Top 10 Free Agent Signings In Vikings History

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 11, 2013 – 6:51 am

Free agency is about to begin and while we wait to see which players the Vikings sign this year, let’s take a look back at the best (modern) free agent signings in franchise history.

Here’s a list of the Top 10 (year signed), with honorable mentions at the bottom.

Let us know what you think by leaving your thoughts in the comments section below this entry…

10. Ben Leber (2006)
Leber is a great example of a free agent who provided his team with outstanding value relative to the contract he signed. A starter for 5 seasons at outside LB for the Vikings, Leber was an important part of defenses that ranked 1st against the run for 3 straight seasons (2006-08) and that helped the franchise capture back-to-back division titles in 2008-09 as well as an appearance in the NFC title game following the ‘09 season.

9. Jeff Christy (1993)
A 4th-round pick of the Phoenix Cardinals in 1992, Christy was eventually cut and missed that season. Phoenix’s trash was the Vikings treasure, as Christy played 7 seasons in Minnesota and was a key cog on an offensive line that in 1998 blocked for one of the most prolific offenses in NFL history. Christy was a 2-time All-Pro and Pro Bowler in Minnesota who started all 16 games of a season 5 times as a Viking.

8. Gary Anderson (1998)
In just 5 seasons with the Vikings, Anderson quickly climbed the franchise’s all-time scoring list and still ranks 6th. He had a perfect regular season in 1998, helping the Vikings to a 15-1 record. In 2000, Anderson surpassed the legendary George Blanda to become the NFL’s all-time leading scorer (he now ranks 2nd).

7. Darren Sharper (2005)
One of the most prolific ball-hawking safeties in the NFL, Sharper jumped state lines in 2005 and joined the Vikings for 4 productive seasons. During his Vikings career, Sharper was an All-Pro twice and he tallied 18 INTs and 3 TDs.

6. Pat Williams (2005)
One half of the famed “Williams Wall” that anchored a dominant Vikings run defense for half a decade, Williams finished his 14-year NFL career with 6 great seasons in Minnesota. The Vikings became the first team since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger to lead the NFL in rush defense, and Williams was a key contributor in that effort.

5. Randall Cunningham (1997)
Out of football for a year in 1996, Cunningham joined the Vikings in ‘97 and displayed no signs of rust. He enjoyed the greatest season of his career as a Viking in 1998, guiding the Vikings to a 15-1 regular season record with 34 TDs and only 10 INTs. Among QBs with 20+ starts, Cunningham has the 2nd-best winning percentage (.696) and his 34-TD campaign in ‘98 still ranks 2nd all-time in club history.

4. Ryan Longwell (2006)
As steady as the day is long, Longwell was a key part of 2 division winning teams during his 6 years with the Vikings and finished his career in Purple ranked 3rd in all-time scoring. Blair Walsh began to rewrite the Vikings record book for kickers, and much of what he’s rewritten only validates how productive Longwell was for the Vikings. Longwell ranks 1st in Vikings history with 9 game-winning FGs.

3. Steve Hutchinson (2006)
A member of the 50 Greatest Vikings team, Hutchinson was a dominant road-grading run blocker and sure-fire pass protector during his 6 seasons with the Vikings. Hutchinson earned 4 of his 7 career Pro Bowls with the Vikings, and he was an invaluable part of Vikings offenses that featured a 1,000-yard rusher in each of his seasons in Minnesota.

2. Brett Favre (2009)
After torturing the Vikings for 16 seasons as a member of the Packers, Favre joined the Purple in 2009 and had arguably his best season with 33 TDs and a passer rating of 107.2 while leading the Vikings to the NFC title game. Favre was the difference between a team that went 10-6/one-and-done in the playoffs following the 2008 season and a team that went 12-4 and was on the brink of a Super Bowl appearance.

1. Antoine Winfield (2004)
An easy selection at #1, Winfield has been the rare blue-chip signing who outperforms expectations. He has played in 119 games over 9 seasons with the Vikings and in 2010 was named to the 50 Greatest Vikings team. Twice he’s recorded a single-season team record for tackles by a CB (110) and he now holds the Vikings record for most fumble recoveries by a DB with 11 and ranks tied for 2nd in team history with 12 forced fumbles by a DB.  Winfield has also scored all 5 of his career touchdowns (2 FRs, 2 INTs, 1 blocked FG) as a Viking.

Honorable mention: Jerry Ball, Bernard Berrian, Greg Biekert, Corey Chavous, Jack Del Rio, Jerome Felton, Lance Johnstone, Fuad Reveiz, Visanthe Shiancoe, Chester Taylor

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Taylor Signs With Bears

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 5, 2010 – 3:30 pm

One of the most frequent subjects of blog entries on over the last several weeks has decided to part ways with the Vikings and join the Chicago Bears.

