Monday, December 31, 2007

Viking Offseason: quarterbacks and wide receivers

It's a day after the season. We love the NFL playoffs and will blog the hell out of them. And soon the obsession of the season will recede, and we'll write about other things (HH, wwtb?, and I have other things to write about and we sometimes do, more likely in the Viking offseason). But why the hell shouldn't we go ahead and start talking about the Vikings' offseason needs? It's on our minds, so here we go.

The 8-8 2007 Vikings had one major weakness: their offensive passing game was inadequate. Thus improving the quarterbacks and wide receivers must be the priority of the 2008 offseason.

Quarterbacks
I see only two possible options.

Plan A: acquire Donovan McNabb
We're at a stage where Tarvaris Jackson may turn into a competent or good quarterback. We're at a stage where Donovan McNabb is a very good quarterback. He has been and may be again an elite quarterback. No matter what you think of Tarvaris Jackson, is is better than may turn into. If Donovan McNabb is really available, the Vikings should do whatever they can to acquire him. He's good now, and with McNabb at quarterback, the Vikings would immediately be a major contender for the NFC North, and the NFC. I don't know whether he will be available, but if he is, the Vikings would be utterly foolish to pass on him.

There's a secondary benefit: Donovan McNabb would put asses in the seats. The Vikes struggled to sell out the Metrodome in 2007; I doubt that would be a problem in 2008 with Donovan McNabb (I'm leaning against renewing my season tickets for personal reasons: the time and money commitment is too high for this stage of my life. However, if the Vikings had McNabb, I would pretty much ignore the time and money commitment and get myself to the Metrodome for every home game).

If McNabb is really not available, only then should they move to the second plan.

Plan B: acquire a legitimate, competent veteran backup quarterback to Tarvaris Jackson
Tarvaris Jackson can go into 2008 as the Viking starting quarterback. But given that he's still at the may turn into stage, a team that can win now needs to have another option if Jackson fails. Furthermore, Jackson missed games with injury for three separate injuries in 2007; the Vikes need a reliable backup option if Jackson gets injured again.

Those are the only two options I would consider. It would be pointless to draft a quarterback in the first round to start 2008: the Vikings can win immediately, and 3rd year Tarvaris Jackson is probably better than rookie anybody. And I don't think there's a veteran QB worth acquiring to compete with or replace Jackson.

There's no reason Kelly Holcomb or Brooks Bollinger need to be on the roster in 2008.

Wide Receivers
There are three current Viking WRs who should be on the 2008 roster.

Sidney Rice: at worst, he's going to turn into a playmaking #2 or #3 WR. At best, he's going to turn into a playmaking #1 WR.

Bobby Wade: Wade is a reliable #3 WR: he's good in the slot, he blocks hard, and he catches the ball when it gets to him. He doesn't have the ability to get separation or get downfield consistently, so he really shouldn't be a #1 or #2 WR.

Aundrae Allison: He's good enough to return as a kick returner, and so he can be a part of the wide receiver mix.

Robert Ferguson is just below OK, and there's no pressing need to bring him back. Troy Williamson really needs to be finished with the Vikings. I can't even remember if there are any other WRs on the roster, so they probably don't need to return.

And then the Vikings need to exhaust all possible resources and outlets to acquire playmaking WRs. It's such a pressing need that the Vikings may even need to sign talented malcontents. Javon Walker was unhappy in Green Bay and now he's unhappy in Denver. He'd probably be unhappy in Minnesota, but he's still really good. We can't realistically expect some of the possibly available talented but occasionally pissy WRs to want to come to the Viking QB situation (Chad Johnson, Randy Moss). Larry Fitzgerald makes a lot of money, but he can't really be available, right? But the Vikes need to explore every possible good WR. They can't assume a player isn't available: they must find out for sure.

The draft, free agency, and trades: anything to get any good wide receivers.

Obsession. We have a problem. If we didn't, this blog wouldnt' even exist.

13 comments:

  1. BadgerT10009:05 AM

    Walker had every reason to want out of Green Bay. Favre had no business sticking his nose into Walker's contract negotiations and making Walker out to be the bad guy to Packer fans. The man had earned his chance at a big payday.

    Walker worked his way back to an elite level. It may not be readily apparent but in 2006 Javon Walker was one of the best receivers in the NFL. 2007 was snakebit by other injuries.

    So I think "malcontent" is a bit harsh.

    I do agree that if the Vikes have a chance to acquire Walker they should do so. If healthy he's a heckuva player. The only thing is that once a player starts to get hurt he tends to continue to get hurt. Kind of the Newton's Law of NFL player health.

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  2. Anonymous9:21 AM

    Glad to see I can revive one of my favorite topics.

