The Matt Birk Watch may not be as compelling as the T.J. Houshmandzadeh Watch, but given how thin the free agent options on the offensive line are getting – and how thin the Vikings already are at certain spots on the line – it may be just as meaningful. At this point, with Jason Brown having been signed by the Rams, Birk is without question the best center on the market – which is why the Ravens brought him in for a visit yesterday…a visit Birk characterized with all sorts of glowing terms like “impressive” and “pretty great” (he forgot “keen” and “swell”). Birk now says he will make up his mind by Thursday whether to bolt for the Ravens or stay in Minnesota, where he has forged a Pro Bowl career.
And if Birk does decide to leave? The Vikings have two in-house options: 2008 draftee John Sullivan and – gulp – Ryan Cook, who was a center in college. The only centers left on the free agent market are backup-quality guys like Grey Ruegamer and Melvin Fowler. There are a couple centers rated in the first round level in the upcoming draft – Cal’s Alex Mack and Oregon’s Max Unger – but do you really want to go into the season with a new starting quarterback and a rookie center?
It’s obvious what this all boils down to: The Vikings’ best move is to re-sign Birk. Thankfully, he seems open to re-upping, in spite of the alleged “philosophical differences” he had with Brad Childress during the season. Considering how feeble the Vikings’ efforts have been in free agency so far, they shouldn’t have any problem scaring up the funds to surpass whatever Baltimore is willing to offer.