Lunchbreak: Hutchinson Listed Among Best All-Time Free Agent Acquisitions

The frenzy that is the free agency period began Monday with a two-day negotiation window, but most moves won’t be official until after 3 p.m. (CT) Wednesday when the 2019 league year officially opens.

That’s when teams can announce contracts with current free agents after the recent legal tampering timeframe.

It remains to be seen what roster moves the Vikings will make over the next few weeks, but Elliot Harrison of NFL.com recently took a stroll down memory lane to remember some of the best all-time free agent signings across the league.

Harrison compiled a team of offensive and defensive starters, noting the group were “signees who contributed to winning, changed the culture of a team or pulled off a remarkable individual achievement right out of the gate comprise this special group, which was pulled from free agents who signed between 1993 — when free agency began — and 2018.”

The Vikings made the list for the 2006 free-agent signing of guard Steve Hutchinson, who played in Minnesota from 2006 to 2011.

Harrison wrote:

Hutchinson has been a Hall of Fame finalist in each year he's been eligible for good reason. Sure, most of his legacy is tied to paving the way for Shaun Alexander on that Seahawks Super Bowl team from 2005. Immediately after that season, Hutchinson inked a huge deal with the Vikingsand he made it pay off, making four straight Pro Bowls and earning three first-team All-Pro nods while contributing to 1,000-yard seasons from Chester Taylor and Adrian Peterson. In fact, only once in Hutchinson's stellar 12-year career did a running back not rush for 1,000 yards behind him: Peterson fell 30 yards short in 2011 after suffering a knee injury in December that season.

The Seahawks drafted Hutchinson in the first round in 2001 out of the University of Michigan.

He then signed with Minnesota before the 2006 season and went to four Pro Bowls in spent six seasons in Purple.

Hutchinson made the Pro Bowl seven times and was a five-time First-Team All-Pro selection in his career.

Krammer combs under-the-radar names

Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman said at the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine that a team isn’t built on the first day of free agency.

While most of the splashy signings will occur in the first few days of free agency, Andrew Krammer of the Star Tribune recently looked at some under-the-radar names who could help the Vikings in 2019.

Krammer’s list of 10 players included four offensive linemen, two defensive linemen and a pair of linebackers plus a running back and a punter.

Krammer included a familiar name in Nick Easton on the list.

Re-signing Easton might be one of the Vikings’ most realistic options ahead of this free-agent O-line group. He’s coming off back-to-back surgeries that ended his 2017 and 2018 seasons, but he played well at left guard and is a reliable backup at center when healthy. He’s expected to be medically cleared to resume his career. Only a bidding war could prevent a return.

Easton, who joined the Vikings in 2015, missed the entire 2018 season. He has made 17 career starts.

Krammer also mentioned defensive tackle Rodney Gunter, who has played the past four seasons in Arizona.

Arizona’s versatile D-lineman, Gunter had a breakout 2018 with a career-high 4.5 sacks in 10 starts. Gunter has the size (6-5, 305) to hold up at multiple positions and could be a more well- rounded backup than Tom Johnson, a pending free agent, with upside at just 27 years old.

Gunter has played 64 career games since being a fourth-round pick in 2015 out of Delaware State.

Linebacker Vincent Rey, who has a history with Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer, also made Krammer’s list.

Rey, 31, worked his way up through the Bengals practice squad under Mike Zimmer when he went undrafted in 2010 out of Duke. He’s been a reliable backup and spot starter for Cincinnati, missing just two games since 2011.

Rey has played in 128 games and made 50 career starts.

Krammer’s full list can be found here.

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