Lurtsema's Reaction: The free-agent fallout

Since free agency started, the Vikings have lost two of their unrestricted free agents and re-signed two. How will that affect their depth and production? Former Viking Bob Lurtsema analyzes the losses and re-signings and how it will affect the team going forward.

VU: How big of a loss do you think Chester Taylor will be?

BL: Huge. I just think that he could have made a bigger contribution even last year. The Vikings had great results and it was just a fantastic season, but I think he puts such a threat in that running game. When you've got a back that can run and catch the ball as well, that's a huge threat because of the pressure it puts on the defense. I've said it before, but you'd like to see them both (Taylor and Adrian Peterson) in the backfield at the same time, and it does slow you down a little bit. Once you get a feel on a certain formation – if a team runs 80 percent of the time off the I-formation or throws 90 percent of the time off the split formation with certain personnel in there – that is a huge advantage for the defensive line. I think he's going to be missed. I think he gave them a lot of things that the average fan didn't see. I think the confusion he caused for opposing defenses is overshadowed at times and not really talked about.

VU: We haven't seen a whole lot of Albert Young. The problem is that there doesn't seem to be much out there in free agency, so you're probably stuck with either a mid-level or low-level free agent or Albert Young or a draft pick. What's your thought on which way they end up going?

BL: They have to believe in Albert Young. He's a very bright kid, doesn't make a lot of mistakes. The backfield coach (Eric Bieniemy) believes in him. I don't think Zygi Wilf would allow Chester Taylor to leave if there wasn't a larger comfort zone with Young than what's been written about and talked about in the media.

VU: Did you think that LaDainian Tomlinson would be a good fit? Obviously his best days are behind him, but did you think he still had some gas left in the tank?

BL: I'm confused, but everybody says I'm always confused. But I was a little confused on that. I watched him real close last year and I watched how he was cutting, like with the old Packers sweep with the pulling guard where he always got X amount of yardage. It was always an automatic touchdown when he was close even though everybody knew it was coming. I just saw too many times last year where there were losses when he ran the ball. In previous years, I don't think you would have seen that many plays for a loss. I think he was on the down side. With running backs, the average career expectancy isn't very long. They take a beating and try to keep on repeating, but they go down at a much faster rate than hypothetically a center, where the longevity is probably the longest in the league. Different position players have different length of careers. I think he was really tailing off at the end. He's still got a little bit left in his tank, but if he's thinking about playing more with the New York Jets and getting more opportunities to run, I like his attitude but I don't think it's going to happen.

VU: Artis Hicks ends up in Washington and Ryan Cook is a guy the Vikings tendered as a restricted free agent. Do you have confidence that Cook can end up being that guy – the versatile swingman on both sides of the line at guard and tackle?

BL: I watched him played tackle and didn't get much of a read on him at guard. I knew Hicks was an excellent backup. I really like Artis. Between the two, I would lean his way, only from the standpoint that I saw a lot more of him playing. Ryan, they bring him in as a center and they've got him at tackle and working some at guard – you're looking at five different positions. Right side and left side is different. I played both sides as a defensive lineman. I think Hicks adjusted to both sides of the line of scrimmage and I haven't got that with Cook trying to play all five positions. He hasn't really settled into a role yet.

VU: A couple of guys they did re-sign were Jimmy Kennedy and Benny Sapp. Neither of them were full-time starters, but do you think part of signing them was to give the team a little more flexibility heading into the draft, where they didn't feel forced to draft a defensive tackle to back up Pat Williams and Kevin Williams?

BL: Absolutely. It's pretty much the twilight of Pat's career. You saw him get less playing time last year. I think Jimmy Kennedy can fill the bill pretty well when he comes in. I watched him real close last year. He's still got the high-effort attitude. I think he can play both the positions there and he can give them a comfort zone if Pat does get tired or something happens to the other linemen. I think he's a very, very strong replacement and actually has a chance to start – not this year but next season if Pat does retire. I thought that was a great signing.

VU: There has been some talk about teams that might take a look at signing Ray Edwards to an offer sheet. The Vikings would have a chance to match that or get a first-round pick. What's your feeling on his worth? Would you give up a first-round pick to try to get him, and if you're the Vikings would you be fine with taking a first-round pick instead of paying him big money?

BL: Keep him. He's a stand-up guy, and a couple of year ago I was against Ray and I wrote that. But last year, I watched him and he had textbook moves. He made some moves where I went, ‘Wow!' Literally they caught my fancy. He stunned me and made a huge, huge jump last year. Why go for a No. 1? You're going to have to groom him three or four years. With the situation the Vikings are in, they've got him and he's better than a No. 1 right now and he's young. Sign him. That's a no-brainer. They should keep him. Look at the film and watch how well he played last year. He broke my playoff record for sack yardage in a game. I had 22 yards and he had 23 and then he broke my sacks at three and got four, so I should be upset with the guy. But I'm saying that's how well he played in the playoffs. He set records for defensive linemen, so now you know that the kid loves to play under the bright lights. A few years ago, I watched him, talked to him and got a feel for his attitude. I know the kid has grown up now. I'll cover his back any time.


Bob Lurtsema registered 57 regular-season sacks and three in the playoffs during his 12-year career as a defensive lineman in the NFL, playing with the Baltimore Colts, New York Giants, Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks, and was the longtime publisher of Viking Update. He joins VikingUpdate.com for a weekly Q & A session, and his monthly column appears in the magazine.


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