The Vikings waded into the offseason free agent market like it was as cold as the Arctic Ocean. They let the initial, expensive waves of free agents go by and grabbed players who were cheaper and younger. The players appeared to fill holes on paper, but it remains to be seen if they will fill needs come opening day.
WR Jerome Simpson: Simpson was arguably the biggest free-agent splash the Vikings made in the offseason and very possibly the riskiest, as he's suspended for the first three games.
But Simpson has turned everyone’s heads with his attitude, work ethic and speed. He has exhibited joy on the field, diving for passes, dancing after receptions and basically skipping from drill to drill. He has quickly built chemistry with QB Christian Ponder and carries himself like a young player who is truly grateful for a second chance.
“Jerome works his butt off,” Ponder said. “He’s really gifted and we’ve built a great relationship. He’s making me a better quarterback, that’s for sure."
Simpson will start at receiver when he returns and should do well using his field-stretching speed to open up the passing lanes for the other receivers.
TE John Carlson: With the Vikings losing two veteran tight ends, Carlson had an opportunity to make an immediate impact.
“We feel good about our tight end position” said coach Leslie Frazier at the beginning of camp. “We think John is going to be a great addition for us. He’s an accomplished guy in our league. We are hoping that he is going to be over the injury bug.”
Unfortunately, for Carlson (who missed last season with a torn labrum), that didn’t happen. On the second day of hitting, Carlson sprained his MCL and will be out one to two weeks. He had been slotted into a starting tight spot and appeared to be the perfect fit to lead a young group of tight ends.
“He’s a pro,” Frazier said. “He’ll pay attention (in meetings) and when he comes back he’ll be ready to go. But you’d like to have his presence in the huddle and in the drills with the younger tight ends.”
LB Marvin Mitchell: Mitchell, who is entering his sixth season, chose the Vikings because the team lacks depth at linebacker with the loss of MLB E.J. Henderson.
“It was the best opportunity to get a chance to play as a starter,” Mitchell said of the Vikings. “Also, because it is a young team. Young guys are hungry, and I like being around those kind of guys.”
Defensive coordinator Alan Williams likes what he’s seen in Mitchell.
“Marvin has been outstanding," he said. "He is multi-talented, and he can play every position across the board."
Mitchell said the coaches told him it was an open competition for the starting job, so look for him to make an impression early in the preseason.