Free agency has taken the attention away from the NFL draft for now, with much of the free agency discussion focusing on the unrestricted free agency market. Which players would fit best with which teams? Will certain teams be major players in free agency?
But before those questions can be answered, NFL teams must first take care of their in-house business. In other words, they must look at players on their own team who are scheduled to be free agents. Once they’ve decided which players they’ll welcome back and which players they’ll let walk, then teams can begin formulating their unrestricted free agency plan.
Now that we’re only hours away from free agency beginning (Tuesday, March 13 at 3:00 PM CT), you can be sure that most teams have made decisions on which players they’ll re-sign and which players they’ll let hit the open market. Consequently, they also have an idea of which free agents they’ll pursue once free agency begins. Let’s also keep in mind that the players also have some power in this process because they may choose to leave their current team for greener pastures in another NFL city.
But the rest of us are not privy to that information, so we’re left to guess what will happen. For the purposes of that discussion, I will list the Vikings restricted and unrestricted free agents below (along with a comment about each player), and leave it up to the readers to decide which players they’d like to see back with the Vikings in 2012. Let us know what you think by leaving your thoughts in the comments section below this entry.
Scheduled restricted free agents (2)
RB Lorenzo Booker – Has been team’s RB3 and also has return/special teams ability
LB Kenny Onatolu – Has been valuable special teams contributor, but will have to battle for roster spot
Scheduled unrestricted free agents (16)
S Husain Abdullah – Has been starting safety past two seasons and could be back to compete for starting spot in 2012
LB Xavier Adibi – Added during the 2012 season but wasn’t asked to contribute much
WR Devin Aromashodu – Seems like untapped potential, but will Vikings try another option in 2012?
WR Greg Camarillo – Great locker room influence, reliable veteran, has special teams ability
DT Fred Evans – Rotational player
DT Letroy Guion – Also a rotational player, but is young enough that could develop into starter
LB E.J. Henderson – Important part of Vikings organization since being drafted in 2003; defensive leader
LB Erin Henderson – Starter at OLB last season, developed from undrafted player to starter
S Tyrell Johnson – Has had disappointing run since being drafted in 2008; very athletic
LS Matt Katula – Signed to fill in for Cullen Loeffler after he was injured during 2011 season
TE Jim Kleinsasser – Venerable Viking retired after outstanding career
OL Scott Kooistra – Injured during preseason and placed on IR
S Jarrad Page – Signed late in 2011 and tried out for LA Dodgers this Spring
QB Sage Rosenfels – Was 3rd QB for some of 2011 and would be a good option as backup in 2012
CB Benny Sapp – Veteran CB who can contribute in some role
TE Visanthe Shiancoe – Had down 2011 season and will be a top option among TEs in free agency
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 162 Comments »
Pro days are not the be-all, end-all of draft evaluation events, but they are important enough that NFL GMs, scouts and even head coaches travel across the country for more than a month to see as many of them as possible. Adding even more importance to the pro days is the fact that many players decline to participate in certain drills at the Combine so that they can instead execute those physical activities in a more comfortable, familiar and favorable environment.
By all accounts, LT Matt Kalil was a star at USC’s pro day earlier this week. From his career at USC, to the Combine in Indianapolis a few weeks ago, to his pro day this week, Kalil has looked like a solid choice for teams picking near the top of the 1st-round (cough, Vikings, cough).
Another individual hoping to realize a similar fate is WR Justin Blackmon, and he can take a big step toward that goal today because he’ll be working out in front of NFL coaches and scouts at Oklahoma State’s pro day in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Particularly important today in Stillwater will be Blackmon’s performance in the 40-yard dash.
Blackmon is the consensus top WR in this year’s draft, but there’s still some question as to how high he’ll be chosen in the 1st round. It appears that production, route running and character aren’t concerns with Blackmon. The big question with the 6-1, 215-pound receiver is his speed. He appears fast when you watch him on TV or on tape, but today’s gauge will be the stopwatch.
If Blackmon registeres an impressive time in the 40-yard dash – say somewhere in the 4.0 to 4.4 range – he could be projected to go somewhere between #3 and #5 overall, with the Vikings, Cleveland Browns and Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the mix. Maybe even the St. Louis Rams at #2 overall would fall in love with the ultra-productive receiver. If he runs slower than anticipated, though, it’s fair to wonder if Blackmon will fall down some draft boards and become available to teams ranging from the Jacksonville Jaguars at #7 to even further down the board.
NOTE: ESPN’S Josina Anderson reports Blackmon was timed in the 4.45-4.50 range on his first run and in the 4.41-4.46 range on his second.
The Oklahoma State pro day will be interesting to watch, not only because it’s a big day for Blackmon but also because QB Brandon Weeden will be working out as well. Weeden was also a productive player for the Cowboys and he figures to be a 2nd-day prospect. For QB-needy teams who miss out on Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and some of the more intriguing free-agent options, Weeden represents a great potential consolation prize. He has the size and physical ability to be a 1st-round prospect, but his stock may ultimately take a bit of a hit because he’s already 28 years old.
So for those of you counting down the hours until Friday is over and you can head out for the weekend, maybe keeping an eye on the internet for results from Oklahoma State’s pro day will be a good way to pass some time. Other programs conducting their pro days today are: Florida International, Furman, Mississippi, Montana, Northern Illinois, Ohio State, Presbyterian, Purdue, TCU, Troy, Washington State.
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 82 Comments »