As the first three days of full free agency have come and gone, Minnesota Vikings fans are asking one another a very similar question – what’s going on here?
If the Vikings have built an M.O. under General Manager Rick Spielman, punctuated by head coach Mike Zimmer the last couple of offseasons, it has been to keep their own players more than they venture into free agency to build the foundation of their roster. More times than not, players were locked up prior to the start of free agency – starters getting long-term deals and older players and reserves getting pulled back in for short-term deals.
Last year, the Vikings spent much of the early March free agent period re-signing their own players. It wasn’t just a couple of guys, it was fully keeping the band together, a list of players that included cornerback Terence Newman, linebacker Chad Greenway, safety Andrew Sendejo, guard Mike Harris, cornerback Marcus Sherels, running back Matt Asiata, fullback Zach Line, tight end Rhett Ellison, linebacker Audie Cole, defensive end Justin Trattou and defensive lineman Kenrick Ellis. Basically, if you were a member in good standing with the team, you came back for 2016.
The only players the Vikings lost were ones they were more than willing to part ways with – wide receiver Mike Wallace, who signed with Baltimore, cornerback Josh Robinson, who signed with Tampa Bay, and safety Robert Blanton, who signed with Buffalo. No effort was made to keep them and they weren’t missed when they were gone.
The Vikings did make some outside signings, but, aside from guard Alex Boone, they didn’t get much out of any of them – offensive tackle Andre Smith, linebacker Emmanuel Lamur, safety Michael Griffin, linebacker Travis Lewis and tight end Brian Leonhardt.
The Vikings weren’t overly busy, but they didn’t have many holes to fill after re-signing so many of their own guys. This year, things couldn’t be more different.
What is different is the relative indifference the Vikings have shown about locking down their own free agents. Two days into free agency, the Vikings have already cut guards Brandon Fusco and Mike Harris, seen Chad Greenway retire and have stood by and witnessed several free agents losses, including left tackle Matt Kalil, cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, tight end Rhett Ellison, wide receiver Charles Johnson, punter Jeff Locke and linebacker Audie Cole.
Add to that the now-former Vikings who are still out on the open market.
Adrian Peterson is scheduled to visit, as he and his agent need time to process the lack of huge offers being put forward by NFL teams.
Wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson has meetings with the Redskins, Raiders and Bears and remains unsigned, apparently with nothing coming from the Vikings. He’s gone as far as to post messages on Snapchat and Twitter asking the Vikings why they aren’t stepping up with an offer to keep him.
Andre Smith is meeting with Buffalo this week to see if they’ll put a contract on the table.
Nothing has been mentioned about Newman, Shaun Hill, Asiata or Trattou.
It’s become clear in less than 72 hours that the 2017 Vikings are going to be very different than the team that closed out the 2016 season on New Year’s Day.
We’ve already seen a lot of players who wore the purple and gold proudly head out the door, including Greenway, Kalil, Munnerlyn and Fusco. From the current looks of things, even more prominent players like Peterson and Patterson – both multiple-time Pro Bowlers, are following them.
What appears painfully obvious and clear is that the 2017 Vikings are going to have a vastly different team in 2017 than they had during the first three years of the Mike Zimmer Administration – and it appears they’re doing nothing to make any attempt to keep the old band together.
They know what they’re doing, but they’re doing it without a first-round draft pick, a ton of cash that came off the books and a fan base saying, “Is that it?”
That’s rarely a good organizational strategy to light up a fan base.
Maybe this week will be the week that Minnesota starts making headlines.