On Monday it was weird to see that RB LaDainian Tomlinson was no longer a member of the San Diego Chargers. And today a similar sentiment reigns in the minds of NFL followers because the Philadelphia Eagles have announced they will release RB Brian Westbrook.
Naturally, and as Chip Scoggins of the Minneapolis Star Tribune points out, some will speculate as to whether the Vikings are a potential landing spot for Westbrook, since the Vikings have yet to re-sign incumbent #2 RB Chester Taylor and because the Purple features a similar offensive system to that of the Eagles. On top of all that, Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress and Westbrook are familiar with each other from their time together in Philadelphia from 2002-2005.
Just as we did earlier today with Tomlinson, we can reason that Taylor is a more attractive option for the Vikings moving forward than is Westbrook. But, and as I said with regard to LT, the prospect of adding a player with the skill set of Westbrook does have its benefits.
With all that being said, and at the risk of over-thinking this entire issue, I wonder if the additions of Tomlinson and Westbrook to the same free agent market that Taylor will enter on March 5 will actually make it more likely that Taylor will end up re-signing with the Vikings. Before the release of LT and Westbrook, Taylor was the clear-cut cream of the free agent RB crop. Now, however, teams such as the Vikings have more options, and thus more leverage, as they try and evaluate available RBs and realize their preferred outcome (we believe the Vikings preferred outcome is to re-sign Taylor).
Tags: Chester Taylor
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With our pre-Combine live chat now in the rear view mirror, vikings.com’s comprehensive 2010 NFL Scouting Combine coverage is set to begin tomorrow. I’m on a mid-morning flight to Indianapolis and will have updates all day.
I’ll be blogging constantly Wednesday-Sunday while I’m at the Combine, but don’t forget to also tap the vikings.com 2010 NFL Scouting Combine hub page and the official Vikings Twitter page (@VikingsFootball). There will be times during the Combine when I’ll be away from my computer, which means Twitter is the next best way to stay on top of the updates.
Next Monday’s mailbag feature will be largely Combine-related, so don’t forget to submit your questions and comments to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Our buddy and Vikings Radio Network play-by-play extraordinaire Paul Allen will be a featured guest tonight on NFL Network’s Total Access.
PA will be a guest analyst and will join Fran Charles and Bucky Brooks in the broadcast as the trio tackles Vikings football and also other NFL-related matters.
Total Access airs tonight at 6:00 PM CT and then reairs again Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning.
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With the San Diego Chargers having released RB LaDainian Tomlinson and with RB Chester Taylor set to become an unrestricted free agent (UFA) on March 5, the debate about which RB Vikings fans would rather have is already raging.
In fact, ESPN.com’s NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert raises an interesting scenario involving the 2 RBs and 2 NFC North teams.
First of all, though, I want to clear up some confusion I’ve encountered when discussing this with several people. As we explained in our Basics of the Uncapped Year piece from last week, the top 4 teams from the 2009 season (Colts, Jets, Saints and Vikings) have restrictions in the number of UFAs they may sign. The detail I wasn’t aware of until yesterday, however, is that these restrictions limit the number of UFAs who have expired contracts, not who became UFAs because a team released them.
To make this clearer, let’s take a look at 2 players who will hit the open market on March 5 as UFAs: DE Julius Peppers and Tomlinson. Peppers will be a UFA because his contract with the Carolina Panthers will expire in March, therefore the top 4 teams from last season will not be able to sign Peppers until they lose one of their own UFAs to another team. Tomlinson, on the other hand, has become a free agent because the Chargers released him, not because his contract expired, and therefore any NFL team is able to sign him.
[UPDATE: Originally in this posting I referred to Tomlinson as a UFA, which was incorrect. Since Tomlinson was released from the Chargers with years remaining on his contract, he actually becomes a free agent (FA) rather than having the tag as an “unrestricted” free agent, or UFA]
With the details out of the way and with the knowledge that the Vikings could in theory pursue Tomlinson, let’s examine the situation from the Vikings perspective. Both players are 30 years old and would fulfill the same role for the Vikings as the 2010 season approaches – a complement to starter Adrian Peterson. As we know by following the Vikings lately, however, being the backup RB in Minnesota does not relegate your role to just an insurance policy. Taylor has been a key piece to the Vikings offense since signing here in 2006 and also since Peterson was drafted in 2007.
“Chester Taylor brings so much to this football team,” Vikings VP of Player Personnel Rick Spielman said last week. “He’s like the unsung hero of the offense. You hear about Sidney Rice and Shank (Visanthe Shiancoe) and Percy Harvin and Brett Favre and Adrian Peterson. But what Chester Taylor does for this football team – not only on the field but off the field – he may be, as we look and we evaluate all the free agents out there, one of the top free-agent backs coming out.”
Since Peterson was drafted by the Vikings in 2007, Taylor has 362 carries and he’s gained 4.6 yards per carry. So, the Vikings have taken 352 carries off of Peterson’s workload (that’s a whole season’s worth of carries) over the past 3 seasons and they’ve still gained 4.6 yards on each of those carries. In addition, Taylor has been a valuable contributor in the passing game and on specifically on 3rd downs for the Vikings.
Given Tomlinson’s skill set, he could fill the same role as Peterson’s backup in Minnesota. Tomlinson is a skilled receiver out of the backfield and although at one point LT was the NFL’s best RB, he’s now better-suited to play second fiddle to a starter because of the wear and tear on his body after 2,880 carries in 9 pro seasons.
Perhaps the option of bringing Taylor back is Minnesota’s preferred outcome. Taylor is completely familiar with the Vikings offense, he’s already excelling in the #2 RB role here and he doesn’t have the wear and tear on his body that Tomlinson has.
Or is Tomlinson’s upside enough to make signing him the Vikings preferred outcome? LT is a 2-time NFL rushing champion and 1-time NFL MVP. Teams considering signing LT must decide whether his decline in production over the past 2 seasons is the function of a declining skill set or the function of sharing carries with Darren Sproles.
We must also mention there is one important factor we don’t know at this point – the asking price. We don’t know how much Taylor and Tomlinson will be seeking in their next contracts.
I have no inside knowledge as to what the Vikings plan or prefer to do in this scenario, but my guess is the preferred outcome is to re-sign Taylor. As I stated above, Taylor is already comfortable here in Minnesota and knows the Vikings offense well. He also has less wear and tear on his body and he hasn’t dealt with injuries to the extent that LT has, especially over the past couple of seasons.
If I had to make the choice, I’d go with #29.
But I could be wrong, and I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t be excited to have LT on the Vikings roster for the 2010 season.
What do you think? Leave a comment below and we’ll revisit this issue soon…
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Chester Taylor
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