The Cincinnati Bengals have built the foundation for a monster defense. The move towards building that house came with the addition of defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer. When Zimmer became the head coach of the Minnesota Vikings in 2014, the move towards reviving the Purple People Eaters was inevitable. With a host of Bengals defenders entering free agency, could Zimmer be ready to build a stronger unit with former players?
The free agency chaos officially gets underway Wednesday. Monday and Tuesday are considered “legal tampering” days. That means teams can contact players and discuss contracts, but contracts can’t be signed until Wednesday. Zimmer is a defensive guru. Bringing in players that understand his system would be a bonus for the Vikings.
The Vikings need a safety to compliment the skills of Harrison Smith. Last month, Zimmer had hinted there could be a change at the safety position. He mentioned the situation during the NFL Combine. Most rumors that start there are quickly forgotten. The promises are easily broken.
“If Harrison Smith was paired with a guy that had some other qualities, we could allow Harrison to be more of an impactful player,” Zimmer explained, via the Minnesota Vikings site. “I think Harrison can be more impactful if he had the right kind of guy next to him.”
Zimmer didn’t rule out the possibility that a player such as that is already on the roster. But he also didn’t rule out the idea of finding an option outside of the current roster.
Reggie Nelson and George Iloka have been contacted by the Vikings. Iloka is the more intriguing prospect for the Vikings. If the money isn’t right, Nelson could be a sound backup plan. The Pioneer Press has reported that Zimmer has his sights on the Bengals defenders.
The Vikings have about $25 million of salary-cap room. Assuming they take care of other needs on the roster first, Zimmer would love to see the Bengals free agents in Purple and Gold.
“When you’re messing around in free agency, I think the more you know a player the better chance you have of being correct,” Zimmer said. “So for me, a lot of it has been familiarity. Not only me knowing them, but them knowing me and how I am. I think that’s an important part of the process.”
Having Zimmer as leverage will be a good thing for the Vikings negotiations with either of the Bengals free agents. Vincent Rey is another Bengals free agent that Zimmer may be interested in snagging. Rey had a sound year, filling in for Vontaze Burfict. He’s a capable linebacker that would fit Zimmer’s scheme.
Although Iloka would be the bigger prize for the Vikings, the older Nelson snatched eight interceptions which tied for the NFL lead. The Vikings’ pair of starting safeties only totaled three picks on the entire season. Nelson also totaled 115 interception return yards, which was more than the entire Vikings secondary’s combined return yards on the year.
Nelson has expressed his desire to stay in Orange and Black, but the possibility of him re-signing is slim. The situation is also messy in Minnesota. Though the Vikings reached a four-year, $16 million deal with strong safety Andrew Sendejo, that doesn’t mean he’s the guy to pencil in. His strength is as a special teams player.
The Vikings are building similar to the Bengals. They approach the draft with the intention of developing young players into possible franchise performers. When their ability starts to show up on the field, the Vikings are content with extending contracts, rather than trying to find an expensive free agent.
The draft may yield some talented finds, but that still doesn’t keep Zimmer and the Vikes from looking at two of the Bengals’ best.
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