Could long ex-Packers tradition continue?

The Vikings have already signed one ex-Packer before free agency and another one might make sense.

Could the Vikings be sniffing around linebacker A.J. Hawk before free agency opens? As a player who was released by the Packers, he has the ability to sign with anyone before free agency officially begins a week from tomorrow. While many of us see Hawk as a player at the end of his NFL career, it would fit the Vikings M.O. to snipe a player the Packers have either given up on or allowed to leave in free agency without making a huge effort to re-sign them.

Over the last decade, it has become something of a trend that has showed no sign of slowing down – the trend continued by claiming disgraced tight end Brandon Bostick. If was only one or two players that have taken the westward trail across the Mississippi River, it would be one thing. But the list has been long and illustrious.

The funny thing is that it has largely been a one-way street. About the only Viking that has portaged eastward across the Mississippi was Letroy Guion. Other than Guion, it’s hard to find many Vikings that made the Lambeau Leap to Green Bay. It’s been one-sided and continues to grow.

One of the initial big splashes came in 2005 when Darren Sharper came over from the Packers and became an immediate leader in the Vikings defense. But the exodus of Packers players and the interest from the Vikings has gone well beyond that.

The Packers organization is still torn about the Brett Favre situation. General manager Ted Thompson made the decision in 2008 that Favre wasn’t the answer anymore. He was convinced the Pack had an emerging star in Aaron Rodgers, but as long as the NFL ironman was still in the house, they had no idea what they had in Rodgers and the only way to find out was to exile Favre when he balked at the idea of retirement. When he forced their hand, he was exiled to the Jets, who were forced to agree to a trade that would cost them two first-round picks if they turned around and traded Favre specifically to the Vikings.

Why? Because the Vikings had a history of falling in love with Packers players. They already had Sharper and Ryan Longwell. Less than a year later, when the Jets were convinced that Mark Sanchez was going to be their quarterback for the next decade and traded up to get him, Favre made his roundabout trip to Minnesota – a decision that created a Green Bay rift that has taken almost five years to start scabbing over.

While the Favre decision was a no-brainer – only tens of fans were interested in the training camp starter battle between Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels – the Vikings have maintained a history of doing reclamations on former Packers.

Wide receiver has been the primary source of Vikings organizational man-love. Robert Ferguson was brought in to compete for a starting job, but was more reminiscent of the “Saturday Night Live” parody Turd Ferguson. In 23 games over two seasons, he caught just 35 passes for 416 yards and one touchdown. When he was cut loose after the 2008 season, nobody else came calling and he eventually retired.

The Vikings gave former Packer Javon Walker a look in 2010 when just about everyone else thought his career was dead. He was signed prior to the final preseason game but was gone before the regular season opener.

In the case of Greg Jennings, the Vikings overspent to rob the Packers of one of Aaron Rodgers’ primary targets. But with Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb waiting in the wings for big contracts, there was no way the Packers were going to make anything but a low-ball offer to Jennings, making his acquisition by the Vikings that was incredibly easy to justify for a Packers front office that wasn’t going to offer him anything even remotely half that much.

The best acquisition may well be the cheapest. The Packers brass knew they had something in Charles Johnson, but, like the Vikings with Greg Childs, injuries derailed his career. Norv Turner liked what he saw after Johnson was released and made sure Cleveland scooped him up. He did the same last fall and it appears as though the third team might be the charm. It took a while, but, like Detroit chasing its tail to draft wide receivers until finally getting it right, the Vikings may have finally found their most valuable former Packers receiver – much less for pennies on the dollar.

That’s a lot of former Packer ammunition to make you think they might be interested in Hawk, but the primary reason for that is in their recent Packer-raiding history. After missing the end of the 2011 season and all of 2012 with significant hamstring and knee injuries, few teams other than the Vikings thought Desmond Bishop had any gas left in the tank. As it turned out, everybody else was right. He played in just four games in 2013 and, after working his way into his first start, he suffered yet another injury and his season was over. Four games. Five tackles. Desmond has left the building.

If nobody else has much interest, it wouldn’t be shocking for the Vikings to bring in Hawk to compete for the middle linebacker position if the price is right. He’s been durable. In nine seasons with Green Bay, he has only missed two of 144 games. While he clearly is on the backside of his career and has significant coverage liabilities, don’t be shocked if the Vikings kick the tires at a minimum – potentially before the start of free agency.

All you need is one team to create a market for a player. Considering how often the Vikings have been that one team in terms of bringing former Packers into the enemy camp, don’t discount the possibility – even though the Packers have said goodbye to him.


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