Frenzied fans of the NFL got one of the crazier days in Day 1 of the circus coming to town … although Minnesota wasn’t on the national radar. But, much like gawker and lookie-loo types, Vikings fans were the slow-rolling observers to the Day 1 insanity that is an annual tradition of free agency.
It’s been a long time since the Vikings embraced the insanity of Day 1. Given what happened Tuesday, that may be a good thing.
In one of the crazier deals that makes little sense in the big picture of things, the Philadelphia Eagles continue to dismantle the offense that Andy Reid once built, this time trading away quarterback Nick Foles. Chip Kelly and his crew traded Foles, a fourth-round pick in this year’s draft and a second-round pick in 2016 to St. Louis for oft-injured QB Sam Bradford, who is in the final season of an exorbitant rookie contract, a fifth-round pick this year and a 2016 conditional pick. If Bradford plays less than 50 percent of the snaps in 2015, the Rams get a fourth-round pick next year. If he doesn’t play at all, it becomes a third-round pick. If he plays more than 50 percent of the snaps, Philadelphia gets no more compensation. On face value, given the difference in salary, the Rams would have been willing to trade Bradford for Foles straight up, much less having it sweetened with draft picks.
The frenzy wasn’t over with that head scratcher. After working out a long-term deal with Jimmy Graham last year, the Saints traded their future Hall of Famer to Seattle for center Max Unger and the 31st pick in the draft. It marked the third straight year the Seahawks have traded away their first-round draft pick. In 2013, they traded the pick for Percy Harvin. Last year, they traded out of the last pick with the Vikings so Minnesota could select Teddy Bridgewater. Graham is a huge upgrade for Russell Wilson and, while Unger is a top center, there is a lot of jersey-wearing betrayal going on in the Big Easy for trading away Drew Brees’ favorite target. That wound needs time to scab for the Saints fan base.
One sure sign of free agency was Darrelle Revis being paid a king’s ransom yet again. In 2013, he signed a six-year, $96 million contract with Tampa Bay that called for $16 million in each year – the identical $13 million base salary and $3 million in roster/workout bonuses. The Bucs cut him after one season and $16 million paid. The Patriots gave him a two-year, $32 million contract last year, but, with a second year pushing $20 million after paying Revis $12 million in 2014, there was no way New England was going to continue the $16 million-a-year trend. Two seasons after leaving the Jets, Revis Island lands on Manhattan for a sequel. The deal? Five years, $70 million ($16 million a year) with $39 million guaranteed. If he actually plays out his deal, Revis will have been paid $125 million. Those are Hall of Fame financial numbers.
In Indianapolis, it appeared clear that the Colts were in the market for taking the next step in trying to build a Super Bowl team. Indy is close and Jim Irsay loves to make splashy moves. He did on Tuesday, improving his defensive line by adding pass rusher Trent Cole and defensive tackle Kendall Langford to help a defense often referred to with derogatory phrases like “soft” and “finesse.” They brought in Frank Gore to help one of the worst running games in the league – reversing a franchise trend of grooming backs like Marshall Faulk and Edgerrin James and letting them go away. Not be outdone, Andre Johnson is heading to town and may not leave without pen being put to paper on a contract for the sworn enemy of the Houston Texans.
For those who wonder where Christian Ponder is going to land, there isn’t any question where Jake Locker is going to land. The quarterback taken four picks ahead of Ponder in the 2011 draft announced his retirement out of the blue. In a statement from Locker he said, “Football has always played a pivotal role in my life and I love the game, but I no longer have the burning desire necessary to play the game for a living. To continue to do so would be unfair to the next organization with whom I would eventually sign.” Clearly, Locker saw the thin market in front of him by his depressing tone. Ponder can hold his head up because he still loves the game – even if the home fans routinely booed him. Blaine Gabbert, who was taken two picks ahead of Ponder, agreed to a two-year, $2 million deal to stay with San Francisco. That’s clipboard money – and an indictment on the QB class of 2011.
Speaking of former Vikings, Percy Harvin officially began looking for a fourth team in less than a two-year span when the Jets cut him loose. Considering that every team is weighing red flags concerning potential 2015 draftees – Harvin has burned bridges in Minnesota and Seattle – you can bet that a lot of teams won’t even give him a sniff of interest. All you need is two teams to create a competition – or perceived competition. This is where agents become unnamed sources concerning teams expressing interest. Buffalo and Harvin’s former coach in New York, Rex Ryan, are interested.
The anticipated big name of the free agent class was Ndamukong Suh. Vikings offensive coaches were pleased to hear that Miami would be his destination. Considering the new staff faced him twice last year, not seeing him until 2018 is a blessing. As of early Wednesday, no deal was finalized for South Beach Suh, but clearly the Lions have moved on – giving up a pair of Day 3 draft picks for Baltimore’s Haloti Ngata. Before you dismiss the 3-4 Ngata being a fit in Detroit’s 4-3, remember Pat Williams. He did fine.
DeMarco Murray hasn’t found a new home a day after un-friending the Cowboys on his Facebook page, but the current frontrunners if Murray wants to cash checks are Oakland and Jacksonville. If he signs with either team, we will understand where his business acumen is at. But Dallas is still very much in the mix.
Shaun Hill aside, the Vikings have yet to dip their collective toe into the chilly free agency waters. Considering what happened Tuesday, perhaps it was wise to be patient, because the teams that made significant moves that history will deem either brilliant (with no offense to Max Unger, Jimmy in Seattle sounds good) or a disaster (in South Philly, they will not like you, Sam I Am).
The Vikings stayed above the fray.
Seeing as what took place elsewhere and the consequences that come with that aggression, maybe 2015 was a year to take a step back, let the initial dust settle and see what’s left.
That stink you smell is agent flop sweat.
Now the counterpunches start throwing.
Stay tuned. It’s a long way to September. The Vikings aren’t missing the party. They’re just showing up fashionably late.
FREE AGENCY POSITIONAL PREVIEWS
OFFENSE: Quarterback | Running back | Wide receiver | Tight end |
Offensive tackle | Offensive guard | Center
DEFENSE: Defensive tackle | Defensive end | Outside linebacker
Inside linebacker | Safety | Cornerback
SCOUT.COM FREE AGENT RANKINGS
Position: QB RB FB WR TE OT OG C DT DE OLB MLB S CB K P LS