Hartman: A year later, Vikings need no overhaul

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 10, 2013 - 12:37 AM

 After replacing 19 free agents last offseason, the team's roster is a lot more stable --and youthful.

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Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle Phil Loadholt

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What a difference a year has made for the Minnesota Vikings.

A year ago, the Vikings had 19 free agents whom they didn't re-sign from a team that had gone 3-13.

This year, they have 10 free agents from a 10-6 team, and there is a good chance they will make a strong effort to re-sign most of them, including starters Jasper Brinkley, Phil Loadholt, Jamarca Sanford, Jerome Felton and Erin Henderson.

Losing those 19 players last offseason made the Vikings much younger and created an opportunity for all of their draft choices and a number of free agents to make an impact.

Going into the 2011 season the Vikings were ranked 21st in the league in age, averaging 27.4 years.

But the roster overhaul they underwent allowed the Vikings to transform themselves into the league's fourth-youngest team with an average age of 25.6 -- nearly two years younger than the 2011 team.

They ranked behind the Rams, Eagles and Browns and were just ahead of the Packers, who averaged 25.7 years of age.

The roster turnover from last year has to go down as one of the biggest overhauls in recent history.

A year ago, the free agents included tight ends Visanthe Shiancoe, who signed with the Patriots and eventually was released, and Jim Kleinsasser, who retired; offensive linemen Steve Hutchinson, who signed with the Titans, Anthony Herrera, who didn't catch on with anybody, and Scott Koostra, who retired; defensive lineman Remi Ayodele (signed with the Saints); linebackers Kenny Onatolu (Panthers), Xavier Adibi (Bears) and E.J. Henderson, who surprisingly never caught on with anybody.

There were also defensive backs Cedric Griffin (Redskins), Tyrell Johnson (Dolphins), and a few who didn't sign on elsewhere: Benny Sapp, Jared Page, Husain Abdullah and Asher Allen; wide receiver Greg Camarillo (Saints); running back Lorenzo Booker (Bears); long snapper Matt Katula (Steelers) and placekicker Ryan Longwell, who just caught on with the Seahawks.

Re-sign top free agents

Among this year's free agents are several who would leave big holes if they got away.

This group includes Loadholt, the right tackle who has had a good year and is one reason the offensive line can be even stronger if it remains intact.

Then there is Brinkley, the starting linebacker who, after being idle for a season, had a solid year. Sanford also performed well at safety, and Felton did a great job blocking for Adrian Peterson.

There's also wide receiver Devin Aromashadu, who saw a lot of action late in the season, and Henderson, who started every game at linebacker.

That's a far cry from last year, when there were few starters among the free agents whom the Vikings felt they couldn't replace through their own reserves, the draft or free agency.

This year's other free agents didn't contribute as much, although wide receiver Jerome Simpson played well when he got healthy and the Vikings are thin at that position.

Free-agent linebacker Marvin Mitchell, who played only on special teams, and offensive linemen Joe Berger and Geoff Schwartz played little this season.

With a much more stable 53-man roster, General Manager Rick Spielman and the front office should be able to focus on positions of need this offseason and not worry about completely revamping the team like they had to do last offseason.

Vikings sponsor awards

The Minnesota Chapter of the National Football Foundation announced that the Vikings will be the presenting sponsors for the 2013 "Honoring Legends-Inspiring Leaders" awards.

This prestigious event, held each year at the University of St. Thomas, honors outstanding individuals in Minnesota, including legendary figures and the state's top scholar-athletes.

The awards will be presented on Sept. 28.

Oakes back to work

Longtime Gophers pitching coach Todd Oakes, who has been with the team for more than 15 years, had been laid up since last June while undergoing treatment for acute myeloid leukemia.

But now he is in remission after receiving a bone-marrow transplant from his brother, and he has been cleared to go back to work with the team.

And there was additional good news: Oakes' doctor told him he doesn't have to get another checkup for a year. Oakes' sons T.J. and Tyler pitched with the Gophers. ...

The construction of the new Siebert Field has been completed, and it will be available for the Gophers during their upcoming outdoor schedule.

However, it does not have lights (cost: $400,000) or a covered batting cage. Additional money is being raised to add those.

Jottings

Torii Hunter Jr., the son of the great former Twins center fielder, recently suffered a broken left femur during practice for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. But the fifth-rated receiver prospect in the country said Notre Dame is not pulling its scholarship offer because of the injury.

"It takes 12 weeks to completely heal, but there will be a full six months to rehab and then I'll be back running," Hunter said. "I'm trying to come back before that."

• Gophers basketball recruit Alvin Ellis recently had a nice game for De La Salle (Ill.) against St. Rita, scoring 25 points while hitting four three-pointers in a 73-67 loss. De La Salle is now 10-5 on the season. ... Forward Alex Foster, the Gophers' other 2013 signee, scored 13 points and grabbed eight rebounds in Chicago Seton Academy's loss to Romulus last Friday.

• With the Wild getting ready to start play again, it's nice to look down at the Houston Aeros' performance this season and see three 20 year-old players in the top five of scoring for the Wild farm team.

Jason Zucker, a former WCHA rookie of the year, is leading the team with 32 points (15 goals, 17 assists) in 31 games; Finnish superstar Mikael Granlund is fourth in scoring with 21 points (eight goals, 13 assists) in 21 games; and Charlie Coyle, whom the Wild received in the Brent Burns trade with the San Jose Sharks in 2010, is fifth with 20 points (12 goals, eight assists) in 35 games.

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. shartman@startribune.com

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