NFC North Free Agency Recap: Minnesota Vikings

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The Vikings brought back several key players from their 2012 team, while adding one key player from a division rival to replace the departed Percy Harvin.

The third entry in our series of free agency activity takes us to Minnesota, the "Land of 10,000 Lakes." In recent years, the Minnesota Vikings have grown to be what many would argue the Packers' biggest rival. The Vikings seem to be back on the rise following their down seasons in in 2010 and 2011. After finishing their 2012-'13 campaign with a 10-6 record and a Wild Card berth, the Vikings look to reach the summit of the NFC North once again.

KEY FREE AGENT ADDITIONS

Name Position Old Team Contract Details
Matt Cassel QB KC 2 years, $7.4 million
Greg Jennings WR GB 5 years, $47.5M

The Vikings are typically one of the teams in-sourcing players into their organization. From Jared Allen to Darren Sharper. the Vikings aren't shy about acquiring talent from the free agent pool or via trade. This year, I expect no less from the Vikings but they aren't doing too much this year. Probably because they can't do too much more at this point. Often times, when it comes to smart offseason acquisitions, they spend a little more wisely than the Bears, who Devin compared to IKEA Furniture in the preceding entry.

The big fish this year for Minnesota obviously was Greg Jennings, who signed for $47.5 million. This gives Minnesota a deep threat down field and that ideally should spread defenses out for the Adrian Peterson strike. If Jennings and Peterson both stay healthy, the Vikings could be one of those pick your poison kind of teams over the next few years.

Another interesting move the Vikings made was bringing Matt Cassel over from Kansas City. After a good year in New England, Cassel struggled during his overall time in KC. However, he did post a season (2010) where he threw for 3,116 yards and 27 touchdowns with only seven interceptions. The Chiefs won the AFC West that year. At 30, Cassel has proven himself and should be a more than capable backup at this stage of his career that would be beneficial to the continued development of quarterback Christian Ponder this year.

KEY FREE AGENT LOSSES

Name Position New Team Contract Details
Jasper Brinkley MLB ARI 3 years, terms undisclosed
Geoff Schwartz G KC 1 year, $1.2M

So far, the Vikings have lost two veteran guys. Inside linebacker Jasper Brinkley spent the last four seasons in Minnesota. After a few seasons working his way up on the roster, Brinkley earned his spot last year, accumulating 117 tackles, three sacks and forcing 2 fumbles in 2012. The 27-year-old Brinkley was picked up on a three-year deal by the Arizona Cardinals, leaving the Vikings with a spot to fill in the front seven of that defense.

Offensive tackle Geoff Schwartz signed with the Kansas City Chiefs. He spent his first two seasons (2009,2010) in Carolina before having a double-hip surgery that caused him to miss 2011. He made a return with the Vikings, appearing in 13 games last year but now he is off to Kansas City to try his hand.

Oh, and it happened before the start of free agency, but they traded away some guy by the name of Percy Harvin too.

Outside of the addition of Greg Jennings and the departure of Jasper Brinkley, the Vikings are having a pretty quiet offseason to this point... Or so you would think.

BUILDING FROM WITHIN...

Name Position Contract Details
Jerome Felton FB 3 years, $7.5M
Erin Henderson LB 2 years, $4M
Phil Loadholt T 4 years, $25M
Jamarca Sanford S 2 years, $5M
Jerome Simpson WR 1 year, $2.1M

The real meat of this free agency so far for the Vikings have been the talent that they have kept around. Outside of Jennings, the most important move for the Vikings this offseason was keeping offensive tackle Phil Loadholt. The 27-year-old Loadholt, was retained via a four-year, $25 million deal and was an often overlooked, but (now) not underpaid, part of the Vikings success both in the passing game and running game in 2012. Apparently, Loadholt had some clout among his teammates as well, as they pushed for the organization to get the deal done.

Other returnees to the Vikings are safety Jarmarca Sandford (2-year, $5 million), running back Jerome Felton (3-year, $7.5 million), center Joe Berger (1-year, $945k) and linebacker Erin Henderson (2-year, $4 million).

The Vikings seem to have found a balance between the Bears and the Packers when it comes to free agency. They aren't as conservative as the Packers when it comes to landing the big names, but they aren't just swooning in on any big name that they can either. This is why the Vikings minimized their down years and are back in the thick of things in the NFC North. However, the free agency has yet to completely unfold, so we will have to wait and see where they stack up in the division.

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