Cook was expendable to a new coaching staff.
Age: 26
2014 cap number: $3.3 million
Comments: All four of his interceptions in the last two years have been returned for touchdowns.

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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