Vikings don’t have glaring needs, but RB is a must
Chester Taylor joined one of Minnesota’s division rivals Friday,
leaving the Vikings to find a replacement for their valuable,
versatile backup running back.
It was an unquestionable, though unsurprising, loss on the first
day of the NFL’s open market for the two-time defending NFC North
Taylor and the Chicago Bears agreed Friday to a four-year
contract worth $12.5 million with $7 million guaranteed Chicago,
according to a person with knowledge of the negotiation who spoke
to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity before the deal
Minnesota’s strategy for avenging the NFC championship loss to
the New Orleans Saints now must include a replacement for Taylor,
who led all NFL running backs in third-down receptions each of the
last two seasons. The Vikings did gain some leverage, however, from
Because of rules governing the final year of the collective
bargaining agreement, the four teams that advanced to the
conference championship games were prohibited from signing a free
agent unless one of theirs signed with another club first – in
addition to facing salary parameters on those signings.
The Vikings weren’t going to be very active in free agency this
year, anyway. Since coach Brad Childress and vice president for
player personnel Rick Spielman were hired in 2006, they’ve been
remarkably productive, signing several starters and some Pro
Bowlers. With so many top players already under long-term
contracts, the Vikings don’t have glaring holes to fill.
“Chester was a very productive member of our 2006 free agency
class,” Childress said in a statement posted on the team’s Web
site. “We’re appreciative of his contributions on the field. He
played a number of different important roles as a starter, backup
and third-down specialist. Chester is a great competitor, teammate
and professional. I’m happy for him and wish him all the
Quarterback, of course, is still an unsettled position in light
of Brett Favre’s insistence on Thursday’s “Tonight Show” that he
won’t announce his status for the 2010 season any time soon. The
Vikings are willing to wait, though, and have maintained confidence
in Tarvaris Jackson and/or Sage Rosenfels as a backup plan. An
addition would likely come from the April draft.
They’re also in need of some help in the secondary, where
starters Antoine Winfield and Cedric Griffin are recovering from
injuries and nickel back Benny Sapp is an unrestricted free
Taylor, Sapp, backup offensive lineman Artis Hicks, backup
defensive lineman Jimmy Kennedy and backup wide receiver Greg Lewis
were this year’s unrestricted free agents. The Vikings said they’d
try to bring all of them back, but Taylor got a deal that was too
good for them to match.
“He knows how we feel about him, but I’m never going to
begrudge anybody an opportunity to make money,” Childress said
last week at the NFL scouting combine.
Taylor had 42 catches for 389 yards and 94 carries for 338 yards
as a valuable third-down player for the Vikings. He rushed for
1,214 yards in 14 games in 2006, before Adrian Peterson arrived and
took on the bulk of the work in the backfield.
“Chester will be missed. Great part of the team,” wide
receiver Bernard Berrian said on Twitter, adding that he is happy
for Taylor because “he’s where he wants to be.”
Taylor left the Baltimore Ravens four years ago to sign a $14.1
million contract with the Vikings that included $5.6 million in
His departure could prompt the Vikings to pursue a discarded
veteran like LaDainian Tomlinson or Brian Westbrook. Former
standouts Larry Johnson and Willie Parker are among the notable
names on the unrestricted free agent list. Albert Young is an
internal option, behind the All-Pro Peterson.
“We stick to the same philosophy we’ve always have, and
regardless of position if there’s a guy out there that can help us
then we do it,” Spielman said at the combine last week. “If we
can fill from within than we do that as well.”
The Vikings also had seven restricted free agents.
They decided not to tender a qualifying offer to backup
cornerback Karl Paymah. They gave fullback Naufahu Tahi the lowest
possible tender, put a fifth-round tender on backup safety Eric
Frampton, a third-round tender on Jackson, a third-round tender on
backup offensive lineman Ryan Cook, a second-round tender on backup
defensive tackle Fred Evans, and a first-round tender on defensive
end Ray Edwards that will pay him $2.521 million.
For about $600,000 more, the Vikings could have put the highest
(first and third round) tender on Edwards, who could entice another
team to sign him to an offer sheet that Minnesota would then have
the right to match. If he leaves, the Vikings would get a
first-round draft pick as compensation, which could scare suitors
“I imagine there will be some interest in a 25-year-old
dominant pass rusher just entering his prime,” said Doug
Hendrickson, Edwards’s agent. “If you’re a team looking for a
defensive end, would you take a chance in the draft or look at