For the next several weeks, I will be looking back at the roster, examining the positions to find weaknesses as well as strengths.
By Jordan Wright
Today we turn our focus on the linebackers, another group filled with young, impressive players. After years of mediocrity, it’s a welcome change to have a group that instills fear into opposing offensive coordinators.
Anthony Barr is quickly becoming one of the best linebackers in the league. If you don’t believe me, maybe you’ll believe Pro Football Focus, who rated Barr (93.4 player grade) as the second best LB in the league behind only Luke Kuechly. Barr is a versatile player who graded positively in run defense, pass coverage and pass rush.
Eric Kendricks was only rated as PFF’s 56th (out of 97) linebacker with a player grade of 58.9. However, as a rookie, Kendricks elevated his game every week and all signs point to him becoming a very productive linebacker in the NFL for years to come.
Chad Greenway was rated slightly lower than Kendricks (56.2 player grade, 61st in the league). Greenway is a free agent this offseason, but both the Vikings and Greenway have expressed their desire to have number 52 back in purple and gold next season. If he is brought back, I would expect his playing time to significantly decrease.
Edmond Robinson ended the season as the Vikings’ second highest rated linebacker with a player grade of 68.8, although he didn’t play enough to qualify for a ranking. Brandon Watts had a player grade of 58.8, and newly re-signed Audie Cole had the lowest player grade of any Vikings’ linebackers (40.6).
The Vikings have also made a few free agency moves. Like most years, the team is taking a methodical approach to free agency, not necessarily signed (and over-paying) for the big name free agents, but rather sitting back and offering reasonable contracts to “second-tier” players.
Alex Boone was the biggest signing so far. The guard has played his entire career in San Francisco and has played very well in his time there. If you have time, I suggest heading over to Vikings.com and watching Boone’s introductory feature. He seems to bring the right attitude to the offensive line and I am looking forward to him competing for a guard spot.
Pro Football Focus has an article on their website, grading all the free agency signings so far. Here’s what they had to say about the free agents Minnesota has signed:
DT Kenrick Ellis (B): One year, $810k with $25k guaranteed
You don’t need to spend big money to make good moves that fill out your roster. Ellis has never got an extended amount of action because wherever he’s ended up there’s been some ridiculous talent in front of him (Damon Harrison and Linval Joseph). But he’s delivered in limited action as an early down run stuffer and if called upon he can do so for the Vikings in 2015.
G Alex Boone (B minus): Five years, $26.8 million with $10 million guaranteed
Boone hasn’t really built upon his breakout 2012 season and become one of the best guards in the league. But he has always graded positively, and given the money the Vikings have put into this deal they can consider this a good value pickup as they retool their offensive line.
LB Audie Cole (B minus): One year, $760k with $40k guaranteed
He caught our eye with some impressive play in 2014 but then got bitten by the injury bug last year. There’s definitely talent there, and given the money involved the Vikings will be happy to get at the very least a solid depth player and a good special teamer.
S Andrew Sendejo (D): Four years, $16 million with $3.9 million guaranteed
It’s starter money for a guy who isn’t all that likely to start (certainly not in an every-down role), and isn’t all that good. Sendejo had the 85th-highest grade of 88 safeties in 2015
LB Emmanuel Lamur (D): Two years, $6 million with $2.2 million guaranteed
While Lamur is familiar with Mike Zimmer from their time in Cincinnati, he really isn’t a guy who has gotten better the more he played. In fact, the past two years he’s really struggled, to the point where he’s really a guy you bring into compete for a spot on a roster, rather than offering enough in guarantees that you’re pretty much obliged to keep him.