Placing the franchise tag on linebacker Chad Greenway was the first domino to drop for the Vikings this offseason.
Keeping the rest of Minnesota’s key players will be a lot more difficult. Let’s take a look at their free agent priorities.
The Big One: Wide receiver Sidney Rice.
It’s hard to imagine Rice staying in Minnesota at this point if he hits unrestricted free agency. Greenway was safer and more reliable to keep, but Rice has potential to be a bigger difference maker. He could get a monster contract.
The Key Ingredients: Defensive end Ray Edwards, linebacker Ben Leber, defensive tackle Pat Williams, and kicker Ryan Longwell.
Edwards led the team in pressures, according to espn1500′s Tom Pelissero. He’s an above average starter that seems likely to get rich elsewhere. Williams also seems to be ready to move on. Leber and Longwell shouldn’t be too expensive to retain.
Might be on the way out: Wide receiver Bernard Berrian, safety Madieu Williams, wide receiver Greg Camarillo, wide receiver Greg Lewis and quarterback Tarvaris Jackson.
The Vikings will be woefully thin at wideout if Rice leaves. Berrian is overpaid and seems likely to be cut. The same goes for Madieu Williams. Camarillo isn’t worth his salary and Lewis is a free agent.
The quarterback conundrum
Joe Webb will be given a chance to compete in training camp, but it may just be for the backup job. It sounds like the Vikings will seek out two quarterbacks this offseason: a veteran and a rookie. Tarvaris Jackson won’t be brought back.
Running back Adrian Peterson, linebacker E.J. Henderson, and tight end Visanthe Shiancoe all enter the final years of their contracts. Getting Peterson signed long-term may be a bigger priority than all the free agents listed above.
The Vikings could easily lose Rice, Edwards, and Pat Williams. That’s a lot of talent. They should cut Berrian and Madieu Williams, but that only leaves more depth chart holes to fill.
Throw in an empty quarterback position and it’s pretty clear the Vikings are rebuilding. Sorry, Visanthe.