    I wouldn't agree Javon Walker had every reason to want out of Green Bay. If time has proven anything its shown Ted Thompson is more than willing to handsomely reward players who have proven their value--Barnett, Kampman, Driver, Al Harris... players who didn't hold out after one good year. As a former first round pick Walker had made millions already--as has been pointed out he made big money catching 23 passes his rookie year. His agent saw a situation with a rookie GM and he tried to exploit that perceived weakness. All Favre did was throw his support behind that new management. As Walker's hold out potentially affected Favre and Favre's team I've always believe Favre had every right to express his personal convictions.

    Imagine if Greg Jennings held out after this season! He made more game changing plays this season than Walker and caught as many TDs in 3 less games and on a more diverse offense... he's a more sophisticated player than Walker will ever be with a much higher character if you believe what you read.

    Walker is fragile, limited mentally, and mostly concerned about individual accomplishments. He's probably trying to figure out if Brett would take him back. I hope the Vikings trade for him so Al Harris can shut him down twice a year just like he used to shut him down in practice. Yes the Vikings could never have enough low character guys. I would appreciate that as much as the Pack making Darren Sharper look foolish twice a year.

    RK

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  3. I hope they trade for Walker. You can have two injury-prone ex-Packer wide receivers...Kudos to Childress for getting more than two regular season games out of Ferguson.

    HIRE BILLICK NOW!

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  4. My vote is for drafting a TE with our first round pick. Specifically John Carlson from Notre Dame. The talent level of a TE at that spot is a "safer" pick than a WR at that spot. For every good WR at that spot there are busts like Freddie Mitchell.

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  5. I like Walker, as a player and what I know of him as a person. I didn't intend "malcontent" as a harsh word; dictionary.com suggests the word refers to somebody dissatisfied with conditions (or chronically dissatisfied), and Walker is now two for two in that regard.

    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/malcontent

    Walker is a very good player; I was one of those who observed his 2006 season was very good in context:

    http://pacifistviking.blogspot.com/2007/06/fantasy-preview-denver-broncos.html

    If Walker joins the Vikes, this is one blog where you'll find people dancing with joy.

    I don't see how RK makes the assessment that Walker is "limited mentally," and I'm doubtful about exactly what makes him not a "higher character" person. But I don't want to rehash discussion about who was right and who was wrong in the conflict between Walker and the Packers.

    Then RK makes some sort of cheap shot about character guys on the Vikes, when Brett Favre just threw a TD pass to the guy that got cut from his second chance after driving very fast while drunk. I don't think any franchise is immune from having guys with past character issues; apparently RK wants to point out the low character guys on the Vikes, seeming to imply that the high and holy Pack would never sully themselves with a player with any character questions.

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  6. PV:

    If the Vikings don't get McNabb, then who is the competent veteran QB that they are going to get to complete Plan B?

    When you look at NFL rosters, I don't see a lot of competent veterans.

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  7. I should add that I meant to write, "I don't see a lot of competent veterans that aren't already starting."

    I'm pretty certain guys that will be available, like Chad Pennington, aren't going to get the Vikings where we fans want the team to go. What did you have in mind PV?

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  8. I'm not sure--it's a fair question. Holcomb's problem was a profound lack of mobility (he took something like 12 sacks in 95 dropbacks). Honestly, when I say competent backup, I would even say somebody like Holcomb but with an ounce of mobility. Doesn't need to be somebody who has been a star, but needs to be somebody with experience, accuracy, and mobility, who could perform adequately with a good running game for support.

    We'll see who is available. I wouldn't have thought Todd Collins to be a legitimate backup, but now look at him. Holcomb was a total bust as a backup: 0-3 in starts, something around 51% passing, sacked about once every eight dropbacks. It was a complete error in evaluation. A legit backup may not be obvious--it's going to take a correct evaluation from the Viking staff (which I'm not entirely sure we can trust them to make--Childress might end up like Brian Billick, an offensive coach that completely misses on the QB position).

    Perhaps later this month I'll look at NFL rosters for specific names. I can say I've never quite given up the belief that Josh McCown is a decent NFL quarterback (which shows what I know).

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  9. I just started looking around, and found several "backup" level QBs that should/could be available in 2008. When you're looking for a veteran "backup," you're going to get a list of players with issues--if they didn't have them, they'd be starting. But if the Vikes are committed to Jackson starting 2008 as the starting QB, they could go after backups like J.P. Losman, Josh McCown, Damon Huard, or Sage Rosenfels. And there are others. Like I said, these aren't names that will thrill anybody, but we're looking for a competent "backup," which any of these level of players might be.

    And if the Vikes aren't committed to Jackson as the 2008 starter? Then they can pursue McNabb, or Derek Anderson, or Chad Pennington.

