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Do you feel we made the right move to re-sign Anthony Barr for so much toward our very limited salary cap?
-- Chris Kulak
Yes. The news that Barr was returning to the Vikings was an outstandingly positive development for the Vikings in the early stages of free agency. Remember when it was widely believed the Vikings would be non-players in free agency? It turned out to be quite the opposite with the Barr re-signing. Losing Barr would've left a big void on the roster. So while some may say the money used to re-sign Barr could've been used to help another need, it's also true that it would've created another need that likely would've required an early-round draft pick to fill. With Barr, the Vikings keep valuable and productive player. They use cap space on a known commodity rather than taking a risk on a player who wasn't retained by their own team. The re-signing of Barr also maintains continuity on the defense and it sends the right message to the locker room.
With bringing Barr and Shamar Stephen back, does this allow the Vikings to lean more towards offensive line or tight end in the draft? A lot has been said about making two of the first three picks offensive linemen, much like the Colts did last year as they quickly turned around their line. Or do they still stick with best player available?
-- Kyle Alexander
Best player available still reigns supreme, but it can be reasoned the re-signing of Barr and the addition of Stephen will impact how the Vikings prioritize players within clusters. A cluster is a group of players who have the same grade. When that happens, teams will prioritize players based on several factors, from team need to depth at that position within the rest of the draft class. If, for example, a team has an outside linebacker and an interior offensive linemen with the same grade, they'll prioritize the lineman over the linebacker if they have a vacant starting position along the line and they don't have a vacant starting position at linebacker.
I'm a little surprised the Vikings haven't made a move on any free agent offensive linemen. It's obviously a glaring need, and we need to add more than just one quality guy on that line. I'd imagine we'll target linemen in the draft, but is that enough? I understand Anthony Barr's importance on the defensive side of the ball, yet should that really have been a higher priority than protecting our $84 million man?
-- Joe Bidwell
Having a quality offensive line to protect the quarterback and open up holes for the running game is important, but so too was re-signing a four-time Pro Bowler who is a team captain, who calls the defense and who can affect the game by rushing the passer, stopping the run and dropping into coverage. Free agency is tricky, so I like that the Vikings used valuable cap space and free agent money on the known commodity (Barr) and could very likely use the draft to fortify their offensive line. I look at what a team like the Indianapolis Colts did, where last year they used their first two draft picks on offensive lineman, as a better model than to splurge and over-spend in free agency.
With a player like Sheldon Richardson leaving the Vikings, I wanted to ask you about some other options at defensive tackle. There were a couple players picked up in last year's draft (Jalyn Holmes and Ade Aruna) as well as one picked up as an undrafted free agent (Hercules Mata'afa) who could be great contributors. Plus, we still have Ifeadi Odenigbo from the 2017 draft on our practice squad. I'm excited to see what happens with these players because I think both Mike Zimmer and DL coach Andre Patterson can develop them into great pieces of the Vikings defense.
-- Nathan Atkins
Very good point, Nathan. We all love analyzing free agency and projecting what's going to happen in the draft because these two avenues of player acquisition are very visible. But there are other ways to generate improvement on your roster, and a key one is player development. The development of the three players Nathan mentioned will be important to watch this offseason as the Vikings look to keep their defense playing at a high level and as they look to position themselves to survive injuries to key players and the potential of losing key players to free agency down the road.