At first glance there are some very interesting receivers set to hit the market on March 13th, but that list quickly shrinks when you consider that most of them either aren’t likely to leave Pro Bowl quarterbacks (VJax, Colston), are nuts (DeSean, Stevie Johnson) or don’t fit the mold as the burner the Vikings so desperately need to stretch the field opposite Percy Harvin. One name that sticks out to me is Pierre Garcon (Colts). He fits what the Vikings need and he caught 70 balls for just shy of 1,000 yards and 6 TDs while playing with two bad quarterbacks. Mario Manningham of the Super Bowl bound Giants could be a nice buy low risk for the Vikings as he is coming off an injury plagued season in which he was surpassed on the depth chart by Victor Cruz. There’s not much else of interest however. Jerome Simpson (Bengals) is a guy who’s had his share of off field trouble, which the Vikings will want no part of. Harry Douglas (Falcons) is a guy I really liked out of Louisville, but he’s never found any consistency in the NFL after loosing his entire sophomore season to injury. Ted Ginn (49ers) could be a last ditch option that can stretch the defense and is a dynamic return man, but you can’t trust a guy who can’t run a route.
Improving the offensive line is likely the Vikings top priority this offseason considering the future of the franchise is directly connected to the development of Christian Ponder. Charlie Johnson was not the answer at left tackle, Steve Hutchinson has likely played his last game as a Viking and you could argue only center John Sullivan and right tackle Phil Loadholt should retain their starting jobs. I don’t see any immediate help on the roster either as Brandon Fusco and DeMarcus Love don’t appear ready to start next year. You don’t find left tackles much better than Johnson in free agency and there are people who feel he is better suited to play guard anyway. This is part of why I think it’s a no brainer that the Vikings select USC’s Matt Kalil if he’s available when the team selects third in round one. With one pick you get a potential franchise tackle and an upgrade at guard. Kalil could very well go to the Rams at 2 however, and it wouldn’t be wise of the Vikings to plan on him being on the board. With that said, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Vikings make a strong push to sign a free agent guard. Signing All Pro Carl Nicks (Saints) would be a coup, but he’s expected to resign. Ben Grubbs (Ravens) or Evan Mathis (Eagles), who is also is expected to resign, are also nice options. A name the team may be interested in taking a flyer on is Chilo Rachal (49ers), who lost his starting job this past season, but is only 26 and talented.
The Vikings secondary is currently a complete disaster. Antoine Winfield should remain as a steady run stopper with eroding cover skills and health. The team’s next best cover man Chris Cook, could see the inside of a jail cell before he sees the starting lineup. Hussain Abdullah is a free agent, but could return after news that his latest concussion isn’t career threatening. Cedric Griffin is gone and Jamarca Sanford, who had his moments toward the end of the season is about the only other player worth mentioning. I’ll be shocked if the Vikings don’t push hard to sign both a corner and safety and there’s a few solid options set to hit the market. Terrell Thomas (Giants), Rashean Mathis (Jaguars), Aaron Ross (Giants), Richard Marshall (Cardinals), and Marcus Trufant (Seahawks) could all be upgrades in a league where having 3-5 solid corners has become a must. And that’s before mentioning Brent Grimes (Falcons), Brandon Carr (Chiefs) and Carlos Rogers (49ers) who are all expect to resign. There’s also a nice list of possibilities at safety, including: Tyvon Branch (Raiders), LaRon Landry (Redskins), Michael Griffin (Titans), Dwight Lowery (Jaguars), Thomas DeCoud (Falcons) and Reggie Smith (49ers). That’s a lot of names I know, but when you’re secondary is as bad as the Vikings, the list of upgrades is long.
At linebacker, Chad Greenway isn’t going anywhere and Erin Henderson appears to have nailed down a starting spot on the weak side, but the middle linebacker position has quickly gone from a strength to a mess. EJ Henderson struggled this year and his one time replacement in waiting, Jasper Brinkley missed the entire year to a hip injury. I would expect the team to at least put out feelers to a deep crop of middle linebackers, but could very well end up turning to Brinkley, who is expected to make a full recovery. The names David Hawthorne (Seahawks), Dan Connor (Panthers), Anthony Spencer (Cowboys), Stephen Tulloch (Lions) and Joe Mays (Broncos) should at least be in the conversation at winter park as the team considers the future of the position.
– I’d shop Joe Webb hard this offseason to see if there’s a possibility of getting a 4th round pick for him. He’s an intriguing talent who had a few exciting outings in relief, but this is Christian Ponder’s team so the Vikings ought to explore their options. Either way, I think the team should resign Sage Rosenfels as a veteran back-up.
– The Falcons Jason Snelling is a guy who could be a nice change of pace for Toby Gerhart. He’d bring some speed to the backfield while Adrian Peterson works his way back to full strength. Coach Frazier mentioned the other day that the team may look to add depth at the position in the middle to latter part of the draft, but Snelling seems intriguing to me.
– I don’t see the team resigning Visanthe Shiancoe. Kyle Rudolph is ready to start and Coach Musgraves never seemed willing/able to employ the two tight end sets he spoke so highly of last offseason.
Judson Coleman can be followed on Twitter @jacalope37