The Minnesota Vikings have a lot of good pieces on the offensive side of the ball. Yet the team still added a couple free agents from outside the organization while re-signing five of their own.
The Vikings still lack the most important piece of the puzzle - quarterback, but a serviceable, short-term option is in place.
New offensive coordinator Norv Turner is known as a quarterback developer that likes to push the ball downfield. The new additions reflect that philosophy. Here are the seven signings the Vikings made to help the offensive side of the ball.
QB Matt Cassel (2-years, $10 million contract)
Cassel was okay for the Vikings last season. Enough so, that he was able to void the final year of his contract and re-sign with the Vikings for a raise and extra year with the team.
It wasn’t a perfect season in Minnesota for the 31-year-old as he served in three different roles for at least one game each - from starter to backup to third string. However, he took at least one snap in all five of the team’s wins, including significant time in four of them.
Cassel will enter the 2014 season both as the expected starter and mentor for whoever the team selects in the upcoming draft. The 6-foot-4-inch, 228-pound 10th-year veteran finished last season with 1,807 yards and 11 touchdowns in 254 pass attempts with nine interceptions.
Signing Grade: B-. There were very few options in a thin market. Cassel was the best fit for the Vikings and were able to re-sign him.
G Joe Berger (1-year, unknown)
Berger has been a key reserve on the offensive line for the Vikings for three seasons. The 31-year-old has been very good in his role. He has served as a backup to all three interior positions - left and right guard as well as center. He also could probably play either tackle position as well.
His versatility and solid play has allowed the Vikings to add more bodies to the roster at other positions. The team has selected just one offensive linemen in the first five rounds of the draft over the last three drafts and five total in that span.
The 6-foot-5-inch, 305-pound 10th-year veteran earned seven starts in 13 games in his first year and nine starts in 45 games overall for the Vikings.
Signing Grade: B. A quality depth move for a veteran depth player. Hard not to go wrong.
WR Jerome Simpson (1-year, unknown)
Simpson has not become a No. 1 type receiver, like the Vikings thought he could be when they first signed him in 2012. He has proven to be an outstanding secondary option on the outside. He has drawn the ire of many for his celebrations after making a first down catch, but he proved to be a more reliable receiver in year 2 with the Vikings.
The 28-year-old will be in on his third one-year contract with the Vikings. The emergence of Cordarrelle Patterson makes Simpson a very good third option on the outside.
The 6-foot-2-inch, 190-pound six-year veteran posted 726 yards and one touchdown on 48 receptions last season.
Signing Grade: A-. Simpson is a good outside option. Just don’t make him the go-to guy and all is good.
G Charlie Johnson (2-years, $5 million)
Johnson re-signed with the Vikings for his second multi-year contract with the team. The 29-year-old has started all 47 games he has played for the Vikings over the last three seasons.
The 6-foot-4-inch, 305-pound eighth-year veteran stepped in and immediately started at left tackle, but one mediocre season and the selection of Matt Kalil in the first round pushed him inside to left guard. Johnson has teamed with Kalil to form a one of the better left sides in the league. The entire starting five of the offensive line have been together for two seasons and are expected to be together for a third straight.
Signing Grade: A-. Johnson wasn’t the best guard on the market, but his experience and solid play with the Vikings may have made him the best option.
OL Vladimir Ducasse (1-year, unknown)
The New York Jets had high hopes for Ducasse when they selected him in the second round of the 2010 draft. However, the 26-year-old was in and out of the starting lineup and never really solidified his spot in the rotation.
The 6-foot-5-inch, 325-pound fifth-year veteran has position flexibility at guard and right tackle, but he does his best work in the interior. He played in 50 games over four seasons with the Jets and started in just five.
Signing Grade: C. This is a low-risk, high-reward signing. The Vikings are banking a change-of-scenery scenario that can turn his game around in the right direction.
RB Matt Asiata (1-year, $570,000)
Asiata was a restricted free agent that was expected to be back with the Vikings. The 26-year-old has gone year-to-year since signing with the Vikings in 2012. He was out of football in 2011 after being released from the Vikings practice squad that September.
The 6-foot, 234-pound third-year veteran got his most extensive action as a running back last season. He finished the season with 166 yards and three touchdowns on 44 carries while catching five passes for 13 yards. He was the primary ballcarrier when Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart in were injured Weeks 15 and 17. Prior to Week 15, he was a special teams player listed as a running back. He entered the game with just three career carries for nine yards.
Signing Grade: A. This was a no-brainer. Asiata has been a key component of the special teams and has a manageable contract.
WR Lestar Jean (unknown)
The Vikings most recent acquisition was Jean. The 26-year-old was signed as an undrafted rookie in 2011, but spent the entire season on the injured reserve.
The 6-foot-3-inch, 202-pound fourth-year veteran drew rave reviews in training camps and preseason games during his two full seasons with the Houston Texans. However, he hasn’t been able to translate it into the regular season with just 10 career catches for 186 yards and one touchdown in 27 games.
Signing Grade: B-. Jean’s addition is a low-risk move, but nothing too much can be expected of him. He provides depth for what may be the Vikings’ deepest position group.