Now that the lockout is over, we need to finish our team-by-team look at what each team needs to do when the lockout ends.
The good news (for me) is that there’s only one left.
I took two divisions for this project, and I ultimately will have done five of the eight teams. Hey, if that was a baseball batting average, I’d be telling Bert Blyleven to get out of my way.
Despite having a decent nucleus of capable veterans, the Vikings widely are perceived to be rebuilding. And for good reason. They have no proven quarterback, and they have 16 looming unrestricted free agents. After arguably reaching for quarterback Christian Ponder with the 12th pick in the draft, they’ve got plenty to do if they want to compete with the Packers, Bears, and Lions.
1. Find a veteran quarterback.
Christian Ponder and Joe Webb currently top the depth chart. Ponder and Webb need a mentor or, more importantly, someone who can play better than either of them can be expected to play in less than 50 days, when the Vikings start the season with a trip to San Diego.
The rumor mill has linked the Vikings to plenty of possible candidates, including Donovan McNabb, Vince Young, and Jake Delhomme. In the end, they’ll need someone who can learn the offense, teach the youngsters, push the youngsters, and most importantly step aside if/when the time comes to do so.
2. Sign Chad Greenway to a long-term contract.
Many were surprised when the Vikings opted to make linebacker Chad Greenway the team’s franchise player. It’ll be even more surprising if the Vikings allow him to play in 2011 with a cap number in excess of $10 million.
The Vikings need to cut that number down by signing Greenway to a long-term deal. Otherwise, they won’t have the money to be as competitive as they could be in 2011.
Sidney Rice arrived as a rookie in 2007, Berrian as a veteran free agent in 2008. Rice became a star in 2009, Berrian has never really fulfilled expectations.
Rice is expected to go to the highest bidder on the open market, and the Vikings should put Berrian on the open market.
Percy Harvin has become the key player in the team’s receiving corps. The Vikings should build around him with a collection of youngsters and veterans. Once the first few days of free agency transpire, there should be plenty of bargains available at one of the deepest positions in this year’s class of available players.
4. Make a decision on Pat Williams.
Defensive tackle Pat Williams has been lukewarm about his willingness to return to the Vikings. In the end, the decision surely will depend on how much money the Vikings will offer.
Keeping Pat Williams, of course, will mean having to do without both him and Kevin Williams for four games. Lost in the lockout is the fact that the StarCaps case is over, and the NFL has secured the ability to suspend both of them four games each.
In the end, it probably makes sense to look for a big guy or two to clog the middle. And with Anthony Adams poised to hit the market in Chicago, he could be an intriguing alternative.
5. Bid adieu to Madieu.
Yeah, that was an obvious title. It was still fun to type it.
Another largely disappointing big-money free agent acquisition, cutting Madieu Williams presumably would open up a nice chunk of cap space.
Replacing him won’t be easy. In a Cover Two defense, athletic, smart safeties are critical.
6. Shop for bargains that fit the schemes.
With ownership trying to get the powers-that-be in Minnesota to partially fund a new stadium, the Vikings may feel compelled to make a fairly big splash in free agency.
They should resist that urge.
This is a team with an assortment of needs, and it needs to manage the cap prudently in order to address as many of those needs as possible. The smart teams will sit back and wait for the market to soften. If smart, the Vikings will do the same.
They could benefit from added help on the offensive line, the defensive line, and in the defensive secondary. To fill the most needs, they need to get the most out of their cap dollars.
7. Consider one more dance with Randy Moss.
During last year’s short-term reunion with Randy Moss, the Vikings generated plenty of local excitement. But Moss was run out of town by a head coach who would be run out of town not long after Moss.
Moss supposedly is motivated to come back and have a huge year. New coach Leslie Frazier seems to have the instincts and experience to determine whether Moss is truly prepared to prove everyone wrong all over again.
This doesn’t mean the Vikings should sign Moss. But they should consider it. If he has been sufficiently humbled, he could give the team the kick in the pants on offense that it needs.