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OFFSEASON PREVIEW: Full Backs

Also available are the quarterback and running back versions of “offseason preview.”

The Vikings made the decision two years ago to allow dominating full back Tony Richardson leave in free agency.  Richardson went to the Jets where he paved the way for a fairly dominant running attack.

The Vikings replaced Richardson with Thomas Tapeh, whom Brad Childress was high on from his days in Philadelphia.  Tapeh lied to the team about the status of an injury, and he was subsequently let go after having no impact.  The Vikings replaced him with Fahu Tahi who has lined up in front of Adrian Peterson ever since.

Prior to the 2009 season, the Vikings tendered Tahi at the lowest possible level.  The Bengals gave Tahi and offer sheet, but the Vikings exercised their right to first refusal and matched the Bengals offer.  Tahi remained a Viking.

2009 Season

In 2009, Fahu Tahi carried the ball three times for five yards.  Backup fullback/tight end Jeff Dugan carried the ball three times for seven yards.

Tahi had 10 catches for 67 yards and a touchdown.  Dugan had most of his receiving totals come from being lined up as a tight end, but caught 6 passes for 52 yards and two touchdowns.

Dugan’s ability to serve as a backup at both full back and tight end is very valuable, as his versatility allows the Vikings to save a roster spot.

Both backs have been serviceable, but while Tahi lacks any sort of playmaking ability he also has been inconsistent in blocking, particularly in pass protection.  At no point in the 2009 season did Tahi show any flashes or signs to suggest he can be an elite full back.

Current Roster

As mentioned, Tahi and Dugan are the two main options at full back on the current roster.

Dugan’s contract is not up, and his versatility suggests that the job is his to lose in training camp, but his dependability will likely get him a spot on the Vikings roster for the seventh season in a row.

Tahi, however, will again be a restricted free agent barring any major developments in the Collective Bargaining Agreement talks between the league and the player’s union.

Unrestricted Free Agency

There is really only one noteworthy fullback gearing up to be an unrestricted free agent this year.  It is none other than 38 year old Tony Richardson.  If he doesn’t retire or get re-signed by the Jets, Richardson will to play for whatever team he chooses.

Despite his age, Richardson has proven he is still one of the best lead blockers in the NFL.

Restricted Free Agency

There are some more youthful options in the restricted free agent market, but it may require compensation for the Vikings to get their hands on them, depending on what level their current teams decide to tender them at.

I was very hopeful that Leanord Weaver was bound for Minnesota when he was an unrestricted free agent last offseason.  The Vikings sniffed around, but opted to stick with Tahi.  The decision was a bummer at the time, and even more so when you look at his production with the eagles in the 2009 season.  Weaver gained 463 yards and scored on four occasions.

Le’Ron McClain is another restricted free agent that could provide an upgrade to Tahi.  McClain is best known for his 2008 season, when injuries forced him to become the Ravens premier running back and he excelled in the increased role.  In 2009, McClain had his role reduced back down to that more on par with a full back but still helped pave the way for Ray Rice’s dominating season.

There are numerous other restricted full backs that could be considered, but none present a clear upgrade over Tahi like the three guys mentioned already.

Draft Possibilities

This is a very poor year for full backs in the draft.  I wouldn’t be surprised if none are drafted sooner than the seventh round.  There just are very few standouts, and I would consider any of these prospects a bigger risk than just re-signing Tahi.

I would be shocked to see the Vikings spend a pick on a fullback, but wouldn’t be surprised to see an undrafted free agent brought in for training camp.

Trade Possibilities

Trade for a full back?  Talk about the most boring speculation ever.

Actually, I can’t think of any full backs worth trading for anyways. 

Projections

I honestly expect the Vikings to again tender Tahi and retain his services.  It’d be nice to see Richardson, McClain or Weaver join the roster but I have a hard time seeing that happen.

Maybe the Vikings will find a pleasant surprise in the undrafted rookie pool.


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8 Responses to “OFFSEASON PREVIEW: Full Backs”

  1. Mark S says:

    I look for the Vikings to get rid of Tahi and his 1 mil salary and draft a young FB like John Connor from Kentucky.

  2. bigjohnny84 says:

    I agree with Mark, dump Tahi and his salary. We didnt get a very good “bang for our buck” with this guy. I’m not so sure we even need to replace him. AD prefers to run out of a one-back set and if we need a fullback, Dugan can do it.

  3. Fozz44 says:

    right on the money boys

  4. Purple Charlie says:

    Ditto,
    I would really like Tony Richardson back, but Chili would be saying he made a mistake….

    If they can’t get a big upgrade,Like the boys said, Cut Tahi,And let Dugan do it… Betcha Ole would like that!!!

  5. Adam Warwas says:

    Interesting takes guys. I just don’t see the Vikings making a change though with all the CBA stuff up in the air.

    They seem content with Tahi, and tendering him as a restricted free agent means their committment only goes through this season.

    I wouldn’t complain about John Connor in the seventh round… but I have a hard time seeing the Vikings commit a pick to a full back. If they were going to do that, then they should try to sign Weaver or MCClain to an offer sheet.

  6. Mark S says:

    The Vikings will do the same thing they did last year when they did not tender Tahi and Cincy signed him to a deal that the Vikings matched.

  7. ragnar_rahl says:

    “AD prefers to run out of a one-back set”

    Does anyone have a source on this?

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