Tuesday, March 24, 2009

On Griffin and Holt

Cedric Griffin Extension
The Vikings signed Cedric Griffin to an extension over the weekend, locking him up through the 2015 season for $25 million, $10 million of which is guaranteed. I think it's likely a good deal, so long as the Vikings realize that Griffin has yet to show he can be the #1 cornerback on a good defense.

First off, the money isn't a big deal because most of it is probably going to count against this year's cap, a necessity since the Purple seem to be near the salary floor. Secondly, it assures that the Vikings have at least one of their two starting cornerbacks under contract after this year, which they couldn't have said before. And that means that when they aren't forced to throw money at cornerbacks next year (whether that be Winfield and Griffin or free agents) because they already have a solid one. Now they can choose to cut bait on Winfield if his production drops in the final year of his contract (like they did with Sharper) or they can re-sign him if they feel he's worth bringing back, but they don't have to make the decision while trying to retain or replace their other starting cornerback at the same time.

The only thing that worries me about this contract extension is that the Vikings might decide that Griffin is good enough to be their best cornerback. While Griffin played well at times last year, he wasn't consistently good enough last year to be counted on as the top corner on the roster (you might recall talk of benching him in favor of Charles Gordon before Gordon got hurt). He might take that next step this year, but he might not, which means the Purple have to continue to pursue corners in the draft and in free agency.

Glenn Holt
The Vikings continued to upgrade their special teams by signing Glenn Holt, the kick returner for the Cincinnati Bengals. Holt is a massive upgrade over Maurice Hicks (who isn't?). Unlike Hicks, who, in 185 kick returns prior to joining the Vikings, had returned exactly one kick for more than 60 yards (his career long was 64 yards) and only 8 for more than 40 yards, Holt has shown the ability to break a long one. He's returned one kick for a touchdown already, and has 8 of 122 returns for more than 40 yards and was tied for the 7th most kick returns for more than 40 yards last year.

Now, Holt's not exactly Devin Hester, but he's a solid returner with the ability to break one. He's also going to give the Vikings a better chance of starting with good field position. Last year, the Vikings returners (excluding Jimmy Kleinsasser and Naufahu Tahi) only returned 48% of kick offs (27 of 56) 20 yards or more. Of the 122 kicks that Holt has returned in his career, he's taken 78 of them 20 yards or more (64%). And last year, he returned 61% of the kicks he fielded 20 yards or more.

So while the Holt signing may not be all that sexy (like a Terry Holt signing would be), it definitely upgrades the Vikings' roster and provides a quality veteran kick returner to compete for the position with Darius Reynaud and Aundrae Allison. And upgrading the kick return game will help the Vikings' run first offense score more points (and help the defense prevent points) by giving the Vikings' good starting field position after kickoffs, something they couldn't count on last year.

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