The first days of NFL free agency predictably saw a ton of moves for the Vikings, with one of the stories being their inability to sign Michael Johnson, the widely rumored defensive end target who had played under new coach Mike Zimmer last year with Cincinnati.
Johnson not only wanted more money than the Vikings were willing to pay, but he also wanted to play in the South, where he grew up went to college. Still, there was a lot of media speculation that Johnson would come here. He ended up going to Tampa Bay on a five-year deal.
But the big move for the Vikings was their signing of New York Giants defensive tackle Linval Joseph, who might be just as important as Johnson would have been.
Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman no doubt targeted Joseph as the key to the defensive line, and he might come to remind fans of Pat Williams, the tremendous run-stopping nose tackle who was a big part of the 2009 team that reached the NFC Championship Game.
Williams was a 6-3, 317-pound monster on the interior of the line, and many believe Joseph could have a similar future at 6-4 and 323 pounds.
They also got Joseph at a cheaper price than Johnson, with a five-year, $31.5 million deal with $14 million guaranteed. Johnson got a richer deal from new Buccaneers GM Jason Licht and coach Lovie Smith, a five-year, $43.75 million contract with $24 million guaranteed.
That means that Johnson will now get to play under former Vikings coach Leslie Frazier, who became Bucs defensive coordinator after being fired by the Vikings.
Dan Graziano, writing for ESPN New York, ran a story that spoke very highly of Joseph, saying that the Giants had made a big mistake in letting him go.
“To me, Linval Joseph is the kind of player you work to keep,” Graziano wrote. “He’s 25 years old. He’s an accomplished run-stuffer who also can crash the pocket from the interior of the defensive line. He’s a solid, well-liked teammate who carries himself like a pro and doesn’t do anything to embarrass your franchise on or off the field. He’s missed one game in the past three years. He’s a Super Bowl champion. He was a second-round draft pick who really panned out. ”
So while Vikings fans might have been more inclined to hear that the team had signed Johnson, it seems likely that with the big deal for Everson Griffen and the steady play of Brian Robison, the team was more interested in shoring up their interior line play, which it has surely done.
The Vikings had interest in bringing back free agent Kevin Williams before they signed Joseph. Maybe to have depth at the nose tackle position they will still sign Williams, who had a good 2013 and was the longest-tenured player on the team.
The Vikings are also reportedly interested in re-signing left guard Charlie Johnson and wide receiver Jerome Simpson, and they might have interest in signing defensive lineman Fred Evans and wide receiver Joe Webb.
Meanwhile, Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network is reporting that if former Vikings defensive end Jared Allen can’t find the right price, he might retire and resort to other pursuits outside of the NFL.
Likes Wild deals
Lou Nanne, Mr. Hockey in this area, was asked what he thought of the deals that Wild GM Chuck Fletcher made before the NHL trade deadline.
“I just think Chuck Fletcher pulled off another great move. Getting both [Matt] Moulson and [Cody] McCormick, they’re players that can really, really help this team, and [Ilya] Bryzgalov in goal too, when he gets the opportunity,” said Nanne, the former North Stars GM. “But Moulson is a talented scorer. He has the kind of skill that I think they were missing and you need in the lineup. McCormick is more than just a tough guy, he has some skills, too. He’s a very good player. I think those two holes were filled with those two players.
“You know the Wild, they have a tough battle in this division and in this conference to make the playoffs, but I think they’ve improved themselves to do it.”
• Mike Sherels, whom Gophers coach Jerry Kill promoted from the recruiting department to linebackers coach, was ranked as one of the smarter football players during his playing days with the team, and he won a number of awards while wearing the maroon and gold. As a senior he received the Neil Fredenburg Award for courage and love of the game. The year before, he was honored with the Carl Eller Award as the Gophers’ outstanding defensive player and the Paul Giel Award for unselfishness and most concern about the University of Minnesota.
• The Vikings cut ties with tight end John Carlson, the Litchfield High School product who had a rough two seasons in purple while battling injuries. Carlson ended up with the Arizona Cardinals on a two-year contract. He told azcentral.com: “It’s been a busy week. My wife is 37 weeks pregnant, as well, with our third child. It’s been a good week.” Carlson will get to play alongside another local NFL star in wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald of Holy Angels.
• Brian Bellows, the No. 2 overall pick in the 1982 NHL draft by the North Stars who became one of their great players, is the father of Kieffer Bellows, a sophomore on Class 2A boys’ hockey champion Edina. According to the opinion of some real hockey experts, he has a chance to be better than his dad.
• Timberwolves guard Kevin Martin has 26 games in which he has scored at least 20 points after doing this only 10 times last season while with the Oklahoma City Thunder. … For one of the few times this season, Wolves coach Rick Adelman played guards Ricky Rubio and J.J. Barea together against Milwaukee on Tuesday, and because it was effective, that combination might be used more the rest of the season. “It gives us two ballhandlers and makes it harder for the other team to guard us,” Adelman said.
• The Gophers’ Mike Reilly leads Big Ten defensemen in goals (eight), assists (20) and points (28). He had four assists in two games at Ohio State last weekend and was named the third star of the week in the Big Ten.
• Former Gophers pitcher Seth Rosin — who was drafted by the Giants, traded to the Phillies in 2012, selected by the Mets in the Rule 5 draft in December and then traded to the Dodgers — is having a great spring training. He has a 0.00 ERA in eight innings over three games with Los Angeles, which must keep him for the entire season or offer him back to Philadelphia.
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. firstname.lastname@example.org