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
Tags: 2013 Free Agency, Antoine Winfield, Ben Leber, Bernard Berrian, Brett Favre, Chester Taylor, Darren Sharper, Jerome Felton, Pat Williams, Ryan Longwell, Steve Hutchinson, Visanthe Shiancoe
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 974 Comments »
Several Vikings players have provided their thoughts on the Vikings coaching change. Here’s what they had to say…
DE Jared Allen
“Today is really a mix of emotions. I’m going to miss Coach Childress. Brad brought me here back in 2008, and I’m thankful for that. I wish him nothing but the best. At the same time, Leslie is a stand-up guy who has our respect. He helped turn this defense into a top ten unit year in and year out. Now this will be a chance for him to lead the organization. Leslie’s great at managing players and coaches, and I know the guys will play hard over the next six weeks.”
LB Heath Farwell
“Coach Frazier is very capable of stepping into this role. He’s an even-keel type of guy who has the respect of the locker room. This is a great opportunity for him to showcase his skills as a head coach, and I support him 100%. I feel bad for Coach Childress. Unfortunately he’s the guy that took the fall for us as players who haven’t been playing as well as we should. I have a lot of support for Brad and I wish him and his family the best moving forward.”
QB Brett Favre
“Leslie is a respected, knowledgeable coach and a quality person. I’ve enjoyed being around him the past couple years and I know he’s going to take this opportunity and make the most of it. What you see is what you get with Leslie. He has a background of winning Super Bowls as a player and coach and he knows what it takes to win in the NFL. He can relate to players having been in their shoes himself and will prepare the team well. Brad Childress is a good guy, a man with strong faith and a great family; I wish him the best in the future. I think we all, starting with me, could have done more to make this a successful season.”
LB Chad Greenway
“I’m saddened and humbled by the firing of Coach Childress. He gave me the opportunity to play for this organization and was responsible for bringing me into the NFL. He shouldn’t have to take the fall for our performance on the field, but now we have to move on. I have a lot respect for Coach Frazier. Leslie is a guy we’re very comfortable with. He’s never too up and down, and he does a good job with game-planning and preparing for opponents. He deserves the opportunity to be a head coach in the NFL.”
G Steve Hutchinson
“It’s a tough day because I respect the work that Brad Childress put into this team. Nobody in this locker room would have thought we would be in this position at the start of the season but we have to try to make the most of it now. Brad wanted to win more than anybody, and for whatever reason, it hasn’t happened. I have confidence that Leslie will do a great job moving forward. He’s a standup guy and has a great demeanor. I know Leslie will be a positive presence for the guys on the team and we’re going to be behind him.”
K Ryan Longwell
“I’m excited for Coach Frazier to have an opportunity to be a head coach. At the same time, it’s disheartening to see Coach Childress go. Ultimately this game comes down to players playing, and we weren’t getting the job done.”
RB Adrian Peterson
“Leslie is a good man and will do a great job as the interim coach. He’s got great football smarts and players can relate to him and vice versa. He has a certain vibe and energy that everyone can feel when they’re around him. When he speaks, guys perk up and tune in. I feel for Coach Childress today. I’ve got the utmost respect for him and I will always owe him. One of my goals when I was drafted here was to win a championship with Coach Childress. He took a chance on me and I’ve always wanted to accomplish our ultimate goals together; I’m sad it didn’t work out that way.”
DT Kevin Williams
“We’re excited to go into the rest of the season with Leslie. We’re ready to roll from here and get back on the field. I wish Brad the best in the future. He and his family were always great to me and my family. As players, we’ve got to move forward from here with a new focus.”
DT Pat Williams
“I’m sad to see Coach Childress leave. I respect him as a coach and a person, but we have to keep fighting as a team for the remainder of the season. Leslie has my full support. He’s a good person and a good coach. He deserves to be a head coach in this league. Whether it’s here or somewhere else after this season, he deserves the opportunity.”
