By Jim Weidner. We are now one week into the NFL free agency period and many NFL teams have made free agency moves. The first week of the NFL free agency period usually sees NFL teams throw around money wildly. This offseason is no exception. The Minnesota Vikings dipped their toes into the free agent market, with their eye on shoring up one of their biggest weaknesses from last season, their offensive line. But with a couple of additions, the Vikings also said goodbye to several players who had been with them for some time.
Help is on its way
Last season, the Vikings offensive line allowed starting quarterback Sam Bradford to be sacked 37 times. Because of their ineffectiveness, the Vikings switched their passing philosophy mid-season, going more to a quick passing game, trying to cut down on how many sacks and hits were allowed on Bradford. Even with the switch in philosophy, Bradford was hit frequently. Because of the poor offensive line play, Vikings general manager Rick Spielman needed to get offensive line help, and he did that in the first week of free agency.
This past week the Vikings signed offensive tackles Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers. Reiff comes over from NFC North foe the Detroit Lions. The Lions selected the former University of Iowa product in the first round of the 2012 draft. He was the starting left tackle from 2013-2015 and then was switched to the right side when the Lions selected left tackle Taylor Decker in the first round of last year’s draft. Reiff will once again man the left side for the Vikings next season. The Vikings shelled out a five year contract worth $58.75 million expecting Reiff to lock down the left side of the offensive line.
Remmers comes to Minnesota after playing for the Carolina Panthers since 2014. Remmers was an undrafted free agent out of Oregon State in 2012 and has been on five teams, including a stint with the Vikings in 2013. Remmers is penciled in as the starting right tackle. Remmers contract is for five years and worth $30 million.
Spielman was forced to pay out big money deals for these two tackles after failing to shore up the Vikings offensive line the past couple of seasons. With the retirement of former right tackle Phil Loadholt and Kalil not becoming the elite tackle they expected when they drafted him high in the first round, the Vikings needed to bring in help and do it immediately.
The One Who Got Away
If you were on Pro Football Talk on Thursday, you might have saw a post that stated that the Vikings and former Chicago Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffery were discussing a possible deal. Even with offering more years and possibly more money, Jeffery spurned the Vikings and signed a deal with the Philadelphia Eagles. The Vikings need a number one wide receiver and were hoping to hook Jeffery to possibly take that spot. Although the deal fell through, it still says little about what they think of last year’s number one draft pick wide receiver Laquon Treadwell, who had a dismal rookie season for the Vikings.
Ten year veteran outside linebacker Chad Greenway announced his retirement this past week. Greenway spent all ten years of his career with the Vikings. The Vikings spent the number seventeenth overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft on Greenway who was a star linebacker out of the University of Iowa. The former Mount Vernon South Dakota resident became a fan favorite of the Vikings fans with his blue collar work ethic and his Midwestern roots. Greenway was a two time Pro Bowler and was named second team All Pro in 2012. He ends his NFL career with 1,071 combined tackles, 18 sacks, 8 forced fumbles, and 10 interceptions. The Vikings have been bracing for this moment. Fellow linebackers Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks, and last year’s fifth round pick Kentrell Brothers are ready to step in for the now departed Greenway.
Also departing this past week was cornerback Captain Munnerlyn. Munnerlyn is returning to the team where he started his career, signing a free agent contract with the Carolina Panthers. Munnerlyn spent five seasons with the Panthers before coming over to the Vikings as a free agent. He originally signed with the Vikings with expectations of being a starting boundary cornerback for the Vikings. In his first season, he was just that, but with the drafting of Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes, Munnerlyn was moved back to nickel back, a position he originally held with the Panthers. He did an exceptional job against opposing teams slot receivers, but with the selection of Mackensie Alexander in the second round of last year’s draft, the Vikings let Munnerlyn walk.
Joining Munnerlyn in Carolina will be Vikings former first round pick offensive tackle Matt Kalil. Kalil missed most of last season because of a hip injury. After a strong rookie campaign in 2012, Kalil’s play slipped, but played better in 2015, but still not at the level the Vikings were hoping it would be at. Many had expected that the Vikings would bring back Kalil, mainly out of necessity because of the Vikings poor offensive line play. But Kalil and the Vikings both decided that a change of scenery would do him good. Kalil will be reunited with his brother Ryan, who is the Panthers starting center.
The Vikings also lost linebacker and special team’s player Audie Cole who signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars this past week. Cole spent five seasons with the Vikings, seeing most of his playing time coming on special teams. His most productive season on defense came in 2013 when he played 13 games where he registered 45 combined tackles and had one sack.