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Monday Morning Mailbag Extra: Free Agency Primer

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 6, 2013 – 7:54 am

While putting together a few questions and answers for next week’s Monday Morning Mailbag, I came across a good question that required a thorough answer. The answer became complicated enough that I thought it would be too long-winded for the Mailbag. So, I thought we could make a blog entry out of it and let the readers take it from there.

Take a look at the question and my answer. Then be sure to leave your thoughts on the matter by utilizing the comments section below the blog entry.

I know the Vikings new direction is to draft players instead of pick them up from free agency. I agree wholeheartedly with their direction. However, what type of contract deal does Mike Wallace want? What are the chances of the Vikings picking him up? Are there any free agents that you would personally like the Vikings to go after?
— Derek P.
Pearl Harbor, HI

Building the team through the draft as opposed to free agency is not a new direction for the Vikings. This has been GM Rick Spielman’s philosophy during his tenure in Minnesota. It may feel new to some fans because they are starting to see the wisdom in that philosophy given the Vikings recent success in the draft, but it’s nothing new for veteran NFL GMs.

I’m not sure what kind of contract Wallace will demand once free agency opens on Tuesday, but my sense is his camp will be seeking top-end type of money – something in the neighborhood of what Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald and Detroit’s Calvin Johnson are making. Whether that’s what he deserves or not is irrelevant. What is relevant is what the market bears. That’s why free agency can be dangerous, and that’s why teams prefer to use the draft as the primary tool to build their roster. In free agency, you’re not paying players based on their ability to perform. Rather, you’re paying them based on supply and demand. Those are two entirely different propositions.

The Vikings are a run-oriented team that features the NFL’s best running back and one of the League’s top run-blocking offensive lines. As such, it’s fair to wonder whether it makes sense then for the Vikings to invest such a large amount of money in a single receiver. If you’re a team that can run the ball effectively up to 30-35+ times per game, are you also a team that wants to pay a free agent wide receiver upwards of $15 million a season? I’m not saying the answer is yes or no in the Vikings particular case, I’m just suggesting it’s a question every team must ask itself when it comes to drawing up a plan for free agency.

As for free agents I’d like to see the team pursue, I don’t have anyone in particular in mind. Of course it’d be great to add a receiver the caliber of Wallace or Greg Jennings. But to me, the Vikings had a good plan in free agency last season. Spielman and Co. waited for the high-priced free agents to fly off the shelf early in free agency, and then once the second and third wave of free agency came along the Vikings picked up a few. While the additions of tight end John Carlson and Jerome Simpson didn’t work out as planned, the book on both of their Vikings tenures may not be over yet. Also, the signing of fullback Jerome Felton was brilliant. At the time, the Felton signing was an under-the-radar move that didn’t yield much more than a sentence or two buried at the bottom of the lead story. In the end, though, it turned out to be one of the better offseason additions and it resulted in a Pro Bowl berth for Felton following the best season of Adrian Peterson’s career.

Long story longer, the key to free agency is not making the biggest splash or identifying the best players at each position and then pursuing them. The key to free agency is identifying and signing players who fit the scheme and can be obtained with reasonable salaries. That leaves cap space and cash for the best kind of free agent signing – the re-signing of your own free agents whom you know fit with your team, which in the Vikings case could be players such as right tackle Phil Loadholt, safety Jamarca Sanford and even a future free agents such as Everson Griffen.


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