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SAFETIES

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One of the most glaring needs the Vikings face heading into next season, as you know, is at the safety position. You’ve all heard me complain about Madieu Williams, so I won’t belabor the point that we need an upgrade.

While I liked what I saw from Husain Abdullah, it may simply have been a case of him looking a lot better by comparison of his competition on the roster. Jamarca Sanford is a hard hitter but he failed to seize a job that was there for the taking and Tyrell Johnson, well, you know…

The Vikings do not appear to be making any free agent moves, even with two players who are currently available because they’ve been cut: Oshiomogho (O.J.) Atogwe, former free safety for the St. Louis Rams and former Indianapolis Colts’ strong safety, Bob Sanders. For the sake of argument, though, let’s look at the two.

Bob Sanders. At 29, Sanders is a seven year pro, having played all of them with Indianapolis. He stands 5’8″ and weighs 206 lbs.

The major issue with Sanders is his durability, or lack thereof. He’s never played in sixteen games in a season, let alone started all of them. He played at least 14 games in only two of his seven seasons. During his past three seasons, he’s played in only nine games.

During his career (48 games), Sanders has amassed 217 tackles, 73 assists, 2 forced fumbles, and 3.5 sacks. He’s made 6 interceptions and defended 13 passes but has not converted any turnovers into scores.

We’ve seen, though, what Sanders can mean to a defense. The Colts were abysmal without him a couple years ago but when he returned from injury late in the season for a playoff run, the defense was an entirely different team: All of sudden, it started working. [WATCH BOB SANDERS HIGHLIGHTS.]

Oshiomogho (O.J.) Atogwe. At 29, Atogwe is a six year pro, having played all of them with St. Louis. He stands 5’11″ and weighs 205 lbs. He’s a durable player, having missed only five starts during the past five years.

During his career (88 games), Atogwe has amassed 338 tackles, 52 assists, 16 forced fumbles, and five sacks. He’s made 22 interceptions, one of which he converted into a touchdown. [WATCH OSHIOMOGHO (O.J.) ATOGWE HIGHLIGHTS.]

On paper, it should be a no-brainer who Vikings should sign if they had to sign one. O.J. Atogwe has played one less year than Sanders, yet has been far more durable and thus far more productive.

Sanders, however, given his injury history and the fact he’s four years removed from a productive season, would likely be the much cheaper option. If the Vikings could bring him in on an incentives-laden contract for the veteran minimum, I see no harm.

Atogwe, on the other hand, will likely cost you something.

However much it dismays me to say it, I wouldn’t be surprised, what with all the other holes the Vikings need to fill, to see the Vikings remain content with living with the current weakness at safety.

The defense needs to replace Pat Williams (because if you can’t stop the run, what good are you?), we need depth at defensive end and possibly a starter, we need depth/competition at corner, and we might need to replace Ben Leber in the linebacking corps.

I haven’t even discussed offense.

The safety position may very well be manned by the very same Madieu Williams and Husain Abdullah combo we had last year.

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THE FRANCHISE
For what it’s worth, the Vikings used their franchise tag on linebacker Chad Greenway. It may have absolutely zero significance, depending upon what is or is not agreed upon between the players and the league over the collective bargaining agreement.

For the moment, however, it means the Vikings will retain Greenway’s services for another year at a salary that averages what the top five linebackers make or 120% of Greenway’s 2010 salary, whichever is greater. That puts him in the $10 million range.

While most players bristle at being franchised, Greenway is saying all the right things, according to the Star Tribune‘s Judd Zulgad.

Greenway’s certainly cognizant of the perception ordinary people have that the dispute between the players and the league is between millionaires and billionaires. The guy’s got a future in PR.

HOCKEY WILDERNESS
For you Minnesota Wild fans out there: If you don’t already know about the Hockey Wilderness blog, you should definitely check it out. Run by Nathan Eide, it is the best Minnesota Wild fan community I’ve seen online. I had the pleasure of interviewing Nathan for my Get To Know A Minnesota Blogger series for my eStrategy Internet Marketing Blog.

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