Biggest free agent signing: Sheldon Richardson

Colton Molesky gives his take on why the best free agent signing for the Vikings was not Kirk Cousins

Colton Molesky
Staff Writer

Kirk Cousins is a great signing for the Minnesota Vikings. He has the arm, the production, and the talent to be one of the best quarterbacks in this league. While I do think he’s a great signing for the Vikings, I think Sheldon Richardson has been the best pickup for the team this offseason.

If you set aside the quarterback craze that consumes nearly every NFL team, then it becomes clear that Sheldon Richardson is the best thing the Vikings did this offseason.

Minnesota handed Cousins a three-year, $84 million deal that is fully guaranteed, in comparison to the one-year, $8 million dollar deal that’s fully guaranteed for Richardson. The gut reaction from every Vikings fan is defending the move as the price one pays when dancing in the quarterback arena. But the economy should dictate at least some of the price.

Before the experiment in Seattle went sideways for Richardson, he was a top 10 defensive linemen in tackles three of his four years with the New York Jets. Plenty of teams are paying a premium for interior talent that lacks half the stats the Missouri product brings to the table.

Cousins is making money no other NFL player before has in the form of a fully guaranteed contract. Not only is he not a top 10 player at his position, he also puts the Vikings cap in a bind with stars like Stefon Diggs and Anthony Barr up for contracts after next season. Richardson is upscale talent and a bargain price because of the poor season on the West Coast.

As already mentioned, Richardson was a monster in New York. Of his four years in the Big Apple, three of them he was healthy for 15 or more games. He scooped up the 4th most tackles in the NFL in 2013 and 2014 while coming in 9th in 2016. In the same span, fellow linemen Muhammad Wilkerson posted double-digit sacks twice, faring nicely next to the 2013 Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Cousins has been consistent in giving his former roster 4,000+ yards and 25+ touchdowns for three seasons. The problem is the consistency in double-digit interceptions that comes with Cousins. As far as bang for the Vikings’ buck, Richardson is the pro bowl talent that is costing them less than most teams pay for their top end receiver and he will supply impact on far more of his snaps.

This team has built through the draft and found an identity on defense. Plenty of quarterbacks were on the market for a rental, which could have held the place while the Vikings groomed a rookie signal caller from the loaded class. Instead, Minnesota pulled the trigger on a quarterback they hope is better than fill-in quarterback last season, Case Keenum.

The move reeks of desperation to win now, following an embarrassing loss to the eventual Super Bowl winners, the Philadelphia Eagles, in the NFC Championship game this past season.

Placing Richardson next to their loaded front that contains Everson Griffen, Danielle Hunter, Linval Joseph and Anthony Barr is a scary group no NFL team wants to be facing next season.

The class of the division is still Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers, which Minnesota had been building against with a ruthless defense. Last season, they looked even better after shoring up the offensive line and draft picks like Dalvin Cook and Diggs paid off.

Throwing cash at Cousins was out of character for a usually tightly run organization. The Richardson move was what you expect from the Vikings. It’ll be fun to see where these moves will take the team this offseason.

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