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Chad Greenway, Heath Farwell, Jared Allen, Kevin Williams, Pat Williams, Ryan Longwell, Steve Hutchinson
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 347 Comments »
It will likely go a bit unnoticed this week, but the Vikings defense was dominant in Sunday’s win over the Arizona Cardinals. It will go unnoticed because Arizona finished with 24 points and because the Vikings had such a sensational offensive performance in the 4th quarter and overtime.
But it won’t go unnoticed here. The bottom line is the defense allowed just 10 points (Arizona scored TDs on a kickoff return and a fumbled kickoff by the Vikings), held Arizona to 95 yards in the 2nd half and recorded 6 sacks. And if not for their effort, the offense wouldn’t have been in position to spark a dramatic comeback victory.
The peak of the Vikings defensive performance came at the game’s most crucial moments. The Vikings offense was just stymied at the goal line and Arizona took over on their own 1. The Vikings held Arizona to a quick 3-and-out, which allowed the Vikings offense to drive down the field quickly on the ensuing possession and score a TD to make the score 24-17 in favor of the visiting Cardinals.
Then the Vikings defense held Arizona to another 3-and-out on the next drive, which set up Brett Favre and Co. for the eventual game-tying drive when TE Visanthe Shiancoe came down with a dramatic TD. The Vikings defense held Arizona on a last-second possession to force overtime.
One more time the defense came up big. Another 3-and-out series for Arizona, this one in overtime. The Vikings drove down the field and Ryan Longwell kicked a game-winning 35-yard FG.
In those 4 possessions, the Vikings sacked Cardinals QB Derek Anderson 4 times and held Arizona’s offense to -8 yards in 12 plays.
“We knew it was on us and we wanted to get the ball back for number four and the boys,” LB E.J. Henderson said after the game, “and we knew that they could put up some money and we got it back to them and they scored.”
Another factor that should not go unnoticed is the raucous Mall of America Field crowd, which came alive late in the game and was at its loudest in a long time. The noise clearly impacted Arizona’s offense and provided the Vikings with an advantage.
“They really feed off that crowd,” Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress said of his team. “That’s really an advantage that we’ve come to expect here at the Metrodome, raising the roof off that place. They feed off the positive energy. That’s huge.”
Here are a few more notes on the Vikings defensive performance:
– Arizona had 6 drives that went 3-and-out
– Vikings held Arizona to 20 yards or less on 8 of 11 drives
– Arizona had negative yardage on 2 drives
– Cardinals had multiple 1st downs on just 2 of 11 drives
Very impressive work by Leslie Frazier’s group. Here’s what a few of the key defenders had to say following the game…
“We were making him (Derek Anderson) move all game; he just made some plays. He didn’t just sit in the pocket, he was good with the ball and moving around. We just finally corralled him there at the end, and it was good to do that. That’s how we needed to be playing all year.” — DT Kevin Williams
“I think we had him (Anderson) on his heels a little bit. The crowd had a great impact for us, and the D-line had a little bit quicker step, it seemed like. I think his eyes went quickly from down the field to the rush and everyone around him. That’s what we need in those situations. That’s why it’s fun to play at home.” — LB Ben Leber
“I definitely feel like it was a turning point. It was a crucial four or five minutes and we showed the type of team that we are and the type of heart we have and the camaraderie of the team. As you can see this locker room is like a playoff win so it’s definitely big for us and hopefully it will get us rolling.” — Henderson
“All the guys calmed down. We said, ‘It’s our season. If we lose this game, that’s it, really.’ If we lost, that would have basically been it for us. So, everybody just calmed down and everybody started playing better.” — DT Pat Williams
Tags: Ben Leber, E.J. Henderson, Kevin Williams, Pat Williams
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 55 Comments »
While we’re waiting for Friday’s practice to begin and then for head coach Brad Childress to address the media around 1:00 p.m. CT, let’s go over a few Friday Fun Facts…
– The Vikings-Patriots game will be Minnesota’s 9th consecutive road game (including playoff s) that hasn’t started at noon. The last time the Vikings played a noon road game was on 10/25/09 at Pittsburgh. Since then, the Vikings have played at Green Bay, Arizona, Carolina, Chicago, New Orleans (playoff s), New Orleans, New York and Green Bay – all of which were either night or late afternoon games.
