Monday Morning Mailbag: Setting The Stage For Free Agency

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Have you heard if the Vikings are interested in keeping Anthony Barr? Do you know if they are talking to him or just letting him go out and sign with another team if he desires to do so? 
-- Bruce Blanton

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said at the Combine that he’d love to have Barr if the team can afford him, which tells me the Vikings may have expressed interest in keeping Barr and that it’s possible the Vikings will retain their 2014 1st-rounder even if he does hit the open market on March 13. Teams and player representatives are still gathering information, so it’s not a surprise that Barr remains unsigned despite the Vikings supposed interest. With free agency set to begin in a few days, you’ll start to see more action across the League. The Vikings have been proactive in retaining many of the talented players they’ve acquired and developed, recently locking up Danielle Hunter, Eric Kendricks and Harrison Smith, among others, to long-term contracts. That’s good, but it’s created a situation now where the team must be judicious when it comes to retaining other talented players such as Barr and Sheldon Richardson.

We all know the Vikings will work hard this offseason to improve the team. But realistically, losing Anthony Barr, Sheldon Richardson and Latavius Murray leaves gaping holes on the team. Their experience and knowledge of Zim’s system will not be replaced with new faces, whether through the draft or free agency. And to add the new coaches on offense will mean a very difficult period of adjustment for the team, especially during the first half of a difficult schedule that includes improved Bears and Packers teams. So, this isn’t so much a question for you as it is a lament on how quickly windows open and close on the Vikings.
-- Howard Lavick

Yes, all of those issues must be dealt with but let’s also remember that these are typical issues for teams during the offseason. Other teams have other issues, and some teams have the same issues the Vikings are facing right now with respect to potentially losing talented players via free agency and the addition of new coaches. On the topic of new coaches, though, it can be argued that the changes in the offensive coaching staff are actually bringing more familiarity and continuity than they are bringing challenges. Cousins is already familiar with offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski, and Cousins is already familiar with some of the scheme and terminology that assistant head coach/offensive advisor Gary Kubiak brings with him.

Do you think the Vikings would use the trade market to fix some things? I just keep thinking, due to the limited cap space, they may look for trades to get physically talented guys on the defensive side of the ball. Our coaching staff is more than capable of coaching up players. Just was curious of your thoughts on this potential idea.
-- Brian Spadafora

This time of year in the NFL, most of the talk is about free agency and the draft. But there are other avenues teams can use to generate improvement. One that isn’t talked about nearly enough is player development. The natural progression of young players such as Holton Hill and Jalyn Holmes, for example, can help the Vikings improve in 2019 just as much as a free agent signing or a draft pick. Another way to add talented players is through trades. So, yes, I can see GM Rick Spielman utilizing this tactic to improve the roster, if the right opportunity presents itself. Spielman has not been afraid to make trades in the past to add a unique player, with his acquisition of Jared Allen back in 2008 coming top of mind. But again, it has to be the right deal for the Vikings. Spielman won’t make a trade just to make a trade. It would have to be the right player at the right time and at the right price.

We don’t have a lot of salary cap space, so would Sam Bradford be an inexpensive backup for Kirk Cousins? Or should we go with two quarterbacks? I believe in Kyle Sloter. Everyone says we need a third quarterback, though.
-- Roger Wilmore
Elk Grove, CA

I can’t speak to what the market for Bradford would be or for the team’s interest in him. But the interesting point to address from Roger’s question is about the number of quarterbacks on the roster. I can hear arguments for keeping two quarterbacks on the roster so as to use that extra roster spot on another position, but that would only be once the 53-man cuts are made. Up until that point, with the offseason program and all the way through training camp, it’s best to have three or four quarterbacks on the roster.

In watching the NFL Combine, I was very impressed with wide receiver Terry McLaurin. He seemed so smooth in everything he did. I hear he also has a great attitude. He kind of reminds me of Jerry Rice. Hopefully, he ends up a Viking. I also hope the Vikings take a look at Easton Stick. He has a good arm and is very mobile.
-- Doug A.
Watertown, SD

Both names are interesting prospects. We just filmed and posted to vikings.com a Combine recap show, where yours truly along with Paul Allen, Pete Bercich, ESPN’s Courtney Cronin and Ben Leber reviewed some of the Combine’s top performers and discussed possibilities for the Vikings in both free agency and the draft. Make sure to check it out if you haven’t already seen it!

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