    I'm really vexed about Jackson: he did enough to deserve further consideration as starter, but he also didn't do enough to make it clear the Vikings should not look to other options. As the team appears to be capable of winning now, I think it's reasonable that the Vikes pursue a veteran capable of leading the team now. But, given the flashes Jackson showed, it's also reasonable for the Vikings to stick with Jackson as the starter. But if they don't at least attempt to get a competent backup, Childress is hitching his job to Jackson and Jackson alone, which might be a bad idea.

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  10. Tito has the potential to be a great quarterback. He's just too raw right now. Why not go after McNabb? McNabb has about 2-3 years before injuries completely knock him out of the league, but he knows the offense, he knows Childress (sorry FCN guy, he's not going anywhere), and he knows how to work with mediocre WRs (brilliant!). Maybe McNabb can show Tito how to be a QB. Cut Kelly, keep Bollinger.

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  11. PV:

    I think we're all vexed by Jackson. Look how brilliantly he played during the last eight minutes of regulation in the Broncos game. But then you remember how he played the 42 minutes before that.

    This team is ready to win now – as long as it gets good quarterbacking. Maybe Jackson provides that next year. But how confident are any of us that it's going to happen? That's why I think the Vikings have to make a serious run at McNabb – although I doubt they will. Signing Pennington after the Jets dump him seems to be more of a Vikings kind of move.

    And badgert1000 made a long and quite entertaining post on the Football Outsiders site (which I'm sure you've read PV) the other day where he argues with Childress as our coach, Jackson will never develop into anything more than he is right now.

    I've never followed Wisconsin football, so I can't judge for myself whether there is any substance to badger's theory. But he was pretty convincing and when you look at how Jackson's mechanics go all to hell even though Jackson is Childress's pet project, it makes me wonder.

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  12. Anonymous12:19 PM

    Never evaluate a qb by how he performs in a week 17 game which is fairly meaningless to an opponent with a decidedly mediocre defense, during the last eight minutes, while the score is 19-3. There is no substantive reason to yet think that Tavaris Jackson will be an above-average NFL qb.

    Childress missing on a young qb drafted in the 2nd round, if Jacson turns out to be a miss, is a forgivable offense. Bringing in, in succession, Mike McMahon, Brooks Bollinger, and Kelly Holcomb, to be number 2's, when there is far from a sure thing at number 1, with the latter two guys acquired in desperation trades, for which players and/or draft picks were sacrificed, may be unforgivable.

    I increasingly doubt whether the Eagles will be foolish enough to part with McNabb at less than a rather exorbinant price, but Childress absolutely needs to find a veteran number two who can push Jackson hard. If Jackson is so soft that such a number 2 puts him in a funk in what will be Jackson's third season, then Jackson ain't going to cut it in the NFL.

    Of course, if Bobby Wade isn't a number three wr by next season, that will be a bad indicator as well. Whether Troy Williamson should hold down a number 4 spot depends on whether he can improve his special team play, which should include kick coverage, and what his cap number is. If Williamson is unwilling to approach special teams with enthusiasm, he can go drop passes for someone else.

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  13. Deano8:20 AM

    Just reviewed the available free agent QBs, WRs and TEs on "DraftDaddy.com" and the pickens are slim at all three positions. This makes it obvious that finding the proper malcontent is the best route to improving this team. Randy Moss is living proof that one can return from a two year hiatus from excellence and break NFL records. If I'm correct, Moss signed a one year contract with New England. If they win the Super Bowl, does he give consideration to a big paycheck from his former team? If not, why focus on Javon Walker? Minnie's best option in my opinion is Chad Johnson. Things were so bad between he and Carlson Palmer by midseason that it was rumored Palmer ignored him on the field for "free lancing" his routes. Johnson's problem seems to be his nonchalant attitude. I'd rather have someone like that in my locker room than someone who's a sulker. Troy williamson? Good bye and good luck! Those two drops against Denver sealed his fate. Shianco dropped two TD passes (from running backs) that a high school TE should have held on to. As far as McNabb goes, a #1 pick will be Phila's asking price and I don't know if he's worth it. Look at where a #2 got Miami with Culpepper. As a native Pennsylvanian, I've been forced to watch many an Eagles game over the years and this year, I really questioned Donovan's accuracy. He threw a lot of "off" passes to really wide open receivers. Take away Westbrook's "YAC" and his numbers drop considerably. If we can chalk it up to his "still getting back to 100%" than maybe he's worth a #2. But, that will shatter Jackson's confidence and development for the future. There are enough quality players on this roster that are good enough for this team to go far into the playoffs so I can see both sides of the argument. If I could only add one star quality player to my roster this offseason, I would have to say WR hands down.

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