– DE Jared Allen intercepted his 3rd career pass last week against Green Bay and his 2nd as a Viking, tying him for 3rd in team history among defensive linemen.
– QB Brett Favre started his 119th (90-29) game at Lambeau Field last week, breaking the NFL record for the most starts in a stadium. Favre was previously tied with John Elway at 118.
– WR/KR Percy Harvin scored his first career rushing TD at Lambeau last week. He became only the 5th player in team history to score 3 different ways in a season (one rush, three pass and one kickoff return), and the first since 2005.
– RB Adrian Peterson broke his own team record for most rushing yards through the first 6 games of any season (684; was 670). He is the first Vikings player to reach 600 yards 3 times after Game #6.
– DT Pat Williams is the oldest active defensive player in the NFL (turned 38 on 10/24/10).
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Jared Allen, Pat Williams, Percy Harvin
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 81 Comments »
Practice #2 of 2010 Verizon Vikings Training Camp was highlight-filled, as the squad begins to hit full stride here in Mankato in preparation for the upcoming season. The team practiced for approximately 2 hours in warm and partly cloudy conditions.
All 3 Vikings coordinators held press conferences following practice, so stay tuned for quotes and comments from that. Also, CJ got together with LB Jasper Brinkley and will have a report on him and the Vikings defense later today.
Tonight is Football and Fireworks Night at Verizon Vikings Training Camp, as the team will practice under the lights from 7:00 p.m. to 8:55 p.m. and then fans will be entertained with a fireworks display right after practice.
Let’s run through a few highlights from this morning’s practice…
– You’ve heard the expression “Welcome to the NFL, rookie” several times in the past. The expression typically represents a moment when an NFL rookie experiences a “wake up” call during practice, usually a big hit that jars them a bit. Rookie RB Toby Gerhart got his “Welcome to the NFL” moment today…a couple times. DT Pat Williams got him first after the RB caught a pass in the right flats and then Brinkley jolted Gerhart a few plays later as he waited to catch another pass. Neither hit was malicious and Gerhart wasn’t the least bit shaken up by them, but it did generate a reaction from the crowd and you know that Williams and Brinkley got a little joy out of the moment.
– There is a drill called the “inside skeleton” where QBs, RBs and TEs work together in a passing exercise against LBs and Ss. In the early part of an inside skeleton drill, both Chad Greenway and Ben Leber stepped in front of passes to nab INTs. Greenway’s came off of rookie Joe Webb and Leber’s came off of veteran Sage Rosenfels. But Rosenfels bounced back right away to complete a pair of nice passes, the first to TE Garrett Mills over Jamarca Sanford and the next one to RB Darius Reynaud over LB Heath Farwell.
– Speaking of Reynaud, the converted RB ran with the 3rd team offense primarily today, with Gerhart and 3-year veteran Albert Young rotating between the 1st and 2nd teams. It’s too early to glean much off of the rotations right now, but it’s certainly worth keeping an eye on.
– While we’re on the topic of depth charts, one spot I’m curious to watch develop during training camp and the preseason is DT. This morning, Fred Evans and Jimmy Kennedy took the most reps with the 2nd team defense.
– CB Antoine Winfield generated some laughs from the crowd this morning. He was standing on the sidelines while WR Greg Lewis and CB Marcus Sherels went head-to-head in the 1-on-1 portion of practice. Lewis and Sherels got locked up right off the line of scrimmage at the snap and eventually Sherels was on the ground and Lewis was running away with a reception. Seeing Sherels thrown to the ground, Winfield tossed his sweat towel in the air to signify a pass interference penalty flag, right in front of the bleachers off of field #1. The crowd got a kick out of it.
– Later during 1-on-1s, CB Lito Sheppard locked up WR Marko Mitchell with an impressive display of press coverage and DeAndre Wright made a nice play on a deep pass down the left sideline that was intended for Logan Payne.
