With the beginning of the 2016 league year kicking off today at 3 p.m. (CT), the Star Tribune's Michael Rand dove into Vikings lore and assembled his list of the top 10* *free agent signings by Minnesota.
Coming in at number one on Rand's list was cornerback Antoine Winfield, who recorded 729 tackles and 21 interceptions over nine seasons with the Vikings. Rand wrote the following of Winfield:
[Winfield] signed a six-year deal in 2004. The Vikings gave him a five-year extension in 2009 that included $16.1 [million] in guarantees. Winfield ended up playing nine seasons in purple. He was popular. He was productive. People hated to see him go. He was everything you would want in a free agent.
Quarterback Brett Favre and defensive tackle Pat Williams held the two and three spots, respectively.
After his tenure in Green Bay, Favre played two seasons for the division-rival Vikings and racked up 6,711 passing yards and 44 touchdowns over 29 games played. Favre also led the Vikings to the 2009 NFC Championship game, where they barely missed out on a trip to the Super Bowl by an overtime loss to New Orleans.
In terms of sheer impact — graded on a "wins over replacement" kind of curve – Favre in 2009 has to be considered one of the organization's best free agent signings. Like [Randall] Cunningham, he almost got the Vikings to the Super Bowl with his MVP-esque performance in 2009.
Williams, like Winfield, signed with Minnesota after playing a number of seasons for the Bills. Williams immediately bolstered the Vikings defense, recording 290 tackles and 7.5 sacks over six seasons.
[Williams] signed with the Vikings in 2005 and ended up being half of the Williams Wall for the next six seasons. He was a brilliant run-stuffer and made three Pro Bowls in his time here; the Vikings should hope [Linval] Joseph's career with Minnesota plays out much the same, production-wise, as Williams' did.
Other signings on Rand's list included kicker Ryan Longwell, tight end Visanthe Shiancoe and current nose tackle Linval Joseph, whom Rand said has "lived up to his deal" in his two seasons with the Vikings.
Mike Zimmer's success
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer is in the thick of the NFL offseason, preparing for his third season leading Minnesota. Since taking the reins in 2014, Zimmer's success with the Vikings is undeniable – but that's not always the case with new head coaches.
Viking Update's John Holler wrote the following about Zimmer's journey to Minnesota:
*Zimmer had to wait [20 seasons as an NFL assistant] to get his shot after being a very successful assistant coach. His wait was longer than most who aspire to ascend to the chair at the head of the table. But it's seemingly inevitable when an organization enjoys success. The Cincinnati Bengals enjoyed regular-season success and the result has been that, in the span of the last two years, the Bengals have lost both their defensive coordinator (Zimmer) and two of their offensive coordinators (Jay Gruden and Hue Jackson) to head coaching positions. *
For the organizations that hired them – Minnesota, Washington and Cleveland – the hope was that they would provide the blueprint for sustained success. But the fact of the matter is that you never know how things are going to turn out.