In year’s past, the Minnesota Vikings approach to free agency has been rather predictable. Letting other teams jump in on the big name options, the Vikings would sit back until the second wave of players rose to the top when they would jump in at a reasonable price and fill a few needs. While that was still their base level approach in 2015, they seasoned things up a little bit with a new flare that should excite the fan base.
This free agency period was not devoid of second-tier players. They signed on with Shaun Hill, DuJuan Harris and Casey Matthews to fill the role player quota. Then this past week they signed two retread defensive backs, but they weren’t the normal variety of aging DBs we usually see come through town. As we discussed over the weekend, these are DBs who have been there and done that with Zimmer and are ready to work once again with Minnesota’s Mad Scientist.
But then the Vikings went out of body a bit also. They sought out a trade for a top-tier player, negotiated the price down to a value that was proper, and went out and got him, now Mike Wallace is a Minnesota Viking.
Now the Vikings do have a brief history of offseason trades including the one that landed Jared Allen in town back in 2008. But at the time of the Allen trade, there were people clamoring that a 1st round pick and two 3rds was too much for the troubled defensive end. I think Jared made people forget about the traded prospects and proved he was worth it over time, but that’s different than shedding a 5th rounder (and gaining a 7th for whatever that is worth) for Wallace.
Spielman literally worked his magic with this one.
The hope here is that the same personality quirk that led to Wallace’s demise in Miami, can be used to rise from the ashes and find success here in Minnesota. If it goes the other way, the wrong way, it was still only a 5th round pick that was used to acquire him, they got an extra one of those from the Bills when they traded Matt Cassel away. So in reality, they swapped out backup QBs, upgraded their 5th round pick and found a big play wideout. Not too shabby Rick.
But it was their most recent offseason move that really saw the Vikings go off the cuff, they went hopped a plane overseas and added a little international flavor to their roster. In a move that is much more expected in baseball or basketball, the Vikings went abroad and signed 6’9”, 350lb tackle Babatunde Aiyegbusi.
Aiyegbusi played last season in the German professional football league after winning a league championship with his Polish team in 2013. Having expended his college eligibility by playing professionally overseas, Babatunde received a special invitation to be included at the University of Texas-San Antonio pro day and the Vikings were in attendance.
While even his highlight reels show that he’s a little slow off the ball and still has some things to work on, the Vikings had to have been enamored by his size and athletic ability. Men that big don’t move that well very often. So they sign him on, at a relative low cost, as a project. It could be the type of project that pays huge dividends for a team with an aging tackle on the right side and a question mark on the left. Or it could be nothing and Babatunde could be cut before training camp ends.
Either way, Minnesota is starting to think outside the box a little bit and so far the returns have been good.
There’s no telling if bringing in Zimmer’s former pupils, basically stealing Wallace away from the Dolphins or signing a Polish giant will help the Vikings this season, but nobody can say that they aren’t expending all options to make their roster better. The Adrian Peterson situation has hamstrung the team a bit with what they can or cannot do via free agency, but as they continue to build a young core of players, and they get creative to fill in the gaps, look forward to next year as the year they can monetarily and systematically go after a big name or two via free agency.
For now, let’s all cheer for Babatunde while I hop in line in front of Walt Disney Jr at the patent’s office waiting to claim the movie rights to his story. I’m thinking I’ll call it “My Giant...Polish Right Tackle”, or “Babatunde The Big Boy”...okay, we’re still workshopping a title.