Lurtsema's Reaction: The Free Agents

Former Vikings defensive lineman Bob Lurtsema talks about the free agents the Vikings signed right out of the gate, a player that got away, the aggressive approach and what's still needed.

VU: Do you think Jevon Kearse was a guy who could have brought something to the Vikings or do you think he was pretty well washed up with the injuries he had?

BL: He's an outstanding pass rusher, but the durability factor comes into play. Some players just get hurt all the time, and no matter what they do something's going to happen to them. Bud Grant always felt like he'd rather have somebody that was durable. But sometimes these players that are healthy only give you 60 percent and the guy who is hurt might only give you 60 percent of the total year, so you kind of weigh the two back and forth. In a good, solid football team, you want durable, intelligent ballplayers – and by intelligent I mean with attitude and heart. If he could stay healthy, he would be a home run, but let's get some athletes that also can bring that motor all the time.

VU: Considering the way things looked back in January at their end-of-the-year press conference, are you pretty surprised at how aggressive the Vikings have been in free agency?

BL: Not so much in free agency because Coach (Brad) Childress is in a tremendous situation there because of the love that Zygi Wilf has for football – he's opened up his checkbook. He can pretty much bring in anybody he wants and Zygi Wilf is not second-guessing him. That does not surprise me because they are that close. How good Bernard Berrian is, that's going to be interesting. I'm not surprised at the money aspect because of – here we go again – Zygi's passion for the game.

VU: How much of a difference do you think Berrian will make? Is it a big difference in the passing game as well, or do you think his ability to stretch the field will mainly be felt in getting Adrian Peterson free on more runs?

BL: Unless the offensive coordinator or whoever is calling the plays for the Vikings, if they don't have their ace quarterback go deep early and waste a couple going deep, he won't make any difference whatsoever because he's not as fast as Troy Williamson. If you don't take a few shots deep, they're going to keep running nine in the box. It's going to be more on the play selection. You've got to stretch the field and use him.

VU: What you think of the move to get safety Madieu Williams?

BL: If you can use him differently in coverages and bring more blitzes, it's going to put more heat on the quarterback. That's what the defensive coaches are telling you: We've got to put more heat on the quarterback. If they do it from the safety position, that would give them the opportunity to show different looks and throw a little more blitzing at them and not give the quarterback as much time to get his reads.

VU: Did you ever get the feeling last year that Leslie Frazier felt limited by his blitzing? Obviously the off-the-field stuff had a lot to do with why they cut Dwight Smith, but do you think they felt limited by what he could do athletically and that's why they went after Williams?

BL: I thought he was limited to a degree because when you do not have a good pass rush, that really takes away a lot of what you can do with different looks. The Tampa-2, the zones, the man-to-man, it's really all predicated on how much pressure you've got up front, where you can give a lot of different looks – what I would actually call bastard looks. You can toy around and you know the quarterback will not have that much time with a rush. If you get him frustrated enough in his keys, with what the quarterback is reading, it's a tremendous plus. Without a pass rush, it does limit a defensive coordinator, even one as good as Leslie Frazier is.

VU: Finally Thomas Tapeh. How much do you think his youth will help or even hurt with what the Vikings had with Tony Richardson?

BL: It's going to be tough to replace Tony, and I think even more in the locker room. He had such a great influence on all the players attitude-wise. You'd love to have him in the locker room. I don't know whether his play was that bad or his salary was that high. I know they have been talking about Tapeh playing for Childress in Philadelphia, so he knows the system, but then there are a lot of other players that supposedly know the system and have come over from Philadelphia and aren't doing that well. If he knows the system, it's hard to say. Having Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor back there, Childress must have tremendous confidence in him, so I would have to back Childress on that one. But in the locker room and what Richardson did last year, I'll never, ever say a bad thing about that man. What a tremendous influence on the team and the public itself. With a team in desperate need of positive PR, he was a tremendous plus.

Bob Lurtsema was a 12-year veteran defensive lineman in the NFL, playing with the Baltimore Colts, New York Giants, Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks, and the longtime publisher of Viking Update. He joins for a weekly Q & A session, and his monthly column appears in the magazine.

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