RB Chester Taylor, an unrestricted free agent (UFA) as of late last night, agreed to a deal with the Bears today that will reportedly pay him $12.5 million over the next 4 years, including $7 million in guaranteed money. The development ends Taylor’s career with the Vikings after 4 seasons.

Signed by the Vikings before the 2006 season, Taylor’s 1st season in Purple was a good one. He rushed for 1,216 yards and 6 TDs on 303 carries in 15 games. But then the Vikings drafted Adrian Peterson in 2007 and Taylor saw his role reduced. Still, though, Taylor was valuable to the Vikings because of his pass blocking and ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.

But every player has a price and perhaps Taylor’s price wasn’t worth it for the Vikings. Or perhaps Taylor wasn’t interested in staying with the Vikings, regardless of their offer, and instead wanted to move on to another team in the hopes of more opportunity.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter. Taylor is a member of the Bears and the Vikings are now able to participate in the UFA market. Under the new rules that govern the 2010 league year, teams that participated in the AFC or NFC Championship Game are not allowed to sign a UFA until they lose one of their own.

The Vikings have now lost one of their own and they can pursue and sign another UFA, with the 1st year compensation not to exceed that which Taylor will earn in Chicago.

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Pair Of NFC North Teams Busy Already In Free Agency

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 5, 2010 – 10:34 am

Two NFC North teams made the playoffs last year – the Vikings and Green Bay Packers – and the 2 NFC North teams who didn’t qualify for the postseaon are already busy this offseason making adjustments aimed at improving their rosters.

The Chicago Bears are reportedly in the serious stages of negotiations with free agent DE Julius Peppers and they are also entertaining Vikings RB Chester Taylor. On top of that, Chicago has already signed TE Brandon Manumaleuna.

The Detroit Lions have signed former Vikings and Seahawks WR Nate Burleson and have also reportedly traded for Cleveland Browns DT Corey Williams. In addition to that,’s Jason La Canfora reported that Lions Head Coach Jim Schwartz was at DE Kyle Vanden Bosch’s house just after the free agency signing period began last night.

[UPDATE: La Canfora is now reporting that Vanden Bosch and the Lions have agreed to a deal.]

Suffice it to say, the free agency period is in full swing and the NFC North is already in on the action.

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Report: Taylor To Meet With Bears Today

Posted by cjsiewert on March 5, 2010 – 9:15 am

Numerous sources have reported that Vikings RB Chester Taylor and his agent, Ken Sarnoff, will meet with the NFC North rival Chicago Bears today.  Taylor became a free agent at 11:01 CT last night and will test the free agent market.

Brad Briggs of is reporting that Sarnoff is angling for a contract with $8 million guaranteed for the 9-year veteran.

The Bears may be searching for a 1-2 punch with the addition of Taylor or maybe even a replacement for their current RB, Matt Forte, who had offseason arthroscopic knee surgery.

Check back with for more free agency reports as it will certainly be a busy day considering it is the first day of free agency.

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More Free Agency Reports: Bears May Target RB Taylor

Posted by cjsiewert on March 2, 2010 – 8:26 am

With free agency lurking around the corner (March 4), many teams are seeking answers to fill their unresolved position situations.  One team with an indefinite solution to a significant position is the Chicago Bears and their RB situation.

In this report on, Brad Biggs suggests the Bears could be interested in Vikings RB Chester Taylor and that Taylor would compete with Matt Forte for the starting job.

In relation to the Bear’s offensive style of play, a versatile RB is considered valuable to fit new offensive coordinator Mike Martz’ scheme and Taylor certainly fits the bill.  Taylor is an effective runner, pass-blocker and check-down receiver coming out of the backfield who provided the Vikings with consistent versatility.  The 9-year veteran would certainly provide that same production in a starting role with many other teams in the league.

The Vikings have expressed their desire to re-sign all of their potential unrestricted free agents (UFAs), as mentioned previously, but what may be the deciding factor in most of the negotiations concerning UFAs is the worth of that player to the team and how much the team is willing to offer.

Taylor may be offered more with a starting job for another team than what the Vikings are willing to offer him as the #2 RB, but maybe, and hopefully, the potential of reaching the Super Bowl next season will entice him to stay with the Vikings.

