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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Zulgad’s three-and-out: Newman in the nickel, Kalil departs as a massive bust, what about Patterson?

By Judd Zulgad

One week into free agency, the Vikings have been busy both signing players and allowing others to walk out the door.

Here are three thoughts on what has transpired so far.

The nickel plan

It was the feeling here that the most important free agent on the Vikings roster was cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, who played inside in the nickel defense.

Munnerlyn left to return to the Carolina Panthers after three seasons in Minnesota, signing for a reported $21 million over four years with $10.5 million guaranteed. That leaves a big hole in the Vikings’ defense and it will be interesting to see how the team fills it.

There is a possibility the decision to bring back cornerback Terence Newman on Wednesday means the Vikings will look to shift the veteran from a starting role outside to the nickel position. Newman will turn 39 years old on Sept. 4 and is considered a coach on the field.

Newman’s return also means that any friction between him and coach Mike Zimmer — the result of Newman’s decision to tell Xavier Rhodes not to worry about covering Jordy Nelson for at least a series in the Vikings’ loss at Green Bay on Christmas Eve — has been smoothed over.

What Zimmer might want is for Newman to play the nickel corner, while also working with 2016 second-round pick Mackensie Alexander to eventually take over that role. Alexander struggled in limited playing time last season and has a ways to go before he can be relied upon.

Munnerlyn made nine starts last season and was in for 61.6 percent of the Vikings’ snaps on defense so anyone who underestimates the importance of this role is making a big mistake.

The Vikings also would be wise to find another candidate for this job. One option could be Buffalo free agent corner Nickell Robey-Coleman, who signed with the Bills as an undrafted free agent in 2013 after playing at Southern Cal.

Robey-Coleman is only 5-foot-8 and was released by the Bills this month in a move that saved them $1.65 million in salary-cap space. He has seen the majority of his time playing in the slot and reportedly has a handful of teams interested in him.

Exit Matt, enter Riley

The Vikings quickly worked to address their issues at both tackle spots, signing Riley Reiff to a five-year, $58.75 million ($26.3 million guaranteed) to play left tackle and Mike Remmers to a five-year, $30 million ($10.5 million guaranteed) to play right tackle.

This immediately drew some criticism considering Reiff had been moved from left to right tackle by the Detroit Lions last season and because Remmers is a guy who has been cut six times in his career, including by the Vikings at the end of training camp in 2014.

But many will find an upside in the fact that signing Reiff enabled the Vikings to cut ties with Matt Kalil.

Kalil, who reportedly will get $24 million guaranteed from the Carolina Panthers, will go down as one of the biggest draft busts in Vikings’ history. You can’t put all of this on general manager Rick Spielman, considering Kalil was a much-hyped prospect coming out of Southern Cal in 2012 and had a very good rookie season after being the fourth-overall pick in the draft.

But Kalil was never the same after that season and battled injury issues for much of his time in Minnesota, including a hip problem that required surgery and ended his 2016 season after two games.

Kalil was the Vikings’ one reward for a horrendous 3-13 season in 2011 and the expectation was that he would fix the left tackle position for the next 10 years. The Vikings’ previous two top-five picks before Kalil – defensive end Chris Doleman, taken fourth in 1985, and offensive tackle Ron Yary, taken first in 1968 – both ended up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

At this rate, Kalil will be remembered as a disappointment who turned into a career journeyman.

Moment of truth

With Cordarrelle Patterson leaving the Vikings to sign a two-year deal in Oakland, we will now get a better idea of whether Patterson was mismanaged in Minnesota or if he sabotaged himself by not learning how to run routes and develop his own game.

No matter what the Vikings might say, Patterson’s time in Minnesota will go down as a disappointment. Sure he turned into a Pro Bowl kick returner, but Spielman didn’t deal four picks to New England on the night of the 2013 draft in order to take a kick returner with the 29th selection.

Patterson was supposed to be the Vikings’ replacement for wide receiver Percy Harvin, meaning Spielman expected to see him on the field on offense and special teams. But in 2015, his third season, Patterson caught only two passes for 10 yards as it became clear then-offensive coordinator Norv Turner had no use for him.

That changed last season – Turner quit in early November and was replaced by Pat Shurmur – as Patterson caught a career-high 52 passes for 453 yards and two touchdowns and also had seven rushing attempts for 43 yards.

Patterson expressed a desire this past weekend to remain in Minnesota, but that did not happen as the Vikings decided to move on.

If Patterson finds success in Oakland, and is used in a variety of creative ways, there will be plenty of questions about why the Vikings got so little out of him.

The post Zulgad’s three-and-out: Newman in the nickel, Kalil departs as a massive bust, what about Patterson? appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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