Free agency is set to kickoff on March 9. It is a very exciting time for the fans to see what their favorite teams will do to improve their teams.
The tricky part though is that although new additions make the team look better on paper, they do not always pan out. Some do improve the team mightily though.
Here are the best free agent signings in Minnesota Vikings history:
1. Quarterback Brett Favre (2009-2010)
An archnemesis of the Vikings for 16 years, Favre joined the Vikings after spending the previous season with the New York Jets. He came out of retirement (for about the 100th time) and helped lead the Vikings to the NFC Championship (we won’t get into that game).
Favre at age 40 had one of the best seasons of his career. He threw 33 touchdowns and a career low seven interceptions. For the time since the Vikings traded Randy Moss after the 2004 seasons, teams feared their passing game that season.
Favre struggled the next season, but his 2009 season cannot be forgotten. He was unbelievable and made it a very exciting season.
2. Cornerback Antoine Winfield (2004-2012)
It appeared that Winfield had signed with the New York Jets. ESPN even reported that he had signed with them. He later had a change of heart though. Then-head coach Mike Tice, Daunte Culpepper and Randy Moss encouraged him to sign with the Vikings. Winfield signed a six-year/$34 million deal.
Winfield was the best tackling cornerback in the NFL and one of the best ever if not the best. His coverage skills were not great, but still good. He was also among the best blitzing cornerbacks in the league. He was one of the best defensive players on the team during his nine years with the Vikings (sometimes the best). He was a Pro Bowler from 2008-2010.
He certainly did not play like someone who was only 5’9, 180 pounds.
3. Defensive tackle Pat Williams (2005-2010)
Teamed with Kevin Williams (no relation) to help the Vikings become one of the best run defenses during his time with them. They were known as the “Williams Wall.” He was signed for three-years/$13 million with incentives.
Williams made it to the Pro Bowl from 2006-2008. Those three seasons the Vikings led the league for fewest rushing yards allowed. He turned 33-years old during his first season with the Vikings, but continued to play at a high level throughout his six seasons with the team.
4. Left Guard Steve Hutchinson (2006-2011)
The “Poison Pill” deal. Signed to a seven-year/$49 million (record at the time for a guard). The deal included his whole salary to be guaranteed if he was not the highest paid guard on the team. The Seattle Seahawks decided not to match that offer.
Hutchinson made it to the Pro Bowl from 2006-2009. He played a critical role in Chester Taylor rushing for a career high 1,296 yards in 2006 and also helped Adrian Peterson become one of the best running backs in the league right away. He also very rarely was called for penalties.
Hutchinson is eligible to make it to the Hall of Fame next year.
5. Defensive tackle Linval Joseph (2014-present)
Since giving up the most points in the league in 2013, the Vikings defense has been among the best in the league since then. Joseph is a big reason for that. He was signed to a five-year/$31.5 million deal.
Joseph made to his first Pro Bowl this season, but has been one of the best defensive tackles in the league these past three seasons. He had a career high 77 tackles this past season and tied for a career high with four sacks.
If he continues to stay healthy, he should be able to move the list of one of the best free agent signings ever made by the Vikings. It would not be a shock to see him get an extension next year.
6. Kicker Ryan Longwell (2006-2011)
Another long-time nemesis and former Packer. Longwell spent his first nine seasons with the Packers.
Tough kickoffs were never something Longwell was very good at, he was money on field goals. In 2009, he converted on 92.9% of his kicks and 94.4% the very next year (both career highs)
The last two seasons of Blair Walsh was a reminder of how critical a good kicker can have on your team.
7. Quarterback Randall Cunningham (1997-1999)
After being out of football in 1996, Cunningham came out of retirement and signed with the Vikings. He was the backup until Brad Johnson was out for the season with a neck injury. Cunningham started the final three games. The Vikings went 1-2, but clinched a wild card playoff spot at 9-7. They won the next week on the road against the New York Giants 23-22, which was one of the best comebacks in Vikings history. They trailed 19-3 at halftime and 22-13 with 90 seconds left.
The very next season, Cunningham along with Robert Smith, Cris Carter and rookie Randy Moss helped the Vikings go 15-1 and score a then-NFL record of 556 points. They advanced to the NFC Championship Game (we will not discuss how that game went either).
Cunningham made it to the Pro Bowl that year and threw 34 touchdowns (career high) and 10 interceptions.
8. Tight end Visanthe Shiancoe (2007-2011)
After struggling in his first season with the Vikings, Shiancoe really improved after that. In 2008, he had 42 receptions for 596 yards (career high) and seven touchdowns. In 2009, he had career highs of 56 receptions and 11 touchdowns.
During his first four seasons in the league, Shiancoe had a total of 35 receptions in all 64 games with the New York Giants.
9. Tight End Jermaine Wiggins (2004-2006)
Before signing with the Vikings, Wiggins went undrafted in 1999 and had never caught more than 16 passes in a season. With the Vikings he played a big role in the passing game. In his first season he had 71 receptions for 705 yards and four touchdowns in 14 games. The next season he had 69 receptions for 568 yards and a touchdown.
One of his trademarks though was his ability hurdle over defenders, which is extremely rare for a tight end.
10. Quarterback Jeff George (1999)
Spent only one season with the Vikings, but had a good year. After the Vikings started the season 2-4, Randall Cunningham was benched and replaced the rest of the year by George.
In game six, the Vikings were trailing the Detroit Lions 20-0 at halftime, when Dennis Green made the decision the put George in. The Vikings rallied, but fell 23-20. They finished the season 10-6 and made it to the second round where they lost 49-37 to the eventual Super Bowl Champion St. Louis Rams.
George threw 23 touchdowns and 12 interceptions that season, but was not brought back the next year due to the team’s salary cap issues.
*Cris Carter was a waiver wire signing before the 1990 season and Jared Allen was acquired via trade in 2008.
It will be very interesting to see what the Vikings will do this offseason. They need to sign at least two offensive lineman, which is something they may likely do. Question is, who will they be? We will find out soon.