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Vikings Don’t Play Tag

Posted by Mike Wobschall on February 25, 2010 – 5:38 pm

The NFL Scouting Combine is an event designed to help teams evaluate the incoming crop of draft-eligible players. But during the Combine, the period for teams to apply the franchise and/or transition tag to players already in the league and on their roster expires.

Thursday at 3:00 p.m. CT was the deadline and it passed without the Vikings choosing to use either tag. The only real possibility for the Vikings was RB Chester Taylor, although that would’ve caught many people by surprise. Unless the Vikings and Taylor reach an agreement in the next week, the 9-year veteran will become a free agent.

While the Vikings didn’t use either tag, 6 other teams did. Among the 6 teams who tagged a player was the Green Bay Packers, who franchised DT Ryan Pickett. The other teams to use the franchise tag were: 49ers (NT Aubrayo Franklin), Patriots (NT Vince Wilfork), Raiders (DE Richard Seymour), Seahawks (K Olindo Mare) and Steelers (K Jeff Reed).

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Spielman Talks About Vikings Free Agents

Posted by Mike Wobschall on February 25, 2010 – 12:39 pm

Vikings Vice President of Player Personnel Rick Spielman sat down with Vikings beat writers on Thursday after appearing on SIRIUS Satellite Radio, an annual tradition of his at the NFL Scouting Combine. Much was discussed during the sitdown and we’ll have plenty more updates throughout the next couple of days, but I wanted to quickly mention that Spielman was asked several questions about the Vikings strategy in free agency.

Teams are not allowed to talk to players who will become free agents on March 5 because they are still under contract with another team. But the Vikings are free to speak with their own pending free agents, such as RB Chester Taylor.

Others, such as DT Jimmy Kennedy, WR Greg Lewis and CB Benny Sapp are also on schedule to become free agents in the early part of March. Because the Vikings are limited in pursuing unrestricted free agents (UFAs) due to new rules that apply to the Final League Year, it’s even more important for the team to identify the players they’d like to retain.

From the sounds of it, the Vikings will try to retain most of their UFAs.

“We’ve always tried to keep our guys on the football team if we can get them back,” Spielman explained. “But sometimes, whether it’s a financial situation or something [else], it’s not always possible. Sometimes it works out.

“All our guys that are our unrestricted free agents are guys that helped us win ballgames last year and I think everybody in the organization feels strongly about at least trying to get these guys back.”

The highest-profile UFA on the Vikings roster is Taylor, who’s been an important part of the Vikings offense since he signed as a free agent back in 2006. If the Vikings are unable to reach an agreement with Taylor before March 5, the RB will be able to test the open market and assess his value.

With that said, Spielman was then asked what kind of market environment he expects given the new rules in the Final League Year. The new rules are such that the salary cap disappears, but so does the salary floor. So will teams spend money as if it’s going on trees? Or will they sit on the money because there’s no spending requirement?

“I don’t know where the market’s going because it’s a whole new deal this year,” Spielman. “I don’t know what other teams are going to do; like I said, it’s an unknown.

“But Chester is one of those guys that we would definitely want to try to sign back if we can. Just like Greg Lewis, just like Jimmy Kennedy, just like Benny Sapp. All those guys are a huge part of our success last year.”

We’ll have more updates from the conversation with Spielman posted shortly…

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Report: Vikings To Meet With Taylor’s Agent At Combine

Posted by cjsiewert on February 24, 2010 – 4:18 pm

As NFL coaches and talent evaluators gather in Indianapolis today for the commencement of the 2010 NFL Scouting Combine, it is also a time for teams to address other business matters.

One big discussion topic on the Vikings platter undoubtedly concerns RB Chester Taylor, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent (UFA) on March 5.

This report from the Star Tribune states that the Vikings and the agent for Taylor, Ken Sarnoff, are expected to meet later this week at the Combine to discuss the player’s future with the team.

It is believed that the Vikings desire to keep Taylor on the team, but the 9-year veteran has the ability (and will soon have the freedom) to become a starter on other NFL teams.  It’s also important to note that we don’t expect the Vikings will use the franchise tag to retain Taylor because of the steep price required to do so.

Another factor to keep in mind is the release of veteran RBs LaDainian Tomlinson from the Chargers and Brian Westbrook from the Eagles, as Mike discussed on Tuesday.

All things considered, it will be interesting to see how this situation plays out in the coming weeks.

Check back to to stay updated on coverage from the 2010 NFL Scouting Combine.

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More On Taylor, Tomlinson And Another NFL RB

Posted by Mike Wobschall on February 23, 2010 – 2:47 pm

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).

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Examining: Taylor Or Tomlinson?

Posted by Mike Wobschall on February 23, 2010 – 8:06 am

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,’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…

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