– One of the most impressive offensive plays of the day came when QB Tarvaris Jackson threaded the needle on a pass to TE Visanthe Shiancoe down the right seam during 7-on-7 work.
– And finally, during team work near the end of practice, S Husain Abdullah stepped in front of a Jackson pass to notch an INT. On the play, Jackson executed a play-action fake and then bootlegged to the right. He slipped and tried to get a pass out to the flats anyway, but Abdullah was there to jump the route and pick off the pass.
Tags: Antoine Winfield, Ben Leber, Chad Greenway, Darius Reynaud, DeAndre Wright, Fred Evans, Husain Abdullah, Jasper Brinkley, Jimmy Kennedy, Lito Sheppard, Pat Williams, Sage Rosenfels
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 9 Comments »
Veteran DT Pat Williams said it on Thursday just after checking into Julia A. Sears Residence Community for his 6th Vikings training camp.
“It’s time to finish it,” the 14-year pro said. “We didn’t finish it last year, so this year we’re going to start here at training camp and we’re going to finish it this year.”
Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress also mentioned it during his opening press conference on Friday.
“Everybody has a sense of unfinished business from last year,” Childress said, “and just based on the offseason that these guys have had, we’re going to have a good football team.”
The feeling of unfinished business is one that can eat away at a player or coach all offseason. But it’s also one that can help motivate for the coming season. It’s one thing to have a desire for vengeance after coming up excruciatingly short of the ultimate team goal; it’s yet another to meld that vengeance into a work ethic that will aide in the achievement of the goal.
“I’m fond of saying what Jim Valvano used to say,” Childress said. “‘Working hard gives you a chance to have a chance. If you don’t work hard people are catching up.’ I think we have a talented enough team to be a good football team this year.”
Tags: Pat Williams
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 12 Comments »
Veteran DTs Kevin Williams and Pat Williams – a.k.a. The Williams Wall – arrived at Julia Sears Residence Community together on Thursday and both seemed ready to get training camp rolling. Both players spent some time meeting with reporters and Kevin took a few moments to chat exclusively with vikings.com, so be sure to check back later for that interview.
Pat was asked about the team’s mentality as it reports to training camp with the sting of last year’s loss to eventual Super Bowl champion New Orleans still in the back of their minds.
“It’s time to finish it,” Williams, often times loose and joking, said in straight forward fashion. “We didn’t finish it last year, so this year we’re going to start here at training camp and we’re going to finish it this year.”
Kevin Williams said the new setup at Julia Sears looks nice so far and he also said he’s looking forward to being suite mates with LB E.J. Henderson because the two are close friends and broke into the League together.
Tags: E.J. Henderson, Kevin Williams, Pat Williams
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 16 Comments »
Later this month, former Vikings DT John Randle will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Any Hall of Fame career is remarkable, but it’s especially remarkable when a player – such as Randle – turns out to be a Hall of Famer after entering the NFL as an undrafted player.
For as much attention as the NFL draft receives annually, it’s easy to forget how important undrafted players are to every NFL team. With teams required to fill out 53-man rosters and also limited by the salary cap each season, there is only so much room for high-priced players with 1st-round pedigree. This is where the importance of finding productive undrafted players comes in.
With that in mind, Pro Football Weekly recently pointed out some of the league’s best undrafted players currently on NFL rosters. And 2 Vikings made the list – LB Heath Farwell and DT Pat Williams. If you click on the link above it’ll take you to a nfllabor.com page that lists PFW’s 2010 All-Undrafted Team.
Making the Vikings roster this season as an undrafted rookie is a tough task, largely because the Vikings return 22 starters from last year and also selected 8 players in this year’s draft. But let’s take a quick look at 3 undrafted players currently on the Vikings roster who might have a shot at coming out of training camp with a job.
