Free agency begins next Tuesday, and while we wait to see which players the Vikings sign this year let's take a look at years past and see who fans think are the best free agent signings in franchise history.
Below are 10 of the best free agents signings (undrafted free agents not included) in team history, with a twist. Each one is paired up and there's a poll that accompanies each pairing.
QB Randall Cunningham (1997) vs. QB 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 touchdowns and a passer rating of 107.2 while leading the Vikings to the NFC title game. 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 touchdowns and only 10 interceptions. Among quarterbacks with 20 starts, Cunningham has the second-best winning percentage (.696) and his 34-touchdown campaign in '98 still ranks second all-time in club history.
DT Pat Williams (2005) vs. CB Antoine Winfield (2004)One was usually the largest player on the field and the other was usually the smallest, but both made massive impacts on Vikings defenses. As half of the famed "Williams Wall" that anchored a dominant Vikings run defense for half a decade, Williams helped the Vikings became the first team since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger to lead the NFL in rush defense. Winfield is the rare a blue-chip signing who outperforms expectations. He played in 119 games over nine seasons with the Vikings and in 2010 was named to the 50 Greatest Vikings team. He holds the Vikings record for most fumble recoveries by a defensive back with 11 and ranks tied for second in team history with 12 forced fumbles by a defensive back. Winfield has also scored all five of his career touchdowns (2 FRs, 2 INTs, 1 blocked FG) as a Viking.
K Gary Anderson (1998) vs. K Ryan Longwell (2006)In just five seasons with the Vikings, Anderson quickly climbed the franchise's all-time scoring list and still ranks sixth. 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 second). As steady as the day is long, Longwell was a key part of two division winning teams during his six years with the Vikings and finished his career in Purple ranked third 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 first in Vikings history with nine game-winning field goals.
C Jeff Christy (1993) vs. LG Steve Hutchinson (2006)Drafted and then cut by the Phoenix Cardinals, Christy was Phoenix's trash but the Vikings treasure. He played seven 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 two-time All-Pro and Pro Bowler in Minnesota who started all 16 games of a season five times as a Viking. Another member of the 50 Greatest Vikings team, Hutchinson was a dominant road-grading run blocker and sure-fire pass protector during his six seasons with the Vikings. Hutchinson earned four of his seven career Pro Bowls with the Vikings.
S Corey Chavous (2002) vs. LB Ben Leber (2006)Chavous joined the Vikings after signing a four-year contract in 2002 and went on to start all 64 games in that span, totaling 320 tackles and 14 interceptions. 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 five seasons at outside linebacker for the Vikings, Leber was an important part of defenses that ranked first against the run for three 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.