Reusse's Reality: Losing Harvin, Winfield can't be good
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The majority of Vikings fans seem so fully on board with the team's operation these days that they give National Honor Society marks to General Manager Rick Spielman for his offseason maneuvering.
The latest burst of good feelings toward the Purple goes back to the 2012 draft. That was the second draft when Spielman appeared to have full control, but the first that he conducted with the title of general manager.
The Vikings went into the draft with the third overall selection, so it was going to be tough for the team to look anything but good coming out of it. But when Spielman was able to trade down only one place, wind up with the player the Vikings wanted in left tackle Matt Kalil, and get the ammunition to land safety Harrison Smith with the 22nd pick ... dang, the Purple loyalists decided we now had a genius running the show.
The skepticism over coach Leslie Frazier also evaporated, as he went from the 3-13 in his first full season, to 10-6 and an unexpected playoff appearance in 2012.
Even that grumpy guy from the Star Tribune, Jim Souhan, has been dazzled by what he's seen from the Spielman, Frazier and the rest of the Winter Park brain trust ... and paid tribute to them in Sunday's column.
Spielman was toasted again for his work at the end of April, when he wound up with three first-round draft choices: defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd (23), cornerback Xavier Rhodes (25) and receiver Cordarrelle Patterson (29).
Sorry. I'm one of these beaten-up-by-history, Minnesota sports followers that never think it's a good idea to let go of great players.
You can talk all you want about similar physical attributes, or the promise of greatness, but when you give up a player everyone knows is great, well ...
Does the name Kevin Garnett ring a bell?
That isn't the best comparison I see in Spielman overseeing the departures of receiver Percy Harvin (trade) and cornerback Antoine Winfield (cost-cutting; free agency). To me, this was a repeat of the Twins' offseason after 2007, when they traded pitcher Johan Santana and lost center fielder Torii Hunter to free agency.
The Twins received a can't-miss player in center fielder Carlos Gomez for Santana. Turns out Go-Go was can't-miss ... it just took three years after he left Minnesota to demonstrate it. The Twins also received young pitching prospect Deolis Guerra, and two other pitchers, Phil Humber and Kevin Mulvey, in the deal.
The Vikings received a first-rounder for Harvin that they turned into Rhodes (the equivalent of Gomez). They also received a third-rounder in 2014 (the equivalent of a Guerra) and a seventh-rounder (a Humber or Mulvey).
The Vikings let Winfield, their best cornerback, go for nothing ... as the Twins let Hunter, their best outfielder, go for nothing.
The Vikings also added a productive receiver in Greg Jennings, and a backup quarterback in Matt Cassel this winter. When you add those two to the first-rounders, most Vikings fans figured on national accolades for Spielman's offseason work.
Outnumbered though I am in lamenting the losses of Harvin and Winfield, it's comforting to know that I'm not alone in saying that losing great players is never a good idea. Matt Williamson is one of the main NFL personnel analysts for ESPN. He worked in personnel and as a scout in the NFL.
A few days ago, Williamson graded the offseason work of NFC teams and he put the Vikings below their three rivals in the North division.
Williamson offered the preamble that, because of the draft, all teams get better in the offseason, meaning if a team gets a grade below a C it almost has to work at screwing up.
He gave an A to Arizona, Seattle and Philadelphia. He gave a B+ to Chicago, St. Louis and New Orleans. He gave a B to Detroit, Green Bay and San Francisco. He gave a B- to the Vikings and the Giants. He gave a C to Tampa Bay, a C- to Dallas, Atlanta and Carolina, and a D to Washington.
Here was a key observation from Williamson's evaluations of the NFC North teams:
BEARS/ Upgrading the offensive line, getting younger and better at linebacker and adding another weapon in the passing game were the Bears' top priorities ... and they accomplished all three.
LIONS/ Detroit added (Glover) Quin to the secondary in free agency, which is a massive upgrade at safety, while Darius Slay is a big corner needed in this division. Expect the Lions' pass defense to be significantly improved.
PACKERS/ The real story of this draft comes at running back, where Green Bay not only nabbed one of the top backs in the draft (Eddie Lacy), but quickly added another 9Johnathan Franklin) ... On defense, (end) Datone Jones is a perfect fit for this scheme.
VIKINGS/ Minnesota brought in some big-time prospects in the draft, but the losses of two great players' contributions on game day will be hard to replace this season.
Thanks, Matt. It's not easy unless you're deep Purple homer around here.