OT Bill Noethlich – A 6-7, 308-pound OT, Noethlich will enter camp as 1 of 14 OL, but the Vikings will be looking for versatile players who can fulfill reserve rolls. If Noethlich can display an ability to play both LT and RT, perhaps he’ll carve a niche for himself on this roster. Noethlich’s story of making the roster would be a good one because he’s a native of Doland, SD and he played college football at Southwest Minnesota State.
S Terrell Skinner – College football fans may find this name familiar because Skinner played for the University of Maryland, beginning his career there as a redshirt freshman in 2005 and playing all the way through his senior season in 2009. I’m not familiar with his injury history and I haven’t spoken in-depth with any coaches or scouts regarding Skinner, but he strikes me as a player with a chance. He was converted from WR to DB at Maryland and stands at 6-2, 214 pounds. So his size is great and his ball skills should be solid. But if Skinner is going to make the Vikings coming out of training camp, his best bet might be to prove his worth as a special teams contributor first.
WR Ray Small – The Vikings have 3 solid starting WRs and because of the NFL’s graduation rule Small was unable to attend much of the Vikings offseason program. But even given all of that, Small should come to training camp with an ambitious mindset. Although the top 3 spots on the WR depth chart are locked up, there could be a couple more openings on the roster AND I believe Small will have a chance to win either the kick or punt return job.
Tags: Bill Noethlich, Heath Farwell, John Randle, Pat Williams, Ray Small, Terrell Skinner
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 17 Comments »
The Vikings opened up their only mandatory minicamp of the offseason on Friday and a large media contingent was on-hand to take in the action. One national media member roaming Winter Park that day was NFL.com senior columnist Vic Carucci, who has covered the sport for 30 years and is a past president of the Professional Football Writers of America.
Carucci touches on several topics in the piece he penned for NFL.com following his visit to the Vikings facility, but he leads with an interesting storyline that we’ve also addressed from time-to-time here on vikings.com: the atmosphere surrounding the Vikings as they come off a heart-breaking loss in last year’s NFC Championship Game.
“Frustration and anger over falling short of the only goal that matters can go a long way toward driving everyone to achieving it the next time around,” Carucci wrote in his article.
I spoke with TE Visanthe Shiancoe about this very topic over the weekend and he insisted this Vikings team is motivated to succeed again in 2010. CB Lito Sheppard told reporters on Sunday that he clearly senses the high expectations this Vikings team places on itself. And when meeting with reporters on Saturday, Vikings assistant head coach/defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier also spoke about how the NFC title game loss from last season will impact the team this season.
“Just to get back into the football frame of mind and to be able to divorce yourself from the past, that is all a part of the (minicamp) process as well,” Frazier explained. “That is one of the things we talked about yesterday (Friday) in our first meeting; 2009 is behind us and let’s look more toward 2010 and really having a great season.”
Tags: Leslie Frazier, Lito Sheppard, Pat Williams, Visanthe Shiancoe
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 4 Comments »
A few important news items involving the Vikings are coming down today. Let’s take a quick look at both of them…
Stadium Bill: After a glitzy introduction by legislators at the state capitol on Monday, the stadium bill has encountered some turmoil. After a few adjustments, the bill’s financing plan was passed late Tuesday night by a House committee. But then another House committee struck down the proposal via a 10-9 vote, which caused even more changes to the financing plan when it was discussed by a Senate panel. Ultimately, the bill remains alive but it seems much of the momentum generated by Monday’s exciting announcement has been subdued.
Williams Wall: Hennepin County District Judge Gary Larson will likely issue a ruling in the case involving the lawsuit filed by Kevin Williams and Pat Williams against the NFL. As the Star Tribune’s Chip Scoggins suggested, today’s ruling will be another step forward in this case but it will also certainly be appealed by whichever sides comes out on the short end.
UPDATE: Judge Larson ruled today that the Williamses must serve their 4-game suspension, but as we pointed out in the original report, the Williamses will appeal the ruling and they’ll also ask Judge Larson to keep in place the restraining order that allows the DTs to play while the litigation continues.
Tags: Kevin Williams, Pat Williams
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 29 Comments »