We all like to spend Zygi Wilf’s money and gobble up Rick Spielman’s salary cap room because, well, we like football, we have a Twitter account and we got a few moments to kill before lunch. Plus, we’re all smarter than billionaires, coaches and GMs, right?
But it does help to at least acknowledge that we, the obsessed masses of NFL followers, don’t always take a step back and realize there might be a 141st character or more that’s needed to see the entire puzzle. And, believe it or not, that puzzle has pieces that won’t be tweeted about for months, even years down the road, assuming Twitter doesn’t give way to something more
We know the Vikings need a playmaker at strong safety to put next to the playmaker they already have at free safety. The Vikings showed interest in Devin McCourty. That interest disappeared when the price tag rose until the Patriots ultimately paid $22.5 million in guarantees and $30 million in the first three years.
Yes, the Vikings have cap space. But they’re also heading toward big paydays for a line of young first-round draft picks that is seven deep. The first one in that line is that playmaking free safety, Harrison Smith, who could surpass McCourty’s deal this time next year if he has a great season, which is expected of Smith.
Let’s shift to the quarterback position. To me, it’s the top priority in free agency. Even ahead of left guard, although I’d be working on the two of them simultaneously.
Matt Cassel was the ideal backup quarterback. I’d have kept him and paid the $4.75 million because I’m not convinced Bridgewater is sturdy enough physically to not get hurt and miss at least a game or two. And, if you take a leap of faith and assume that Adrian Peterson has one more season in purple, I’d want a smooth transition to Cassel if Bridgewater gets hurt. I also think Bridgewater is a keeper who will only get better, but that’s not guaranteed.
I also get stuck on the fact the Vikings paid $2 million to rent Josh Freeman for about three months — and one miserable start in his only outing — just two years ago. But I do understand that the team was a whole lot more desperate for a starting quarterback two years ago.
It was obvious the Vikings have half or more of Cassel’s pay this season earmarked for something else. Since teams can roll cap space from year to year, perhaps that money will end up in Smith’s pocket next year.
It doesn’t hurt that the Vikings packaged Cassel and a sixth-round pick to Buffalo for a fifth-rounder this year and a seventh next year. Not a bad return considering the Bears could only get a fifth-rounder for one of the league’s more dangerous receivers.
Now, the Vikings have targeted Shaun Hill. And the feedback I’m hearing from people is he’s not good enough. They wanted Brian Hoyer or another higher-profile name. But those are the guys who cost more and have more leverage. To chase them would defeat the decision to trade Cassel.
Hill began his career with the Vikings as an undrafted rookie in 2002. Then-coach Mike Tice, a Maryland guy, loved Maryland guys. A lot.
In five years with the Vikings, Hill appeared in one game. His last with the team. He took two kneel downs in a season-ending win over the Bears. About 15 minutes later, Wilf fired Tice in the locker room. So long, Shaun.
Now heading into a 14th NFL season, Hill is 35 with 46 starts. Weighing the Vikings’ obvious decision not to overpay a backup, Hill also is the best fit for the Vikings.
He is 23-23 as a starter, including 3-5 with the Rams a year ago. He was hurt in the season-opening loss to the Vikings, but also returned and beat Peyton Manning and the Broncos in his first game back. He posted a 102.7 passer rating while completing 20 of 29 passes in that game.
And besides being cost effective and experienced, he also spent a year in San Francisco with current Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner.
Hill has other teams chasing him. Assuming the price tag stays more reasonable than Cassel’s, he’s the right fit for the situation.