Analysis: Trade the Best Option Now

The Vikings have lost out on a trio of defensive ends even making it to Winter Park in the last four days. What's left on the free-agent market? Jevon Kearse and then "just guys," meaning nothing too overwhelming, which makes a trade the best route to go. There is one worth making.

The Vikings lost out on another pair of defensive ends on Monday when former Tennessee Titans Antwan Odom and Travis LaBoy each signed with other NFL teams – Odom with the Cincinnati Bengals (his first free-agent visit) and LaBoy with the Arizona Cardinals (his second visit).

After top free-agent defensive end Justin Smith signed with the San Francisco 49ers on Saturday, the Vikings had arranged a visit with Odom for Tuesday, confirmed. Smith was originally scheduled to visit the Vikings on Saturday if he got out of San Francisco without a contract. Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier even spoke with Smith when he was at the airport on his way to visit the 49ers, but Frazier left that phone conversation with a feeling that Smith was already deep in negotiations San Francisco.

Ironically, the Vikings showed an interest in LaBoy, but they didn't get a visit scheduled before he had already agreed to terms with the Cardinals. The Browns were also deeply involved in negotiations with LaBoy.

So far, that's three strikes on the free-agent market at defensive end.

On Monday, Vikings coach Brad Childress said in an interview on KFAN that he spent the morning watching film of defensive ends, including that of free agent Jevon Kearse. Vikings fans will remember Kearse as the player often discussed in the draft of 1999, when the team was coming off a disappointing loss in the 1998 NFC Championship game and observers felt they were only a pass rusher away from Super Bowl glory. Instead, Dennis Green and the Vikings passed on joining the "Freak" on defense with their own "Superfreak" on offense and chose quarterback Daunte Culpepper instead.

Kearse started his career with 36 sacks in the first three years, but he hasn't reached double digits since then. In the last six years with the Titans and Philadelphia Eagles, he has registered only 33½ sacks.

However, during Kearse's first two years with the Eagles, when Childress was Philadelphia's offensive coordinator, Kearse delivered 7½ sacks each. On Monday during his KFAN radio interview, Childress called Kearse a good player and a good person. The coach said he would have to make some calls to find out more information on Kearse, whose agent is Drew Rosenhaus, the same agent that represented recent Vikings signee Bernard Berrian.

While Kearse's 166 tackles and 69½ career sacks would be an upgrade for the Vikings at defensive end, there may be a better, less injury-prone option that isn't on the free-agent market.

The Dolphins' Jason Taylor has been a much more durable, more consistent sack artist than Kearse. With 11 seasons in the NFL, Taylor isn't a long-term option for any team, but he no longer seems like a good fit for a rebuilding Dolphins franchise. However, a suddenly aggressive Vikings organization coming off a season in which they missed the playoffs by one game might be the perfect fit for Taylor.

He would be an expensive, short-term mercenary, no doubt, but his production can't be ignored. Despite being older than Kearse, Taylor's production has stayed at the top of the league's leaders over the last six seasons, when he has compiled 77½ sacks. For his career, he has 117 sacks.

Vikings fans might remember Taylor as the man who made an incredibly athletic play against Minnesota in 2006, when he realized he wasn't going to get to quarterback Brad Johnson and dropped back in coverage, stuck up his hand and intercepted a fourth-quarter pass that he returned 51 yards for a game-winning touchdown with 3:25 to play.

Right now, however, the information and speculation on Taylor is all over the board. New Dolphins general manager Bill Parcells says Taylor will either play for the Dolphins in 2008 or have to retire.

But that proclamation hasn't stopped there from being Internet reports over the weekend saying that he would be sent to the Green Bay Packers for second- and fourth-round picks. Taylor had success as an outside linebacker in the Dolphins' 3-4 defense under Nick Saban and it appears the Dolphins will run that scheme again this year, but their pursuit of free-agent outside linebacker Calvin Pace in free agency has led to more speculation that Taylor's days with the Dolphins could be coming to end (Joey Porter is the other outside linebacker and, according to one Dolphins media member, Porter is nearly immovable because of his contract situation).

The issue with Taylor is if he wants to continue with football – he is appearing in the television show "Dancing with the Stars" this offseason and isn't expected to attend all of the Dolphins' offseason program because of that. Further clouding the issue are Taylor's roots in the Miami area. He is heavily involved in charity work in South Florida and won the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award in 2007.

He has a lot going for him on and off the field, but it might be difficult for him to walk away from a contract that calls for $7.5 million in 2008 and $8 million in 2009, with $500,000 roster bonuses each year. A trade for him would cost the Vikings nearly $17 million over the next two seasons, but there is no denying his productivity.

Kearse would have been equally as expensive for the Eagles, as he was slated for a $6.46 million base salary with $2 million in prorated bonus money and a $125,000 workout bonus in 2008 before his release. His salary would have continued to escalate to $8.9 million in and $10.2 million in 2010 and 2011, respectively.

And, finally, there is the little issue of familiarity. Kearse has it was Childress; Taylor with vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman. Taylor has been in Miami his entire career, and Spielman has to be intimately familiar with his talents and personality. Two of the Vikings' three free-agent signees this year had previously played for Childress and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, so familiarity is a huge factor.

After losing out on getting Justin Smith, Antwan Odom and Travis LaBoy, the best and most productive solution at defensive end might be a trade for Taylor. It would probably cost the Vikings a second- and third-round pick to pry him loose from the Dolphins, and his salary is formidable. But so are his production and the Vikings' need at Taylor's strength.


  • Former Vikings wide receiver Randy Moss re-signed with the New England Patriots for three years, $27 million.

  • The Bengals signed Odom to a five-year, $29.5 million contract that includes $11.5 million in guarantees.

  • LaBoy got a five-year, $22 million deal with $7.5 million in guarantees from the Cardinals.

  • Free-agent running back Maurice Hicks was negotiating with the Vikings on Monday. He is scheduled to stay in town until Monday afternoon. If no agreement is reached by then, he will depart for a Wednesday visit with the Houston Texans.

  • Former Vikings running back Mewelde Moore signed a three-year, $4.95 million contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

  • Viking Update Top Stories